Getting Started Hiking–The Basics
Anyone who is interested in getting into hiking but not really sure where to start or begin, we have you covered.
Adventure athlete and international speaker Georgina Miranda shares tips and stories in order to safely prepare for getting into hiking. Georgina grew up in LA and when she started hiking she could barely run a mile. Everything started with being able to walk a mile then run a mile. The outdoors became a haven. In her mid-twenties, she took an indoor rock climbing class, which made her curious about spending more time outside. Now Georgina’s climbed the highest peak in the world, Mount Everest, and is on a journey to complete the Explorer Grand Slam–summiting the highest peak on each continent and skiing to North and South Poles. Everything started with a series of simple hikes and runs and a purpose to raise awareness for women and places at risk.
Topics will include trip planning, activity selection, gear, essentials, injury prevention and more.
Where to start
Before hiking, a big fear is where to start or spending time alone in nature. We want everyone to enjoy the healing power of the outdoors and to have transformative experiences in wild spaces that shape us into the people we are meant to be. In order to have successful outdoor adventures, you need to plan and prepare properly in order to keep yourself and your party safe. Ensuring you have a positive experience and return time after time to enjoy all the vibrant Earth has to offer. Start somewhere, and you don’t have to start by yourself. SheJumps is here to support you on your journey.
Where to go
Where can you go? City, county, and state parks are good places to go and most have maps you can find online where you can see what trails each offer before you go. You can also use national parks and forest land. Research to see if there’s a nonprofit in your area or state that provides trail maintenance and maps. If the choices on the internet are too much, consider going to a local bookstore, outdoor outfitter, joining a local FB group, and finding trails for where you’re looking to go. Most likely, the local outfitters will be able to point you in the right direction.
Know your skill level. Ask yourself the following when selecting your hiking adventure:
What do I want out of my time outside?
How much of a challenge do I want?
What level of physical shape am I in?
Do I have the skills needed for this adventure?
You can also ask yourself how long do you want to hike for, how steep or how much elevation gain, or what type of terrain am I comfortable with. It’s ok if you don’t get to the end of the trail or do the full distance the first time. You’ll build up the skills to continue your progression. Set a goal you can work towards and practice with several hikes leading up to your finish line.
Be kind to yourself and reflect on each trip. What did you learn and what could have gone better?
Gaia GPS or offline maps apps on your phone. Sign up and try a 3-month free trial.
Regional Facebook Groups where you can ask questions or find inspirations. Join your regional SheJumps Facebook Group.
All Trails or Gaia GPS with trail descriptions and maps.
Trip reports from websites that help you find recent trail conditions.
When making your plans, look at the weather forecast. The moment you get out to the mountains, be aware that mountains have their own weather and microclimates. You can look at local mountains near your trail to see the different weather conditions, like precipitation, cloud coverage, temperate, wind speed, and snow levels at various elevation levels.
Double and triple check the weather up until you reach the trailhead as weather forecasts can change and are just that–forecasts. You can use weather.gov or other weather apps to get an hourly forecast. Try to dig into the details as much as you can.
You don’t need the best or most expensive gear to get outdoors. Use what you have and are comfortable–even better if you can borrow from a friend or rent. Another option is to buy second hand gear from local outfitters or thrift stores to Facebook Marketplace.
Gear depends on the type of hike you want to take.
Start with some basic gear
Sturdy shoes or hiking boots
Backpack–can be a school backpack
Water bottle or hydration bladder
Map and compass or GPS
A base layer is next to skin and should be a synthetic (polyester or quick dry fabric, not cotton). Though cotton can be nice to pull away moisture from your body in hot weather climates, like deserts to keep you cool since it’s not quick drying. In other words, understand your climate and the risk of wearing cotton versus synthetic materials.
A mid layer can be a fleece shirt or jacket, active top, or wool and is usually longer sleeves but made of a breathable material to keep you warm. Mid layers depending on the season can even be down or synthetic jackets.
An outer layer is a jacket or jacket. Usually it’s water resistant or waterproof and can protect you from high winds penetrating through your inner layers.
Also, try to make sure as your layers are added they fit over the inner layers. Try and avoid constructive clothing as you need blood flow to keep your body temperature regulated.
Keep these essentials with you on all your trips. You never know what will happen and they are nice to have on hand. Bonus because most of the items are small and don’t weigh much.
For extensive detail on the list above, check out the following SheJumps blog post: Micro Ventures: the 10 Essentials.
Leave No Trace Principles
We are all leaving an imprint wherever we go. When you’re spending all this time outside, it’s important that we take care of the spaces we’re recreating. Leave what you find and take only photos and memories. Be mindful of what you’re packing in and what you’re taking out, this includes garbage and human waste.
Plan ahead and prepare.
Travel and camp on durable surfaces.
Dispose waste properly.
Leave wha you find.
Minimize campfire impacts.
Be considerate of other visitors.
Learn more about the seven principles at Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics.
Your trip plan
Leave your hiking (trip) plan with someone you trust. Email someone your itinerary, leave a handwritten note for a roommate, or text your plan to a friend. Remember to include vehicle make and model, departure time, trail, route, and estimated. Return.
Permits and passes
Depending on where you are going, you may need a park pass or hiking permit. Read trip reports or hiking descriptions of the trail you plan to hike to get more details. If you’re unsure, find the land management owner and give them a call during business hours.
Depending on where you live and where you go, you may want to research annual fees versus day-use fees (where you pay at the park entrance, trailhead, or parking lot). The fees help fund areas beyond government funding to keep these places well maintained for visitors. Land is managed from city, region, state, and national levels, so it’s good to understand who manages the land you’ll be hiking.
City parks may have timed or limited parking. Some state parks and DNR (Department of Natural Resources) land have fees. Trailheads on National Forests may require a National Forest Pass (varies by state) or you can also use a National Parks Interagency Park Pass. Most all National Parks have ranger stations or gates where you have a kiosk or ranger taking entrance fees. If you live close or visit National Parks and Forests several times a year, the annual pass definitely is worth the money and covers all the passengers in your vehicle. Some trailheads are plowed during the winter and may require a special seasonal pass that helps pay the snow removal costs.
In addition to entrance fees, trails may have a registrar or book to enter your name, where you’re from, dates, and the number in your party. This helps land management organizations not only staff and ask for funding at state and national levels but also helps prioritize what trails may need more infrastructure or maintenance done. Note: Groups more than 12 people normally require special permits from the rangers ahead of time.
Check your local libraries as some have passes you can check out for free.
GPS devices come in many forms from cell phone apps to handheld robust GPS units may also have a rescue call feature. It’s great to have your navigation tool ready and available. Whether you’re using a device or a good old fashioned map and compass, make sure you test it out, take a class, and know how to read and understand the various available map types or layers. Knowing how to read topographic maps and features will help you understand the types of terrain the trail meaders, along with obstacles and water sources, like rivers and ponds.
Phone batteries die, so it’s always good to have a paper map (in a plastic bag) and compass. If your hike is long, consider bringing a small battery pack that can recharge your phone on the go.
Staying hydrated on the trail is very important. You may remember to drink more when the weather is hot or your body tells you to. However, it’s easy to forget to continue to drink water when the weather is cooler. To start, take water breaks at least every hour or more to replenish your body. Pair it with a snack if you’re hungry or need more energy.
You can also add electrolytes to your water if you need some enticement to drink more throughout the day. Use reusable water bottles or hydration bladders with hoses for easy access. If it’s cold, pack a warm drink in a thermos and be aware that water freezes in cold temperatures yet you’ll still need to drink fluids to keep your body warm.
Pack food you’ll want to eat, especially when you are on the move. Find food and snacks with high calories or ones that will give you energy, like nut butter, salami, and cheese. Have a few snacks handy in pockets or at the top of your pack so if you stop for a break and are tired, you’ll be able to grab more calories easily. If you want warm food, consider packing a small stove to boil water to make soup or dehydrated meals.
Don’t forget to keep fueled up by snacking often.
Questions & Answers
Q: Trail runners versus hiking boots?
A: For day hikes on steady terrain, trail runners can work great. For longer hikes or those with a heavy backpack on mixed terrain, hiking boots might be a better option. High rise boots can provide more ankle support. Also, consider trail conditions and whether it makes sense to have waterproof hiking boots.
Q: How do you choose the safest trail to hike?
A: Assess your ability and skill level when reading the trail description. If you head to a state or national park, chat to a park ranger for guidance.
Q: What about cougars or bobcats? I sometimes worry about coming across one of those.
A; Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife provides amazing resources and guidelines on wildlife you might encounter on the trail.
Q: Thoughts on satellite messengers like InReach Mini? I recently picked one up as a safeguard because I mostly go solo.
A: Safety first. If you are going out alone to an area with no cell reception, having a way to stay connected if you need support is a good practice. Some are for emergency calling only while others pair as a handhold navigation. Make sure you know how to use it before going into the backcountry. The device is useless if you don’t know how to call for help.
SheJumps strives to help make the outdoors accessible to self-identifying women and girls. If you are able to, we appreciate your support to help keep bringing programs and content like this to life. You can donate here.