If you’re looking to get into hiking but are unsure where to start, have a look through our beginner's guide to hiking. We’ll take you through everything you need to know before lacing up your hiking boots (or shoes!) and setting off on your first hike. Our guide includes some top tips for beginners, as well as all the gear you'll need for any outdoor adventure.
What is Hiking?
A hike is any walk which covers a relatively long distance and is typically completed by following a defined or pre-planned route. Traditionally hiking often takes places within the countryside and along mountain trails, however, activities such as “urban hiking” have become more popular in modern times.
Mountain hiking is the most popular form of hiking for many. Any signposted or defined route up or around a mountain can be considered as a Mountain hike. Mountain hiking is suitable for hikers of all abilities, with the difficulty of the hike depending on the length and gradient of the route. There are a huge number of mountain hiking routes right across the UK for hikers of all abilities to enjoy.
Urban hiking is a modern spin-off from traditional mountain or countryside hiking. An urban hike is any long defined route through a metropolitan area. An urban hiking route usually takes the hiker past popular landmarks and interesting sights to stop and admire along the way. Want to learn more about Urban Hiking? Take a look at our Manchester Urban Hiking Route, which showcases the best of what central Manchester has to offer.
Rambling vs Hiking. What’s the difference?
The main difference between hiking and rambling comes down to the route the outdoor adventurer takes. Typically rambling is a long walk which doesn’t follow any particular pre-planned or defined path, whereas a hike usually follows a clearly defined route.
Hiking Tips for Beginners
Always follow a planned route and pace yourself
If you’re new to hiking, always ensure you have a clear route planned before you set off, and stick to it. The weather can quickly change on a mountain and if you do not know the way back down, you can quickly become lost and disorientated. If you're organizing your first hike, don't plan a route which will be too challenging. Start with a short distance trail and build up as you become more experienced. Ordnance Survey offer an online route planner so you can find a suitable hiking route close to you!
Take a map
While we may all rely on maps from our mobile phones in day-to-day life, we can't always do the same in the countryside. Phone signal can be difficult to find in the outdoors, so take a physical map with you to keep track of your walking route.
Check the weather before you set off
Make sure you check the weather forecast before you travel. This will give you a good idea of what conditions you can expect to find along the route. This will also give you a better indication of the type of clothing you should wear for the day.
Take Regular Breaks
If you aren't used to long walks, then chances are you won't be clued up on how to prevent blisters when hiking. It's important to take regular breaks, taking the time to take your walking boots off and let your socks air out. Damp socks cause the skin of your feet to soften and become more susceptible to blistering. It's also a good opportunity to empty out any small stones that have made their way into your shoes.
Always pack enough food and water for the day
Make sure you pack plenty of snacks and water to keep you going for the duration of the hike. Stock up on cereal bars, fruit, nuts and even make a few sandwiches before setting off. You don't want to go hungry if you're on the mountain for longer than expected. Water is also critical on a hike so pack a large water bottle and take regular water breaks along the way.
Tell a Friend or Family where you're going
Always make sure you tell someone close to you where you plan to explore before you set off. In case of an emergency, the right people will have a rough idea of your location. A simple text could make all the difference!
Waterproof Hiking Jacket
A waterproof hiking jacket is an essential piece of clothing for hikers on both urban and rural routes. In the UK the weather can quickly change and being caught out in the rain without any protection will put a huge dampener on your day of exploring.
If you are hiking on a warm day and don’t want to carry a bulky waterproof jacket, consider taking a lightweight pack-away jacket instead, this can be easily put away into any backpack and won’t take up much room. For hikes in colder temperatures, you may prefer to go for a more heavyweight hiking jacket. This will provide adequate insulation from the cold, while also remaining fully waterproof and breathable.
Walking in a pair of hiking trousers will make your outdoor adventure much more enjoyable than wearing a pair of casual everyday trousers. Hiking trousers are specifically designed to be flexible, breathable and comfortable over long distances, unlike jeans or casual trousers.
If you do wear jeans or casual trousers during a hike, your legs could begin to chafe and you will quickly become uncomfortable. This will become even worse if the trousers get wet or your legs begin to overheat and sweat.
Base Layer with wicking fabric
It’s a good idea to wear a base layer with wicking abilities. This means any moisture which is produced when walking will be moved away from the skin and absorbed by the material. You will, therefore, remain cool and comfortable for the duration of the hike.
In warm weather, having a t-shirt which can quickly wick away any sweat will make a huge difference compared to a normal t-shirt with no wicking abilities.
Which footwear is best for hiking?
As hiking is often completed on uneven terrain, it’s essential that the footwear you wear is fully supportive with a good underfoot grip. There are two main options available when it comes to hiking footwear; hiking shoes and hiking boots. Wearing normal trainers without a good tread are not suitable and can easily cause injury.
Traditionally hiking boots have been the first choice for hiking footwear. A good pair of hiking boots should provide lots of ankle support and offer a good underfoot grip even on wet surfaces. For added comfort, choose a hiking boot with breathable material, this will ensure that any built-up heat can escape when walking. Waterproof hiking boots are also available to keep your feet dry when walking in wet weather.
With modern footwear developments, hiking shoes are becoming more and more popular with hikers. Unlike traditional trainers, hiking shoes offer advanced grip and ankle support, but without the bulk of a hiking boot. Typically hiking shoes are also more lightweight than hiking boots so this can be seen as an additional advantage.
Bringing a backpack on a hike will allow you to easily carry all of your outdoor essentials. The type of backpack you will need depends on the number of belongings you need for the hike. It is advisable to use a backpack which is at least 25 litres for day hikes. This should allow enough room for extra clothing and personal belongings. If you are planning a longer hike, the backpack capacity will increase depending on the hiking duration.
To keep yourself hydrated add a hydration pack into your backpack. This will allow you to easily hydrate on the move. To prevent your back from overheating during the hike, a backpack which has an air mesh back construction will allow ventilated airflow, which will keep you cool and comfortable.
For additional support when hiking on uneven surfaces, hiking poles are a great choice. Walking poles will help to reduce knee strain and improve your balance when the terrain becomes slightly rough. If you’re looking for hiking poles, select ones which are made from lightweight metal such as aluminium, they are both lightweight and sturdy.
What are your top hiking tips? Leave a comment below!
We know there are so many outdoor explorers within the Regatta community. Make sure to pass on your top hiking tips below for others to pick up!