This post was most recently updated on November 16th, 2017

Before you hit the trails we’re sure you’ve made a simple list of what to bring — a backpack, comfy sneakers, and love for the great outdoors– check, check, and check! But that’s not all you need in order to proceed to the route. Whether you’re planning a long or short hike and if you’re uncertain of exactly how to prepare (both physically and mentally), we got your back!

Here’s everything you need to know… Happy trails!

How Not to End Up Like These Guys…

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 website to find which trail is the best fit for you. You can also speak to someone from the National Parks to give you advice on which trails are recommended for beginners. If you’re looking for additional info, the Washington Trail Association’s guide should help.

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 such as lots of water, comfortable walking/running shoes, band-aids, and so on. In fact, the Washington Trails Association has a great checklist to ensure that you won’t forget any hiking necessities.

Noone Enjoys Getting Lost in the Trails

I can’t stress this one enough: Research your hike until you know it by heart. I like to write out the checkpoints on a small notebook so that it’s always handy even if my phone dies. There are so many resources to help you get to know your hike — from the National Park Service’s website to 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. Check out REI’s guide for first-time day hikers and backpackers for additional information.

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

Especially for first-timers, we advise you to bring a pal along for the hike — preferable someone whose more experienced. Also, inform someone at home 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 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.

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 other hikers and wildlife. Read up on a succinct guide here.

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 on 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 — I haven’t been disappointed yet!

Do you have any other tips for first-time hikers or backpackers? Let us know if I missed anything in the comments!

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About The Author

Mary Zakheim
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.