Five Keys for a Beginner Hiker to Start Strong

Chris resting and signing the summit register on Friday Mountain.
Average read time 2 min

Below are some simple things to keep in mind when getting ready for hiking.


What are your motivations for hiking? They may change over time as you gain more experience in the backcountry. Matching your motivation for your trip goals will increase your pleasure and increase the likelihood you will continue this as a lifelong activity.

  • Enjoy nature
  • Challenge
  • Solitude/relaxation
  • Fitness
  • Have fun
  • Enjoy friends and family
  • Peak bagging
  • Others?

Matching your motivation to your trip

Motivation is important. You may have many motivating factors, but some will outweigh others. Peak baggers will head for the summits, while young families may be better off picking hikes that are enjoyable for little feet. Consider:

  • Available hikes
  • Distance away from home
  • Popularity of trail
  • Required hikes for membership
  • People available to go with
  • Time of year
  • Weather
  • Difficulty of hike

Components of a good hike

Hiking is a balance between safety, enjoyment, and responsibility. Even hardcore mountaineers consider security and are responsible for significant aspects of climbing. Everybody experiences pleasure in the backcountry their way. For some, it is a short hike to a waterfall. For others, it is climbing a high summit in winter. For everyone, safety and being responsible is a must. What makes a good hike:

  • Putting safety first
  • Enjoyment
  • Being responsible (LNT, Proper trail etiquette, planning, etc)


Before you plan or step on the trail, ask yourself a few questions. If you are going slide climbing for the first time, do you need some technical climbing instruction? Would going with someone who has experience make this safer? Do you have the fitness for that winter climb? Do you need to get some trail miles in day hikes before your first backpacking trip? Think first, then go. Some sample questions:

  • Do you need instruction?
  • Do you have friends that are more experienced that can get you started?
  • Do you have all equipment and clothes needed for the hike and season?
  • Are you a regular or an occasional hiker?
  • How’s your fitness?
  • Is the hike you have picked within your ability?
  • Did you plan this hike using credible sources?

10 Essentials

As a beginner hiker, you must become intimately aware of the 10 essential system for survival. The 10 essentials is not simply a list but a system. If followed and used correctly, a system that can and will save your life in the backcountry.

Dig deeper: The Complete Beginner’s Guide to the 10 Essentials

Many new hikers step on the trail unprepared for the savageness of nature. The mountains spare most fools, but some pay a high price. Learn about the 10 essential system and all connected to it, and you’ll be ready to handle whatever you encounter.

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