Hiking Gear for Beginners
So, you want to get into hiking but have no idea where to start? If this is the case, you can join thousands of others who fall into the same trap each and every year. Sadly, many people make the mistake of starting too quickly or not getting the right equipment and then deciding that it ‘isn’t for them’. However, this guide to hiking gear for beginners will allow you to start with the right equipment so you can get the maximum enjoyment from the experience.
Before we head into today’s guide and discuss the equipment that you will need to get started, we should point out that most hikers give differing opinions on the topic. While some prefer to overpack every time they go on a trip, there are others that keep to the bare minimum so you will have to consider your needs. As a beginner, we would recommend erring on the side of caution as it would be your first time. As you gain experience, you might notice that certain equipment isn’t used and you can then find what is right for you.
This being said, there is still a core bag of items that every single hiker would pick and this is what we are going to take you through today!
Hiking Gear for Beginners
Before you are tempted to shop online and buy the most expensive hiking backpack there is, slow down for just a moment because you might already have something in your home. If you plan on a short hike and the temperatures won’t be too extreme, you should find that a backpack with between 8-24 liters of space is perfect. If we take the middle of this and go for 16 liters, this is actually the size of a backpack for the average kindergartener so you don’t need to break the bank just yet.
In terms of features, these are steadily expanding on the average backpack so you can do a little research here. Firstly, you need to make sure that the backpack has some sort of frame that will keep your items protected. Not only this, a frame will also keep everything within lighter because it isn’t pulling down on your shoulders. In truth, every backpack should have a frame unless it is one designed to be as light as possible.
After this, you should never underestimate the power of a hip belt. When looking for hiking gear for beginners, many people forget this and it leads to shoulder injury; they then think that hiking is the worst activity in the world. With a simple hip belt, you will take the weight from your shoulders and the pelvis will carry the load instead.
Next up, you don’t want all of your items inside to get wet so it should have a lid or even waterproof zippers. Even if you only plan on going hiking when the weather is nice, can we ever be 100% sure that it won’t rain? If you buy a bag without this waterproof protection, you are limiting your hiking to just a couple of months per year but what if you fancy a Sunday morning walk in fall – you will be constantly worried that the rain is coming in.
Finally, there are two more features we should mention with the first being compression straps. With these in place, it will compress the load inside the bag and this will help to keep it stable as you walk. Rather than items moving about as you walk, it will remain secure and therefore keep the weight on your hips secure too. After all of this, there is just one thing left and that is the pockets. For many reasons, the pockets on your backpack are important including that you want to keep a bottle of water on the outside. Of course, we have to take water to prevent dehydration but we don’t want it inside the bag in case it leaks over everything else. With a pocket on the outside, we keep hydrated and all of our possessions safe.
Additionally, you should always have a pocket that you can access quickly whether it is for a first aid kit or even a knife. Even though there are many tips to keep you safe when hiking, there is always a danger even with uneven ground so this quick-access pocket could save a life. As you can see, the backpack is vital for safety and your enjoyment of hiking so consider all of these tips when researching the market.
Sticking with the basic hiking gear for beginners, we have footwear and this is important if you want to prevent blisters and other foot problems. Initially, you might say ‘what about barefoot hiking’ but they still wear some form of footwear (usually a foot wrap shoe for some protection and comfort). With footwear, there is a general rule that they should be sturdier the longer you plan on walking and this is because of the pressure your feet experience. When on a short walk, your feet can handle a certain distance. As you move towards longer walks, they start to tire and they need more support.
For this reason, there isn’t necessarily a need to move away from normal sports trainers if you are only going on a short walk as they provide enough protection and support. Of course, specialized hiking boots will always give more protection but this can be a good way to see whether you would enjoy the activity or not. As well as improved support, hiking boots also offer stability, traction, and you won’t feel every single stone as you walk which is why they are so important for longer hikes.
Lastly for footwear, we always place an emphasis on the right size above all else. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what you wear if you have the wrong size because it will be uncomfortable regardless. If necessary, visit a professional shoe or hiking shop and get your feet measured so you can have maximum comfort when hiking.
Ten Hiking Essentials For Beginners
Once you have these two in place, you can start to fill your bag with hiking gear and for this we are going to use the famous ‘ten essentials’. Since being published in what many call ‘the hiking bible’ of Mountaineering: Freedom of the Hills, the ten essentials has gained much praise from hikers all around the world. Essentially, this short list suggests everything you will ever need on a hike. Below, we have listed the items with some short tips and an explanation of why they are important;
Map – Even if you are walking in an area with which you are familiar, you should always take a map just in case. When walking long distances, the body and mind get tired and it can be easy to lose track. Therefore, it makes sense to throw a map in the bag as extra protection.
Extra Clothing – When hiking, you never know what is going to happen so an extra pair of clothing is useful. From falling into a river or a huge muddy puddle to a bird pooping on your t-shirt, you don’t want to be finishing the hike with dirty or freezing cold, wet clothes. Furthermore, the weather might take a turn for the worse and having the extra clothes allows you to add layers.
Firestarter – If you’re camping over night, a firestarter will be incredibly useful. Even if you aren’t planning on camping, this tool will still come in handy when hiking for many other small tasks.
Compass – Along with the map, you should also keep a compass in your pocket to see what direction you are traveling. Rather than pulling out the map every time you come to a junction, you can see where you are walking to then find the right path on the way back. Nowadays, smartphones will have both maps and a compass but it is still useful to have both physical items just in case your phone runs out of battery, you lose signal, or you drop it onto a rock.
Extra Food – At all times, you should carry more food than you need and this is a basic survival tip that has been around for many years. Sometimes, you will get lost or you may even just fancy walking further than originally planned. With extra food in the bag, you are protected. Furthermore, you could even come across other hikers who are lost and haven’t eaten for some time.
Knife – Either a small knife or a multi-tool pocket device, these will also be important because they can be used for numerous tasks. For example, you could prepare food with them as well as working with wood, completing first aid, preparing fires, or even just cutting back branches as you walk through a wooded area. If you plan a long walk especially, you will be surprised at how often you find a use for the tool.
Sun Protection – When you go to the beach, you pack sunglasses and some sunscreen to prevent getting burned so why should it be any different when hiking? As you walk, your body heat rises and you start to sweat which makes you even more vulnerable to sunburn compared to simply laying on a beach or in the garden. Therefore, you should always pack this protection even if the sun is hiding in the morning.
First Aid – When we use the word ‘hiking’, we presume that you aren’t just going to walk along the road to the shops and back. Instead, you will be in wooded areas and on uneven ground. Over the course of an afternoon, anything can happen that requires a first aid kit including a trip, fall, graze against a sharp branch of a tree, an animal bite, and more.
Matches – Just in case your fire-starting tool isn’t working, you will need matches as a back-up. As you will notice, there are a lot of ‘just in case this happens’ but this is the mindset you need as a hiker.
Flashlight – Finally, you need some way of seeing where you are and where you’re going should you get lost and nightfall comes. Additionally, you might want to investigate a cave or opening in a rock. As long as you have the light, you won’t be stuck in the dark (simple really, isn’t it?).
Summary – Thanks for reading our guide to hiking gear for beginners! With this equipment in your chosen backpack, you won’t go far wrong and it will allow you to build experience. Once you get the first few times right, it can fuel your passion for hiking and this is great news because you can continue to put the equipment to good use!