Six Easy Steps to Prepare for Your First Hike

By Daniel Baker

Summer is ending. Before hitting the books, why not head out to the great outdoors for one last relaxing and inspiring outdoor vacation? If you’ve been cooped up all summer, you probably don’t feel prepared to set out on a great adventure just yet. Don’t worry! We have six essential steps to help you prep for your first hike.

Two hikers looking at a beautiful waterfall.
The first step in preparing for a hike is picking your destination!

Step 1: Choose Your Destination

This is probably the most important step when preparing your hike! If you don’t know where you’re going, how do you expect to get there? When picking your destination, be sure to take these factors into consideration:

Is the Park/Reserve Open?

A lot of people drive hours away to a hiking trail inside a park just to find out that the trail is closed because of flooding or construction. If the trail you plan to hike is in a park or reserve, always call the park’s phone number to ensure that the trail is open to hikers, saving you hours of drive time and disappointment.

Be Conscious of Your Time

When picking a place to hike it is important to keep an eye on how long it will take you to get to your destination and when the sun sets. I have been in situations where the time it would take me to drive to the trailhead was not worth the trip out to the trail. Keeping an eye on the sun is important because losing daylight while hours away from civilization is never a fun situation. Trust me, this has happened to me while hiking at Zion National Park in Utah and unless you are equipped with the proper nighttime hiking gear, you don’t want to be in a situation without light.

Since this is your first hike, I recommend keeping your drive time within three hours unless you plan to camp or spend the night somewhere. Regarding hiking distance, it’s always best to keep your hike only a couple of miles long when starting out and increasing your distance once you judge how much you can do without overworking yourself. The average human walks at three miles per hour, which means that your hiking pace can slow depending on the conditions and how much weight you are carrying with you.

REMEMBER: Hiking is no fun when you’re struggling to keep up with the trailblazers who have been hiking all over the world for years and are conditioned to elevation changes and steep inclines.

Now that you know where you’re going, let’s choose the date you’re going to go.

Weather is a serious concern when preparing for a hike—temperatures and rain chances will determine what you need to pack.
Weather is a serious concern when preparing for a hike—temperatures and rain chances will determine what you need to pack.

Step 2: Pick A Date

When picking a date, it’s always a good idea to keep an eye on the weather as the forecast for different areas can drastically change at a moments notice. Apps that I personally use to keep track of the weather are the “Weather” and “NOAA Weather” apps. While the weather app available on iPhone simply provides the chance of inclement weather in the forecast, the NOAA Weather app provides a detailed look into the current radar and future weather predictions for the entire country.

Something else to be mindful of when picking a date is the temperature. Doing a lot of hiking in Texas means that I have to constantly keep an eye on not only on the weather but the current and future temperature. Some days it can be a beautiful 70 degrees outside while others can be in the hundreds with high humidity.

The 12 Survivors Off-Grid lightweight stove cooks and heats food quickly.
The 12 Survivors Off-Grid lightweight stove cooks and heats food quickly.

Step 3: Pack Food

Now comes the fun part! You get to plan what you’re going to eat. While some people go crazy with unhealthy food options and crazy snacks, I suggest only packing food that provides energy and nutrition to help you keep going.

Here is a short list of food and snack items that I always bring with me on my hikes:

  • Beef jerky
  • Trail mix (usually with some sort of chocolate in it)
  • Blueberries
  • Granola bars
  • Pretzels

and most importantly bananas because they are a great source of healthy carbohydrates and are rich in potassium and vitamin B6.

These are just a few of the food options out of the many and you are more than welcome to try crazy combinations or new food items that didn’t make my shortlist.

Click here to check out the best lightweight hiking stove by 12 Survivors.

It is important to pack plenty of water and map out sources of water along your hike.
Take plenty of water!

Step 4: Bring lots of water

This may be the single MOST IMPORTANT item you always need when hiking. Whenever I go hiking, I always drink at least ½ liter of water for every hour of hiking. Depending on your weight and how conditioned you are to this sort of physical activity, your water consumption will vary; however, what is most important is that you always have plenty of water available.

If you are more interested in tips for staying hydrated when walking, check out my friend David Hoang’s article on Staying Hydrated on Trails here.

Step 5: Always have First Aid

Okay, so water will always be the most important step, in my opinion, but having a first aid kit takes a close second place. You just never know when you or someone you are with is going to get hurt and in desperate need of some medical attention.

Having a full first aid kit with everything you need is crucial when hiking. If you are not an expert at hiking or first aid, I typically suggest avoiding piecing together your own kit because you will most likely leave something very important out.

Organized first aid kit and supplies packed in a roll-up bag
This first aid kit is highly organized and makes locating essential first aid supplies very quick.

A hiking and camping first aid kit like the one shown above is a great option to use when you plan on going out. If you want to check out a cool article about how to pick an outdoor first aid kit then click here.

Always be sure to keep moleskin handy because you never know when a blister will strike. Trust me, blisters are no fun to deal with when hiking back to your car.

A first aid kit is useless if you don’t know how to use it. Click here to learn everything you need to know about hiking and camping first aid.

Step 6: Pick the right footwear

Having the right footwear can really make a difference when hiking. Every time I go hiking, there is always some people hiking a steep incline or scaling the side of a mountain in flip-flops or basketball shoes. Take it from me when I say that those people hardly ever make it to the top without some sort of foot injury.

Now that you’ve followed these six steps, you’re ready to go on your first hike.

Need affordable hiking gear? Check out 12 Survivors for quality water filters, backpacks, first aid and more!

About Daniel

Daniel is a native Texan born in Arlington and currently attending the University of Texas at Arlington pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Marketing & Management. He is expected to graduate in the Spring of 2020. Daniel always asserts himself into new leadership positions and has gained strong volunteer experience around the DFW Metroplex. In his free time, he enjoys writing music, hiking, primitive camping, vlogging, running, cycling, scuba diving, and sky diving.