Aug 6, 2012

5 Hiking Essentials For Beginners

Henry Coe State Park (25)

I'm not really qualified to give much advice on this blog. You already know that I cannot budget, do a cartwheel or whip up fancy dinners from scratch. But, if there's one thing that I do have experience with, it's hiking.

Hiking and I go way high school. My best friend and I would hike with her parents every weekend in Shenandoah National Park, which was just steps away from where I grew up in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Yes, while other students our age were donning dresses to go to parties, we were lacing up our tennis shoes and hitting the trails. We were cool in our own special way.

Henry Coe State Park

In college, Brandon and I hiked Southwest Virginia (we lived in Blacksburg). Again, when our friends were going to bars, we were climbing mountains. Our first date actually was a hike. Then we went to Wendy's because we didn't bring any food and were starving. Good times.

Hiking is not exactly rocket science, but I've learned the hard way what to do and not to do; tips that can make hiking become an even better experience.

1. Snacks. This is an obvious one (well, wasn't on our first date), but hear me out. You are burning more calories than you think on the trails! You may not be running, but chances are, those hills will give you a darn good workout. Even for short hikes, always pack something to eat.

[Also, if you get lost, you might be in the woods for longer than you planned. Think you will never get lost? Happened to us - poorly marked trailheads - we ended up staying in the park for hours more than planned and I almost started gnawing on my arm. ]

Our favorite snack, due to the portability and the combination of protein/carbs/fat, are protein bars.

Henry Coe State Park (16)

They fill you up and are easy to pack. You want to save most of the weight you are carrying for water, so making your snacks calorie dense is ideal. Fresh fruit, veggies, peanut butter crackers, granola bars, dried fruit, etc. are also favorites.

2. Long Pants. I don't care how hot some of my hikes have been, I have never, never regretted wearing long pants. You want to protect your legs from the elements, as sometimes trails aren't very wide and your legs get all scratched up, itchy, and prone to bug bites. Every single time I wear cropped pants or shorts, I regret it.


Any pants will work, as long as they cover your ankles, but I do recommend synthetic fibers. Cotton, when wet, takes forever to dry and you may end up having to forge a stream (just pretend you are on The Oregon Trail - I do).

3. Camelbak/Water. Invest in a Camelbak if you can. It has pockets for your food, sunglasses, first aid kit, etc.

If you don't have one, a backpack and some water bottles works just as well, but I find that the Camelbak holds much more water and its distributed more evenly on your back; thus making hiking a lot easier.

Henry Coe State Park (15)

And remember, bring more water than you ever think you'll need. 

4./5. Hiking Shoes and Socks. Besides water, this is quite possibly the single most important tip I have to share. I used to wear my old gym shoes hiking because I never wanted my nice ones to get dirty. Wrong. So wrong.

Old shoes = bad tread. Bad tread = slipping and falling.

Invest in a pair of solid hiking shoes; they can be trailer runners (which I have) or hard core hiking boots (Brandon likes his Scarpa boots, which are waterproof).

Trail Runners

If you don't want to invest in hiking shoes, at the very least, make sure your shoes have good treads on them. I used to hike in my old Nike Frees, which are quite possibly the worst shoes you can hike in. I've also tried hiking in Vibrams, but the rocks really tore up my feet.

Also, just as important as shoes, are your socks.

Smart Wool Socks

Even when its hot out, I still wear my Smart Wool socks. They are super cushiony and I never get blisters while wearing them - even on really long hikes.

Socks and shoes can make the difference between an enjoyable hike and a pretty painful, crappy hike, so invest in a quality pair of both. 

Needless to say, I love to hike and find it to be my favorite form of exercise. It's also relatively cheap (note: bring cash for parking - we forgot once and had to drive 40 minutes to the nearest ATM), easy to learn (just know how to read a map and trailheads), and is a great way to enjoy the outdoors.

Henry Coe State Park (20)

California pinecones amaze me. Little things in life, people.

Any tips of your own to add? Where are you favorite places to hike?

*All opinions of the products mentioned above are my own and I was not compensated in any way to mention them. I just think they are awesome. 


  1. I miss hiking in the Smokeys so bad!! Shoes make all the difference!

  2. I've never been hiking for the sole purpose of hiking before - it's always just been the only way to get to a certain destination. But my family could use some exercise and outdoor time and this sounds like fun. Thanks for the tips!!

  3. I've been hiking like twice in my life. Imagine my shock at Blend! That was serious hiking right??

    I would love to go more, but there aren't a lot of spots here in Nebraska...lots of hills though for running! ;-)

    Also, that pinecone is GINORMOUS!!


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