We select and review products independently. When you purchase through our links we may earn a commission. Learn more.

Here’s How to Prepare for Your First Day Hike

Friends hiking in the wilderness together.
Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock

Hiking is an excellent way to enjoy Mother Nature’s untamed beauty. When you’re new to it, though, it can be intimidating to plan. Here’s how to prepare for your first day hike.

With a rucksack to hold everything you need for the day, you’ll love exploring nature at your own pace.

Choose the Right Route

Find a hiking trail that meets your needs and skill level. Be sure to factor in how long it will take (a few hours or all day) to help determine if it’s the right trail for you and anyone going with you. It’s also wise to assess your fitness level as elevation gain and distance play a significant role in enjoying a hike.

Some hikes require you to start at one location and finish at another, so make sure you have a plan for shuttling from one end to the other, if that’s the case.

Fortunately, most hiking routes are well documented. Whether you search online for trails in your area or talk to the park staff where you plan to hike, you’ll want to know what to expect.

Make a Packing List

Now that you’ve picked your trail, it’s time to make a packing list and gather your gear. If you aren’t quite sure what to pack, these 10 essentials will get you started.

Of course, the route you choose and the weather will dictate what else you should pack, so be sure to check the forecast before you head out.

Find a Hiking Buddy

While solo hiking is an adventurous way to enjoy nature, we recommend you find a friend to keep you company on your first hike.

Hiking alone can feel lonely and be dangerous, especially if you’re new to it. Even for experienced hikers, it’s always wise to have someone with you in case danger strikes.

Make Sure Someone Knows Where You Are

At the very least, always (and we do mean always) let someone reliable know where you plan to hike and when you plan to return. Leave a detailed itinerary with information about the route and within what timeframe you plan to leave the woods.

Then, this person can notify emergency responders if they’ve not heard from you. This is especially important if you get lost or hurt on the trail and don’t make it out of the woods before dark.

You might think you can skip this step if you’re bringing a buddy, but it’s still a good practice. Many of the dangers that can strike, like landslides, flooding, or fires, could endanger both of you. That’s why it’s important someone back home always knows you’re out there.

Check the Weather

Again, check the weather forecast before you head out on a day hike. This is especially crucial if you’ll be hiking in high elevations, as stormy weather can become life-threatening.

Even the sound of thunder means you’re in danger, so if there’s any indication of nasty weather, play it safe and reschedule.

Bring the Right Outerwear

A couple in mid-season cool weather gear, stopping to enjoy some coffee on a hike.

The weather can be unpredictable, so it’s always best to layer your clothing so you can stay warm (or cool) all day.

This helpful article will teach you how to include base, middle, and outer layers of clothing. It even includes some excellent recommendations for each layer.

Pack Plenty of Food and Water

Hiking over an ever-changing terrain of rocks and roots requires a lot of energy. Pack at least half a liter of water per hour (and then some) to ensure you’ll have plenty for the day. We also recommend you take another drink that’s high in electrolytes to keep you extra-hydrated.

Be sure to pack plenty of food to munch on throughout the day. Taking breaks is an integral part of trekking uphill, so make sure you have some snacks to whip out whenever you need an energy boost.

Energy bars, jerky, trail mix, or fresh fruit, like an apple or a banana, all make good hiking snacks. Anything with nutritious calories is a win!

Plan for Unforeseen Circumstances

It’s also wise to try to anticipate situations that might come up and pack accordingly. For example, iodine tablets are good to have in case you run out of water and have to rely on a river, stream, or lake.

A multi-tool can come in handy in all sorts of situations, and you’ll be grateful to have matches and/or a lighter if you need to make a fire. Also, consider taking an emergency shelter, a headlamp, and a whistle. Be sure to pack sunscreen, insect repellant, and ChapStick, too!

First Aid Is Essential

From scratches and blisters to rolled ankles and other severe injuries, having a reliable first aid kit with you is vital.

At the very least, take some Band-Aids (including butterfly bandages), moleskin and first-aid tape, antiseptic wipes, and antibiotic ointment. Tylenol, tweezers, and safety pins are also good to have.

Now that you have everything you need, it’s time to get out there and enjoy discovering the beauty that awaits! To make sure it stays that way, be sure to pick up after yourself on your hike.

Emilee Unterkoefler Emilee Unterkoefler
Emilee Unterkoefler is a freelance food writer, hiking enthusiast, and mama with over ten years of experience working in the food industry. Read Full Bio »
LifeSavvy is focused on a single goal: helping you make the most informed purchases possible. Want to know more?