Have you heard the call of adventure to the great outdoors? Do you want to commune with nature on your next trip? Before you hit the trail, there’s some essential prep you need to do, especially if you don’t have lot of experience in the great outdoors (or if it’s been a while).  There’s a bit more to it than just knowing what to bring — like a backpack, comfy sneakers, and a love for the great outdoors — check, check, and check! Whether you’re planning a trip-focused on a long hike-through or short jaunt for the day as one of your destination activities, you need to make sure you’re (both physically and mentally).

Here’s everything a newbie to the outdoors needs to know on how to prepare for a hike!

Make Sure You Know the Trail You’re Hiking

We can’t stress this one enough: It’s important that you research your hike until you know it by heart. Write out the checkpoints on a small notebook so that it’s always handy even if your phone dies. There are so many resources to help you get to know your hike — from the National Park Service’s website and the more detailed regional hiking websites to local outdoors bloggers, there’s no reason to head out unprepared. Sure, hiking sounds simple enough — you’re just walking in the woods, right? — but if you get to a fork in the trail and forget which way to turn, this could spell out big trouble for your leisurely day outside.

Don’t Forget the Essentials!

No, you don’t need to take EVERYTHING with you. A checklist can certainly help you to remember the essentials, like lots of water, comfortable walking/running shoes, band-aids, and so on.

Don’t Overextend Yourself!

We know it can be overwhelming yet exciting while choosing a hiking location, but keep in mind that you may not be cut out for the tougher trails. Thanks to the internet, rookies can receive the answers to all of their questions and find the perfect trail for a hike. We suggest you start by searching on the National Parks site to find which trail is the best fit for you. They will help you find which trails are recommended for beginners like you!

Don’t Hike Alone and Tell Someone Where You’re Headed

Especially for newbies, we advise you to bring a pal along for the hike — preferably someone whose more experienced. Also, you need to ALWAYS inform someone about where you’ll be going, when you’ll return home, and who you’ll be going with. Preparing for the worst is always the best approach, so in the worst-case scenario, if you don’t arrive home after the time you had said and something goes wrong, authorities can be informed in a timely manner.

Join a Club!

The best way to see the nature that your region has to offer is to join a club and meet others who are more experienced than you (which means they can take you to cool, off-the-beaten-path locales)! Take a class at REI, ask your local state or national park, or find a more casual group to join where you can geek out about the outdoors together. Go on and enjoy the outdoors!

Have the Right Footwear

Getting out on a hiking trail requires having the appropriate footwear. A comfortable and waterproof pair of hiking boots is especially helpful in most terrain. There may be streams of flowing water you need to cross and wearing waterproof boots is great for making it easy to wade across. Boots also give great traction for navigating rocks and up steep inclines. Hiking boots protect your feet from bug bites, as well as give great support for your ankles as you walk. In higher elevations, boots protect your feet from snow and ice as well.

Stay Hydrated

Drinking water on your hike is essential since your body requires water for hydration and energy. This is especially important for hiking in the dessert, such as the American Southwest. When active, an average amount of water needed is about 16 oz. per hour. For an entire day outdoors, a gallon of water is recommended. Carrying water in a small hiking backpack is helpful because the backpack frees up your hands. You can even put salt in your water or use a powdered electrolyte packet in your water to re-supply your body with much needed electrolytes during your hike. Read ahead on the type of water source on the trail, since not all water is suitable for hiking and could make you sick if you drink it. For a two-to-four-hour hike, you should be able to carry in all the water needed for the day.

Know and Practice Universal Hiking Etiquette

This one is probably the most important because nobody wants to be on a trail with someone who doesn’t respect other hikers or the natural environment that they’re in. The most important rule of hiking and backpacking is to Leave No Trace (LNT). It recalls the adage: “Take nothing but photos and leave nothing but footprints.” This is serious. You’re taking advantage of the great outdoors, it’s your responsibility to leave nothing behind — not even an apple seed. It’s also worthy to read up on general conservation practices as well as common etiquette for hikers and wildlife.

Wear the Right Clothes

Wearing the right clothes appropriate to the weather and climate is important for a comfortable hike. Often the weather in the morning will be cooler than in the middle of the day. As your body is active, you will warm up quickly, even in cooler temperatures. There may be hiking trails that are much colder than expected due to elevation changes or snow. It is important to plan your attire for any of the possible weather you could experience that day and to wear appropriate clothing that is lightweight yet durable.

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Train Before Your First Big Hiking Trip

Your body needs to gradually prepare for longer hiking trips. Practice shorter hikes at the same elevation and climate as the longer hike. As you train consistently on the shorter trails, your body will gain endurance and muscle strength, and you will also be able to mentally prepare for the longer hike. Increase the length of the trails gradually and then you will be prepared for the big hike. If the long hike includes elevation changes, you will want to practice going up and down mountains or hills to give your leg muscles practice for the long hike.

Pack Snacks/Food

Bringing some snacks and food on your hike is important to give your body a boost of energy and a supply of electrolytes, or in case of emergency. Having some salty nuts, beef jerky, or dried fruit are great options that do not take up much space. If you’ve booked cheap flights under $199 to go hiking far away from home, then just plan for more food. The key is to always bring some in case your hike goes longer than planned!

Do you have any other tips for first-timer on how to prepare for a hike? Let us know if we missed anything in the comments!

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Content Writer

When she is not figuring out what the middle button on her headphones is for, explaining the difference between Washington State and Washington D.C., arriving to the airport too early or refusing to use the Oxford comma, you can usually find Mary in the mountains, at a show or on her couch. Mary is a content writer at Fareportal and likes annoying her coworkers with weird GIFs throughout the day.