Tips for Beginner Hikers Before Hitting the Trail

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“What is a fleece?”  The question caught me off-guard for a moment.  We’d been discussing what clothes to pack for an afternoon scramble up to a mountain pass.  My daughter’s friend wasn’t familiar with the term we used to refer to the fleece pile jackets we always pack as a warm layer along with our wind and rainproof outer jackets.

New hikers don’t always have the same body of background knowledge I was reminded this past weekend on a multi-day trip into a backcountry cabin.  It was our chance to share what we had garnered through combined decades of backcountry travel.

My daughter, a veteran hiker before she was 10, started pre-trip by going through her gear and sharing a small backpack with a hipbelt (for weight transfer off the shoulders), quick dry pants, a wicking t-shirt (not cotton which traps moisture), a fleece jacket, a rainjacket (with hood and armpit zips – for ventilation), gaiters, and pile gloves (summer weather in the mountains is nothing if not unpredictable).  She also wrote out a packing list for her friend, itemizing not only what she needed to bring, but also what we would supply (from sunscreen and insect repellent to food and headlamp). 

Things to Consider When Hiking With a New Hiker

1. Make sure they have the right gear.
2. Adjust your hiking pace if needed.
3. Plan for plenty of rest breaks.
4. Pack lots of high energy snacks.
5. Keep it fun and interesting!

Over the course of the long weekend we talked about the need to wear layers for the variable mountain weather.  We stopped at trail junctions and practiced our map-reading skills.  We discussed the benefits of sitting on a pack during a rest stop to provide insulation from the cooler, sometimes damp ground. 

We stuffed our mouths full of beef jerky and fruit bars after going into the advantage of staying topped up on energy.  We demonstrated how to use a water filter to top up our water bottles.

We explained how to best place a hiking pole while descending a steep slope. We shared our knowledge about enjoying edible fruits (grouseberry) and plants (mountain sorrel) as a distraction from the length and elevation gain of the trail.  We used our experience to help spot and identify local wildlife (marmots and pikas).  With much glee, we even showed how to boot ski a patch of late summer snow!

The trip was over far too soon and from the smiles, laughter and constant clicks of the camera shutter, I’d say it was enjoyed by all.

Written By: Mike Adams, Wilderness Guide Based Out of Colorado


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