If you are an outdoor lover and experienced hiker, you may not remember how you felt before your first hike. However, many beginners may feel a mix of fear, excitement, nerves, and overwhelm at the prospect of taking a long walk in the woods. Lucky for them, they have your wisdom and expertise to draw from, so taking friends hiking for the first time will not only be an adventure but a learning experience to boot! Plus it’s a fun and healthy way to catch up away from other distractions.
Taking your friends out on the trail? Here are 5 things to do before taking friends hiking for the first time!
Planning Steps for Taking Your Friends Hiking
We all know the benefits of hiking, and sharing your favorite trail (or tackling a new one together) is a great way to introduce friends to the outdoors. Being patient, communicating well, and preparing ahead of time will go a long way in ensuring your friends avoid the classic beginner hiker mistakes and have a great first experience hiking.
Prep for Your Hike Together
It’s probably safe to assume that your first-time hiker friends are generally unfamiliar with how to choose a hiking trail and map out routes, so, this is a great opportunity to include them in the process. Not only will they gain a better understanding of the terrain and surrounding area but it will also give them the chance to learn basic trail navigation. Make sure they also have a copy of the map and can locate which trail you’ll be hiking. This will help them feel confident, empowered, and prepared when they finally get out there. Educating your friends on proper trail etiquette and the basic principles of Leave No Trace are also great starting places to educate and lay out the foundations of hiking.
Choose a Beginner Appropriate Trail
Choosing the proper hiking trail is essential for creating a fun atmosphere for beginner hikers. It’s not wise to take your friends hiking for the first time on a challenging trail that’s over their heads. Sure, the vista is unbeatable and the hike is totally worth it to you, but taking them on a route that’s too strenuous risks turning them off from hiking altogether. Pick a well-maintained trail (loops are ideal for the change in scenery) that is clearly marked and manageable for your friend. In general, and especially when hiking with beginners, you should always consider the following when choosing your route:
- Distance: Don’t go crazy with the distance if your friends are brand new to hiking. Start with something manageable, and factor in that new hikers might be a bit slower on trails.
- Time: Do they want to spend a couple of hours on the trail or a half day? Be sure to factor in driving time to the trailhead.
- Weather Conditions: Some trails still have snow at the beginning of summer, and sunset times vary based on the time of year. Always be sure to plan ahead so you’re not hiking in the dark.
- Elevation: A general recommendation is that for every 1,000 feet of elevation gain, add one hour to your trip. I recommend starting with something 1,000 feet or below for a first hike.
- Fitness Ability: It’s always best to go easy and work up to something hard. Again, you don’t want to scare away a new hiker!
- Logistics: Certain hikes require more planning; for example, if the trail starts and ends at different places you will need to shuttle cars. I recommend a loop or out/back trail for taking first time hikers to cut down on more difficult logistics.
Make Sure They Have the Right Clothing
As the experienced hiker, you know a lot more than they do about proper hiking clothing and gear. Check in with them before you head out and make sure they have comfortable clothing, hiking shoes, and a daypack. If you have extra gear, offer to let them borrow it.
Even if you’re just going on a light hike share a few pro-tips with them, like the benefits of wearing layers, choosing quick-dry fabrics such as wool or polyester and, of course, sturdy, comfortable shoes that have already been broken in. You can also share our guide to What to Wear Hiking with your first-time hiker friends who are ready to dive in.
Help Them Load Up Their Packs
Making sure they are geared up just right will help you and your friend have a successful first hike together. Take some time to share a checklist of basic hiking essentials with them and where they can purchase it if need be before you get outside. Remember, the more empowered your friend is the better. Even if it seems obvious to you, there’s a good chance they may have never even considered such things before. So don’t go light on the insider information.
Make sure they have plenty of snacks and water. We recommend a hydration bladder as it will make it easier for first-time hikers to wet their palate when they get out of breath. Also don’t forget sunscreen, a basic first aid kit, and a watch (or another way to tell time).
Plan Your Post-Hike Celebration
Just like aprés ski, we all know that sharing a meal or beverage after your hike is a great way to celebrate the day. Here is where you trade stories from the trail, share some barstool wisdom, recount the day and just enjoy the time spent together. Find a local restaurant or your favorite brewery and make some more memories. If all goes well, you’ll already be planning the next hike!