So you can not get awesome views like this from just walking in your neighborhood (unless of course you live somewhere like this then…enjoy!) However like most people I live in a industrialized city and we have our parks but nothing extreme. Now last year my husband bought me a book from our local EMS store. It has 60 hikes within 60 miles of Philly and we made a goal to complete all the trails before we bought another book. We did a couple local trails first but then we became completely hooked. And by we I mean just me since my husband has always been one for the outdoors. I am here to share some of my starter tips for first time hikers.
Now we have little back packing trips planned but we have not had the glory of sleeping in a tent just yet. So all these tips are for those who are just doing day hiking trips. Once I have my first over night backpacking trip I will of course fill everyone in! Now here are some things I found really helpful!
- DO YOUR RESEARCH: The book we bought has tons of info inside that helps with planning. You can just drive to some random state park and walk around, but some places may requiring some planning. A couple places we went had an entry fee to get in and others are only open certain times a year. Decide the night before where you are going to go and research where it is at, how long are the trails, does it cost money, and prime times to go.
- START EARLY: Many parks are only open sun up to sun down, and for good reason too. Hiking is an early riser sport. If you are planning to go hiking on a trail that is an average of an hour walk, give yourself an extra 30 minutes of light just in case. We like to start early that way we have all day with light. Nothing is worse then getting somewhere, getting lost, and realizing you did not leave yourself enough extra time!
- PACK LIGHT BUT EFFICIENT: We always make sure to pack at least 1 water bottle per person in the backpack (we pack another 1 per person in the car). Some more “civilized” parks will have water fountains to fill up at but most will not. (ALSO don’t expect bathrooms at everyone either!) With the water we pack snacks to have along the way. If you have a home-made trail mix recipe pack a couple bags of that for each person or if you want an easier fix I like to buy Clif Bars. They are really good for a pick me up when you are feeling a little worn out during the hike. They even make kids bars for your little hikers. Along with the food make sure to have a small but good first aid kit for any injuries, a list of important phone numbers (if you don’t have them in your cell phone) and a map of your route.
- TELL SOMEONE YOU ARE GOING: This is referred to as a flight plan. Most parks only require your to register with the park ranger if you are going to be camping over night, but it is always smart to let a family member or friend know what you are planning on doing. Just in case something were to happen or you get lost, someone will know you are missing and alert the proper authorities. Another thing to remember is to never ever go alone! If you are only going to a local park that you have been to before then okay its alright to go alone, but some of the places I have been I would recommend to bring a family member or friend.
- DRESS APPROPRIATELY: This may sound stupid. You might be reading this and thinking…duh! But you have NO IDEA how many people I see walking around in flip flops or what looks like dress shoes. If it is cold, dress warmly. I usually make it a point that if it is 40 degrees outside, I dress for about 50 degrees. Once you get walking around your body temperature goes up and even in the coldest weather you will sweat. In warmer weather I make sure to pack a light jacket just in case of rain or cold winds. Remember to check the temperature of where you are going, not where you live! Now for shoes, if you don’t plan on hiking every weekend I would not buy a huge pair of hiking boots. Me and my husband use sneakers with really good tread on the bottom. Make sure to break them in before going out hiking because no one likes blisters!
- REMEMBER ITS OUTSIDE: Be prepared for dirt, be prepared for trees, be prepared for animals, and be prepared for bugs! Wear a hat and spray yourself with bug spray if its that season. Always check yourself over before you get into the car to make sure non get into there. Now for us in south Jersey we really don’t have to worry about bears or any real scary animals, BUT always keep your eyes open and guard up. Do some research (ohh yeah like number 1!) on what kind of animals you are going to run into while you are on your hike.
Now these are all the tips I could think of off the top of my head but feel free to comment with any other questions! I hope everyone realizes how easy and fearless it is to get out into nature and hike!