6 hiking tips for beginners

While the word 'hiking' might conjure up images of conquering cliffs and mountain summits, we like to think of hikes as just being walks with good views. These tips from Kathmandu's Daan Dijkstra will help you put your best foot forward as you kick off your hiking career.

1. Start off with manageable, fun hikes

"The 4,265km long Pacific Crest Trail will come later when you gain more experience… or not – it’s all good," Daan says. "You’re supposed to enjoy this, not suffer through it."

Don’t bite off more than you can chew and keep in mind there’s no minimum distance, elevation or speed that must be reached before you can call yourself a hiker.

2. Less is more

Less weight on your back usually means more enjoyment, so Daan advises not to carry a whole lot of stuff you’re never going to need. Be smart about what you put in your pack, but make sure you don’t leave out gear that will keep you safe when you need it most. It’s all about finding the right balance.

"It also pays to invest in a well-designed pack providing you with excellent load carry and a comfortable fit," says Daan. "Do some research, try a few different packs and select the one that fits best – even if it doesn’t come in your favourite colour. Load carry comfort is critical, especially on longer, more challenging hikes."

18L daypack, $99.98 from Kathmandu

3. Use trekking poles

Using a pair of trekking poles can help you with balance and will reduce the impact on your knees.

"Especially in challenging downhill terrain, trekking poles can make a big difference," Daan advises. "So make sure you always use a pair for balance and maximum effect."

Quechua adjustable hiking pole, $15 from Decathlon

4. Check the weather forecast

Check the weather forecast and always consider the possibility of sudden weather changes.

"It might be nice now, but what if that thunderstorm kicks in this afternoon?" Daan warns. "Or what if you accidentally sprain your ankle and you have to spend longer out there than expected?"

Always be prepared for changes in weather – that means packing your rain jacket even if the weather looks fine when you leave.

North Face waterproof jacket, $117 from Wild Earth

5. Use lightweight dry bags to keep your essential gear dry

No pack is 100% waterproof and a rain cover can sometimes be clumsy and floppy, especially when it’s windy. And according to Daan, dry bags don’t just keep your gear dry, they can also help you stay organised.

Sea to summit lightweight bags, $10.90 from K2 Base Camp

6. Set goals

As your confidence, fitness and ability increase, slowly work towards achieving more challenging goals, whether it's moving from a five-kilometre to an eight-kilometre hike, or planning to take a two-day hike.

Once you've caught the hiking bug, you won't be able to stop – take a look at these bucket list hikes for some inspiration.

For more hiking tips and ideas, don't miss Pilgrimage: The Road to Santiago - Wednesdays at 9.30pm on Lifestyle.

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