No Experience? 5 Tips for First Time Hikers
Listen up, first time hikers: Getting outdoors is a great pastime and hiking in particular is the best investment of my own time in recent years. But people also forget that I only began hiking just a few years ago. In fact, I really didn’t enjoy my first long distance hike on the East Coast Trail in Canada.
Just so you know, I carried all the wrong gear on that hike but the truth is, I also spent much of this time overthinking. For instance, I was always worried about being alone or feeling stressed due to the overall uncertainty.
Anyway, if you have no experience, here’s my five tips for first time hikers:
5 Tips for First Time Hikers
1. Don’t Participate in Fear Mongering
People like to fear monger about the dangers associated with getting outdoors. It’s true, you need to take precautions and use common sense but there’s a big difference between advice or warnings, and fear mongering.
My advice is to assess your own comfort level and then assess the conditions before asking for advice. Now, that’s not to say you should ignore any advice, but rather to say that self-awareness is also important and no amount of fear mongering is going to help you gain experience outdoors.
2. Start with a Small Distance and Build this Up Over Time
You don’t need to hike ten or fifteen kilometres on your first hike. After all, planning such a long distance can also act as a deterrent. For this reason, I suggest hiking a much shorter distance and building this up over time.
When I’m feeling unfit or out of shape, I usually drive to a designated car park in the mountains. From here, I can start walking up the mountain and then turn around when I get tired. Similarly, there are many amazing looped trails in Ireland which are just five kilometres in length.
3. Know that Hiking Alone is not Weird
Hiking alone is very different to hiking in a group. Some people prefer to hike alone and I’m most definitely in this category – most of the time. On the other hand, I know that many people are too afraid to go alone or feel uncomfortable about the idea in some way. While there’s nothing I can do to push you into a hike, just know that everyone feels this way when it comes to hiking for the first time. More importantly, it’s not weird and it’s not nearly as scary as you imagine – so long as you use some common sense.
4. Don’t Be Afraid….to Be Afraid
Believe it or not, I still feel nervous and “afraid” on my trips. In fact, I suspect that my acute anxieties often mean that I feel a lot more uncomfortable than most people. But nobody was there to witness my first trip or the three weeks I spent crying my way up the coast of South Africa.
It’s true, I cried every night/day for those first few weeks. Just so you know, I was crying because I was lonely, and confused and entirely inexperienced.
Anyway, after multiple long distance trips, I can say that being afraid is not only okay but also a very good thing. It’s something that will help you make better decisions and stop you from taking risks that don’t need to be taken.
5. Stop Waiting for the Right Time
I procrastinate far more than I should but it’s what I do! With this in mind, I used to put off trips for various reasons which were mostly the following:
a) I don’t have enough time.
b) I don’t have enough money.
c) I don’t have the right experience/gear.
If you have any of the above reasons (excuses), I suggest you might be planning the wrong trip. For instance: Instead of waiting for enough time to hike the Wicklow Way, consider taking a day hike on the weekend. And instead of waiting until you have the right gear or experience, plan a trip that you can take based on whatever you have at this moment in time.