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Hiking 101: A starter guide for beginner hikers

Updated on June 14, 2017

Why start Hiking?

Hiking has always been around throughout the world. In this modern time, we are so used to our motorized cars, bicycles, skateboards and even these new fancy segways and electric skateboards that we rarely rely on our own two feet to get us from point A to point B. In the past, walking was all we had but now it is more convenient to take something motorized to get us somewhere. Only there are a set of people who wish to get out, enjoy nature and the fresh air it provides and de-stress while also staying in better shape and health and these folks commonly obtain this by going hiking, backpacking and moving through nature to explore what the world looked like before technology took control.

By Paulbalegend at en.wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6556691
By Paulbalegend at en.wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6556691 | Source

Who should start Hiking?

Hiking is a hobby reserved for just about anyone out there all over the world. Whether you are a young person or an older person, hiking is for you. Individual hikers tend to start hobbies from hiking and some even strive to thru-hike the larger types of trails such as the AT, PCT and the River to River Trail. Some families like to get together and hike with their kids to get them outdoors and away from the technological lives that we often lead. Some people, young and old, see hiking as a way to promote healthy living and lose weight. There are many different types of hiking trails available as well whether you want a rugged trail in the wilderness, an easy trail that is popular for tourism or a trail that is suitable for those who are handicap – hiking offers something for everyone, really. You just need to explore your area and find out what trails are near you and what they have to offer.

One of many observation points within the Illinois, Shawnee National Forest.
One of many observation points within the Illinois, Shawnee National Forest. | Source

Important Hiking Safety Tips

Before starting your hiking journey, it is very important that you understand these basic hiking safety tips to ensure that you can have a positive experience during your hiking trip.

  1. Weather - Make sure you not only check the weather forecast for the day that you wish to hike but also wear appropriate clothing for the weather conditions that will be active during your hike. For example, if there is a chance of rain, bring a rain suit just in case.
  2. Weight - If you will be hiking for long periods of time, you need to consider the weight of items you will be taking with you, especially in your backpack. If you pack is too heavy and you have to lug it around with you all the time, it might result in discomfort and a bad experience in the end. Take only what you absolutely need to take with you to survive your hike.
  3. Elements - Plan ahead before you go hiking in specific areas. Ask yourself what elements are present that can pose a risk. Include wild animals such as bears, mountain lions and wolves. Include dangerous plants such as poison ivy and giant hog-weed. Include pests such as ticks and misquotes. Plan ahead and make sure you bring the right gear to help you combat the hazardous elements that might be standing in your way.
  4. Communicate - Before trekking out into the wilderness, make sure you phone a friend about your whereabouts. Even if the trail is short, people need to know where you are going in case of an emergency. If you hurt yourself out there or get lost, someone needs to know where you are in case you don't show up after a while. This one thing will help rescue personnel find you easier if you are unable to return on your own after some sort of incident.

Multiple Ways of Finding your Way Hiking

It is important to have multiple ways of finding your way through the hiking trails that you plan to take. Your cell phone isn't always going to be that reliable, especially when you get out in nature environments that lack cell phone towers. Even in this day and age, there are areas with absolutely no signal. The three basic items I recommend bringing with you is a map, a dedicated GPS and a compass. One of these tree items will help you find your way from point A to point B and back to point A when you need it.

The Different Types of Hiking Trails

Trail Type
Type Description
User Expectations
Out and Back
These trail start at one point and require you to walk back to the point where you started
Enjoy the hike for the first half and take pictures on your way back
Loop
These trails start at one point and loop around to the starting point
You should see something new for the entire hiking trip
Section/Long Trail
These trails are usually very long trails
This sort of hiking requires good planning
Waterfall near Jackson Falls, Shawnee National Forest, Southern Illinois.
Waterfall near Jackson Falls, Shawnee National Forest, Southern Illinois. | Source

Unique Sights of Hiking

Hiking isn't just about exercise and staying in shape. Hiking is about seeing the world as it once was before technology and industry took over. When you get out there and explore nature while hiking, you get to see the many wonders that Mother Earth has to provide to you. In southern Illinois, where I hike, I am exposed to ancient bluffs and creeks that have been present even before humans walk the earth. I see signs of old settlements and even Civil War cemeteries that you can only reach by bushwhacking for miles upon miles. The history you can learn on a hike is extremely exciting. There are so many wonders to explore on a hike near you, make sure you at least see them once!

Time for you to choose!

What sort of hiking trail do you like the most?

See results
Bell Smith Springs, Shawnee National Forest, Southern Illinois.
Bell Smith Springs, Shawnee National Forest, Southern Illinois. | Source

Start out Hiking Small Trails!

As a beginner to anything, you should always start small. The same logic should be used with hiking. Start out by finding some short hiking trails close to where you live and check them out. Find some more shorter trails and hike them as well. Once you are comfortable with hiking the trails, you can seek out the larger trails. Who knows, maybe one day you might look for the trails that require you to do some overnight hiking and camping trips. But don't rush into it, shorter trails will allow you a learning experience to help make you into a better hiker.

Bring the right Hiking Gear!

What do you think about Hiking?

I'd like to hear from you, whether you are interested in hiking, have started hiking or have been hiking for a while. What other questions and even suggestions do you have to make hiking fun for everyone, especially those who are just starting out?

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