Resources for the Beginning Hiker

The first time I went hiking in a national park was in college. A friend had all the gear and a fair amount of experience. Without him, I wouldn’t have known how to make a trip like this happen.

Planning a hiking trip is different than any other kind of trip. You not only need to learn about your destination, but you need to choose trails suitable to your ability and experience. You need to know what gear to bring. You need a little bit of emergency preparedness.

If you’re interested in getting into hiking but aren’t sure where to start, I though I’d share a few of my favorite online resources today.

(Assuming, of course, that at some point, the government shutdown will end and the country’s public lands will once again be made available to the public.)

REI Expert Advice
In addition to selling expensive but awesome outdoor gear and gadgets, REI provides a large amount of articles and videos amount all kinds of outdoor topics related to hiking, cycling, running, climbing, paddling, and snow sports. I recommend starting with the Ten Essentials, which is the widely used term for all the things you need to keep yourself safe during a hike.

Leave No Trace
If you are a fan of the outdoors, then you’ll want to learn how to leave it in the same or better condition than you found it. You may or may not appreciate the importance of this initially, but the first time you come across someone’s initials carved into a tree along the trail, you’ll start to care a lot. So check out the Leave No Trace principles before heading out.

Where to Go
Need help figuring out where to go? Browse these lists from National Geographic, Backpacker Magazine, and GORP of top day hikes and see what gets your blood flowing.

Now, before you get too excited about  a particular hike, make sure it’s a good fit for your experience and fitness level. It’s also a good idea to understand the weather conditions of your destination of choice. Mountain and desert regions can have some pretty harsh weather, and the period of time in which conditions are amenable to novice hikers can be pretty short.

So visit the Tripadvisor forum for your destination and run your plan past the Destination Experts. Contact the national park service or forest service and talk to a ranger.

If it’s overnight trips you’re interested in, check out Backpacker magazine’s Backpacking 101 guide. Also buy a copy of the NOLS Wilderness Guide, which is an enjoyable read that covers the basics of backpacking, including foot gear, clothing, food, campsite selection, and route planning.