As someone who never hiked in her life until she was in her twenties, how could I have known the importance of hiking shoes? I did not know until one of MY BIG TOENAILS FELL OUT. Ok, too much information, but it’s better to read this happened to someone else than to look down and wonder how long it will take for your big toenail to grow back (approximately three long months). If you’re wondering what gear you need to start hiking, I created this Gear Guide for Beginner Hikers to help you prepare. We all start somewhere, and unless you grew up hiking (which I didn’t), some of us have to learn through trial and error.
- Affiliate Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. Read my full Affiliate Link Disclosure here.
Tip #1: Get a good pair of hiking boots and make sure they are about half a size or an entire size up than what you would usually wear.
If you are wondering what you should save up money for, the answer will definitely be hiking boots. Your feet are the ones that do most of the work and the constant movements in low-quality shoes or even a high-quality pair that is too tight or too loose will cause PAIN. After reading plenty reviews online on different hiking boots, I had an idea of what I wanted. I bought the pair online, but first I went to REI to get an accurate measurement of my feet. I am usually a size 6 and ended up with a size 7 with the feedback from helpful employees. I bought my Keen hiking boots and haven’t lost any toenails… They are comfortable and have never given me any blisters. Now, are these the type for you? Maybe. Maybe not. I would recommend you try on different brands and shoes and find out your foot type!
Tip #2: You have to take care of your feet. Footwear and socks are, for me, the most important things listed in this guide.
This is another product in which, at the beginning, didn’t think that much about its importance. I mean, socks are just socks and they all do the job of covering the feet, right? Depending on what shoes you prefer and the weather you’ll be hiking in, you have to get the appropriate socks. Some of the most common types of fabrics for hiking are the following: wool, nylon and polyester. If you are planning to buy tall boots, it’s recommended that you get knee-high socks. For the summer, I use ankle socks with my hiking shoes. This changes for winter hikes when I use crew/knee-high socks. Also, check to see whether you are getting thick socks (high cushion) or thin socks (low cushion). I prefer high cushion, but each hiker is different and you might not want them so thick. You might be rolling your eyes at this moment if you are a rookie hiker. But just remember that the type of sock and shoe will also determine whether you’ll get blisters when you go out in your new hiking shoes. And no one likes getting blisters.
Tip #3: Get a wicking shirt and avoid cotton.
If you google “why does cotton kill”, you’ll learn why many hikers don’t wear cotton when on the trail. Again, this was a completely bizarre and foreign concept to me until I started researching for my first overnight camping and hiking trip to Acadia National Park. I get cold easily, and knowing I would be camping in the cold spring nights in Maine was scary. I did plenty of research and the first thing I learned was to ditch the cotton because it retains moisture. When camping this means you’ll probably spend the night unable to get warm and when hiking this means that you’ll clothes will get wet with your sweat and NOT dry quickly.
In this photo I’m wearing the following shirt, which runs tight by the way:
Tip #4: Use a backpack when walking on trails.
If you are just starting day hikes, always take a small backpack on the trail. You’ll be able to bring some snacks, water bottles, a compass, sweater, etc. Sometimes I even take a book with me if I just want to chill for some hours. The first backpack shown is what I take on short hikes, but I have a High Sierra Women’s Explorer 50 that I use for camping and longer trips. And the bag below is similar to my husband’s which has a water pouch incorporated.
Tip #5: Don’t forget to stay hydrated on the trail.
Always bring more water than you think you’re going to need.
Waterproof Phone Case
Tip #5: I always take my waterproof phone case when I go explore.
No, this isn’t a necessity for everyone but for me it is. I don’t leave home without it, whether I’m going hiking or kayaking. My phone would fall and crack on the trail if I didn’t keep it in there. Also, as you can tell, I like to take photos with my phone and this is an easy way to do it without having it in my hand or backpack the whole time. Don’t insert your phone in an open pocket where it could fall if you make any weird movements while hiking on the trail!
Map & Compass
Tip #6: Don’t rely on the compass on your phone & print a map of the trail and area.
If you live near an REI, they have FREE classes that teach you what type of compass to use and information about different maps. I learned a lot when I attended a class, and found what type of compass was necessary for the trail. You can find trail maps on the internet and read blog posts. This gives me an idea of the level of difficulty, the time it will take me to hike and status of the trail. Of course, sometimes you arrive to a location and you can buy a map there too.
Tip #7: Avoid sore knees the day after going hiking.
Hiking poles changed my life. I wish I would have started using them from the first time I went hiking. Once I started using the poles, the amount of soreness in my knees went down almost by half the day after a hike. I would recommend you get a pair from a garage sale or even used ones, like I originally did. But here is an option that will only set you back about $20 bucks. Your knees will thank you! Also, as I kept doing more research I learned that in order to leave no trace, rubber tips are necessary for the poles. Metal tips might cause some damage to the trail… Here is a video of me using my hiking pole in New Hampshire:
Hopefully this guide helps in planning your day hikes and acquiring the appropriate gear to take on the trail!