This was us a few years ago. We were on a day hike in the mountains in the Andalusia region of Spain, near Granada.
We were descending to our rental car as the sun was setting and I thought – wouldn’t it be great if we could stay overnight in these mountains, watch the sun rise in the morning and just continue walking the next day.
When we got back to the hotel, I downloaded a few books about hiking to my Kindle and started reading them the same night. In the next weeks and months I absorded blogposts and YouTube videos and I have continued to learn and perfect my skills and knowledge about hiking ever since.
Hiking is generally a safe thing to do but you need clothing, gear and basic skills. This blog will teach you all you need to know, to get out there, stay safe and stay comfortable.
Start with day hiking
Don’t start with a multi-day hike with a heavy backpack. Start by going on day hikes instead.
For shorter trips you don’t need much gear but you will have to get some comfortable hiking clothes. Do you need hiking clothes? Yes you do. I have a blog post that explains why you need special hiking clothes to stay safe and comfortable during your hikes that explains this is in detail.
There’s still some skills you need – even for a short hike.
For instance, you need to be able to navigate – even on a short hike. It’s important to have a map and compass with you and/or a digital device (your phone) with GPS capability.
People do get lost on very short trails all the time. They take a wrong turn or get trail markings mixed up and end up far from where they wanted to go.
And make sure you can deal with rain or mosquites. Even if you are out there for just a few hours, heavy rainfall or bugs can make it a miserable experience if you are not prepared for them.
I have a post about dealing with common hiking problems like rain, mosquitos or a heavy pack – I hope you find time to read it, it will be super useful to know these things before you get out there.
Continue with longer day hikes
When you are comfortable with shorter day hikes you can move on to longer and more difficult trails. For more difficult terrain, you might want to bring trekking poles which I’ve written about here.
It’s important to make sure that on longer hikes you have all the gear that I listed in my all the gear you need for a day hike blogpost.
You might think – I’ll be back way before sunset, I don’t need a headlamp. But as I write over here you do need it. We got lost on a day hike once in a very remote area in the mountains. By the time we got back to our car, it was completely dark.
Likewise, I’ve never regretted that I took an extra piece of warm clothing with me – even if it stayed in my pack. The times I have needed it – I’ve been SO thankful I have it with me. To make sure you have everything you need with you, use my ultimate hiking gear check list which you can download in PDF and print out. I check this one almost every time I go out and guess what – more often than not I discover I have forgotten something absolutely essential.
On longer day hikes you might need to be able to purify drinking water and cook your food. I’ve written at length about what to eat while hiking and also about planning your meals.
Stay close and safe the first few times
If you can dress warm and comfortably, navigate, purify drinking water and prepare food, you are basically ready to take the next step and stay otdoors for the night – in a tent or under a tarp.
Tents and tarps can be expensive. I’ve written a post about the pros and cons of tents and tarps – read it before you choose which one is right for you.
You might want to stay close to your car or a a visitors center the first few times – just to feel safe.
If possible, don’t go out for for the first time in extreme weather – like I did.
The first time we stayed in a tent, it was about -1 Celsius (30 degrees Fahrenheit). But in the night the wind got stronger and stronger, so that the actual “feels like” temperature was more like -7 Celsius (19 F). This was colder than the limits of our sleeping bags and of course we woke up at 3am freezing.
Cold can actually be very dangerous. Hypothermia is a serious threat and can have fatal consequences.
Make sure you’re safe and comfortable every time
Hiking has a way of punishing complacency.
Every once and a while I go out without going through my check-list and end up leaving something behind.
So make sure you go through your checklist every single time and make sure you have everything you need with you, you have checked the weather forecast, you have a map and a compass or a GPS and someone knows ehere you are and when you should be back.
Sometimes information on the internet about trails can be really misleading.
We went on a “well marked trail” once but in reality trail markings were either missing or some were misleading. We would not have made the trip without a map and a compass and fully charged smartphone with GPS.
So always check that you have everything with you, always make sure you know the weather forecast, always tell someone where you are going and when you should be back. Stay safe and comfortable every time you hike.