Hiking can be daunting for beginners. As you take your first steps to exploring the great outdoors on foot, the unfamiliarity of your route and your limitations can be intimidating. 

Of course, the beauty of hiking is that you don’t need any specialist skills to enjoy the pursuit (although some quality outdoor clothing and walking boots are recommended!). All you need is the capacity to walk, knowledge of your location, and perhaps a few good friends and a picnic for good measure. 

However, there are some do’s and don’ts and guidelines that are worth following. Below, the Taunton Leisure team has compiled a ten-strong list of hiking tips.

  1. Plan ahead by checking the weather forecast.

You know the saying, by failing to prepare, you’re preparing to fail! This mantra certainly rings true regarding hiking. 

We recommend starting by checking the weather. While some may be undeterred by a bit of drizzle, it’s not a good idea for hikers of any experience level to get caught in a deluge of rain, as the terrain can become unstable and your safety compromised. 

By keeping tabs on the weather, you’ll ensure an enjoyable hiking experience where rain won’t dampen your spirits, and you can take full advantage of the views! 

  1. Know your route and familiarise yourself with a map and GPS.

Another crucial step to planning and safety is familiarising yourself with your chosen hiking location. Google Maps or mapping apps are great tools for prep, but you should get to know your way around your GPS-capable device and apps you’ll be taking for the hike, as well as a good old-fashioned map and compass

Though a GPS enabled device is usually reliable nowadays, you can never be sure when technology might fail you. Packing a map just in case and marking your route, key locations or points of interest can be a real asset. 

Check out our Navigation and Watches page for a fantastic range of products to help with this!

Top Tip: If you encounter wet conditions on your hike, place your hiking guide and map in a map case to keep them dry yet readable!

  1. Choose a beginner-friendly hike.

One of the biggest mistakes that novice hikers make is choosing a route unsuitable for their experience level and overdoing it. 

Whether that’s a hike that’s too long or a trail that involves tackling too much challenging terrain and climbing, it’s important to take things step-by-step, building up to more challenging hikes as you progress your knowledge, skills, and fitness. 

We recommend starting things off with a hike with minimal climbing and totals under five miles in distance. It’s worth remembering that a five-mile hike that factors in lots of inclines and declines will feel much longer than a five-mile hike that doesn’t! 

The National Trust has a great walking page on which you can find places to walk around the UK near you. 

  1. Invest in hiking gear for beginners.

Most people probably own a decent waterproof jacket or two, and one of the great things about hiking is you don’t need much specialist equipment to fully enjoy it and get the most out of the pursuit. 

However, we always recommend investing in some select bits of hiking gear, notably some good-quality hiking boots and a backpack to safely stow away any layers, food, technology, maps, and other hiking equipment. 

Of course, if you’d feel safer and more confident being fully prepared, Taunton Leisure stocks a range of outdoor clothing and gear that will give you that extra peace of mind. Whether waterproof trousers, fleeces, base layers, vests and gilets, these items will ensure you’re ready for all conditions. 

  1. Pack the essentials.

Naturally, the size of your list and the number of items you’ll need to take on your hike will depend on how long you’re planning to spend away. To simplify things, we’ve listed the essential must-haves to chuck in your rucksack. 

  • Food: Staying well-fueled is essential to completing your hike. Trail mix, nuts and seeds, fresh fruit, and energy bars are all energy-rich and convenient to pack away. At Taunton, you’ll find a fantastic selection of easy-to-cook camping food if you plan to take a stove and heat a meal.
  • Water: Ensuring that you’re hydrated along your hike is crucial. Whether you pack bottled water or invest in a quality bottle or flask, it’s a must-have addition to your hiking essentials.
  • A torch and batteries: Though it’s recommended that you start your hike nice and early to make the most of the daylight, sometimes hikes can overrun, or you may find yourself in conditions that require a torch—particularly during the darker winter months.
  • Survival equipment: A first aid kit, fire starters, and a pocket knife or multi tool are well worth including in your backpacks. You can find all these essentials at Taunton Leisure on our Survival and Emergency Outdoor Equipment page.
  • Suncream and sunglasses: It’s not always miserable and gloomy here in the UK; sometimes, we do get some sunshine along a hike!

    In such cases, it’s always best to be prepared with protection for your eyes and skin. After all, it won’t take long for your shoulders to catch the sun, making carrying that backpack very uncomfortable!
  • A compass and map: We’ve already mentioned these, but they’re essential inclusions nonetheless. Pack away a compass and map in case your devices fail—and familiarise yourself with them beforehand!

  1. Wear the correct combination of walking boots, walking shoes and socks.

Choosing the wrong style of outdoor footwear and socks for your hike is a surefire way to earn yourself some nasty blisters. Your boots should fit snugly but not too tight.

We recommend measuring your feet to ensure you invest in the right type of walking boots or walking shoes. Happily, at Taunton Leisure, you’ll find an extensive range of fits for all foot sizes, including narrow, medium, wide and extra-wide. 

Similarly, you should also factor in the correct type of sock for your footwear. Trainer socks are an obvious no-no, but you should wear longer socks for full-length hiking boots, while short socks are fine for hiking shoes or mid length boots

  1. Take your phone and make sure it’s fully charged.

Phones have come a long way since their early incarnations. These days, we benefit from handsets with many uses and much broader signal coverage than ever. 

You’d be surprised just how far you can venture and still find a signal, a factor that can be crucial if you find yourself in an emergency. Aside from providing a point of contact, your phone can also double as a handy navigation device via Google Maps and its onboard compass, and your phone camera means you can capture all those beautiful landscape shots along the way. 

  1. Pace yourself.

You know what they say: it’s about the journey, not the destination. Remember that hiking isn’t a race; instead, it’s about enjoying the great outdoors at your leisure, soaking in the scenery and finding hidden gems along the way. 

Don’t be afraid to take your time and stop for more breaks than planned if you need them (daylight permitting). Most importantly, ensure that you enjoy the hike and savour that moment as you reach the end of your route!

  1. Bring some friends.

Although solo hiking can be fantastic fun, it’s not recommended that you venture out alone until you have some experience.

Not only will taking some friends along for the hike mean you’ve got some company, but your party can also help you navigate the hiking route and help out with first aid or the like in an emergency. 

  1. Learn about basic first aid skills.

Nobody expects you to get a doctorate just for your hike, but it’s essential that you, a friend, or indeed all party members familiarise yourselves with basic first aid.

Whether it’s a twisted ankle, a nasty cut, or a concussion, however minor or serious the injury, it can happen, and it’s vital that you know how to deal with it in more remote locations. 

Remember to pack that essential first aid kit and review its contents and the correct procedures before you head out on your hike.

For more essential information and product reviews from the Taunton team, check out the Taunton Leisure blog page. If you have any questions about hiking or any of the products mentioned in this post, please don’t hesitate to contact us or reach out on Facebook and Instagram.