The Ultimate Guide to Hiking for Beginners: Comprehensive Checklist

If you are interested in hiking but don't know where to start, this article is for you! Hiking can be a great way to get some exercise and enjoy the outdoors. It's important that if you're new to hiking, you have all of the necessary gear before starting out. 

Hiking is a fun way to discover nature with friends and family, or even alone. Whether you want to go deep into the mountains or stay closer to home, there are several options; many state and national parks provide extensive networks for walks, as does federal forest territory.

Consider how far you'll go, how isolated the place is, and what the weather forecast predicts while choosing what to bring on a hike. In general, the longer and/or more remote the walk is, as well as the more severe the weather, the more clothing, equipment, food, and water you'll require.

In this comprehensive checklist, we discuss everything from clothing (a hat) and footwear (hiking boots) to more advanced items like water storage containers and what food is best for backpacking.

Hiking Tools to Bring

Hiking Backpack

A hiking backpack is important and is different from the usual backpacks you may use. A backpack is the primary piece of gear for day hiking. One that holds 11–20 liters of gear is about right for short, simple hikes, while something bigger is good for treks where more food, water, clothing, and gear are required. It is important to get a hiking backpack that fits your body and needs. Make sure the hip belt and shoulder straps are adjustable and have enough padding.

Weather Appropriate Clothing

When dressing for a hike, you want to be comfortable and prepared for all types of weather conditions. Check the forecast and make sure to dress for the conditions. To be prepared for changing weather or an unplanned night out, pack extra clothes beyond those required for the trip. It's also important to consider how much protection your clothing provides against the sun's ultraviolet rays. Wear clothing that is moisture-wicking and quick drying. Layers are always key when it comes to dressing for outdoor activities – this will allow you to add or remove clothing as needed depending on the temperature. 


Your footwear is extremely important when hiking. For footwear, determine what to wear based on the terrain. On gentle hikes on smooth trails, hiking shoes or trail runners are sufficient. For treks on rocky, rugged trails, boots will provide more support. You'll want to wear sturdy shoes or boots with good treads. Hiking in sandals or flip-flops is not recommended!


Headlamps are a great option because they free up your hands. LED Headlamps usually have a red light mode which is great for preserving night vision. Bringing a head lamp for nighttime trails can be a great way to stay safe without using up a hand to light the way. LED flashlights can be a great option because they are lightweight and bright, and easy to use! Find the headlamp that works for you, so you are better prepared when the sun goes down on one of your hikes!

Water Bottles and Water Storage Containers

Staying hydrated is key when hiking, so always carry plenty of water with you on the trail. For water, you can usually start with about two liters per person for the day, but adjust the amount depending on the length and intensity of the hike, weather conditions, your age, sweat rate, and body type. Remember to refill your bottles whenever possible at campsites or rest areas during a hike! If you're backpacking, it's important to choose containers that are lightweight but also durable enough for traveling long distances. 

Hiking Poles

If you have knee problems or just feel like adding some extra support while hiking, consider using poles in addition to your boots/shoes and backpack. Hiking poles can provide added stability on steep trails as well as help propel yourself forward if there are any inclines along the way. They also come in handy when crossing streams or slippery surfaces.

First Aid Kit

A first aid kit is essential for any hike, especially if you're going to be in an area that's far from help. Your kit should include supplies for treating blisters, snake bites, burns, and other minor injuries. 

Sunscreen and Sunhat

Make sure to protect yourself from the sun with sunscreen (SPF 30 or higher) and a sunhat. The sun can be very strong at high altitudes, so it's important to take precautions against skin cancer and other long-term effects of UV exposure.

Map and Compass

Even if you're familiar with the trail you're hiking, always bring along a map and compass in case you get lost or need to navigate around obstacles. You can never predict what will happen or if you might accidentally get lost, so it's always better to be safe than sorry. 

Emergency Blanket

An emergency blanket is a lightweight, compact option for keeping warm in the event of an emergency. If you get lost or stranded and have to spend the night outdoors, an emergency blanket can help keep you warm until help arrives.

Survival Knife

A knife can come in handy for a variety of tasks while hiking, such as cutting through ropes, straps, or vines, preparing food, and even self-defense if necessary. Make sure your knife is sharp and has a sturdy grip so that it can withstand outdoor use.


If you're backpacking, it's important to bring along food that is lightweight and high in calories. Pack snacks like energy bars, jerky, and nuts that you can eat easily on the trail. Some people like to bring a sandwich for lunch, too. Good options include trail mix, bars, jerky, and dried fruit. Avoid bringing any foods that need refrigeration or require cooking. 

Emergency Beacon

An emergency beacon is a device that can be used to send out an SOS signal if you get lost or stranded while hiking. These devices are becoming increasingly popular and can be purchased at most outdoor stores.

Hiking for Beginners FAQs


Is it safe to hike alone?

Yes. However, you should do what feels most natural for you. There are many Meetup groups that go hiking, so if you want company, give it a try. There are trail guides that also include information regarding dog policy if you want to hike with your dog. There are several hiking clubs that may help organize a group excursion for you.

What if I have to go to the bathroom?

When you're hiking, try to go to a 'proper' bathroom. The exception to the 'stay on the trail' rule is when you need to urinate. Go far enough that people on the trail can't see you (about 200 feet is a good guideline). Also, seek out an area where you aren't trampling plants or otherwise damaging the environment. You go in a WAG bag if you're going to the toilet in a barren region where there's a strict carry-in, carry-out camping restriction.

Will animals attack me?

It's unlikely. If you're going to be in bear country, bring bear spray. It also works on humans and mountain lions. Animals generally keep their distance from people. The odds of winning the lottery are significantly greater than getting attacked.

Hiking can be fun, but it's important to be prepared. Make sure you have the right equipment, follow all safety precautions, and don't forget your map and compass! Now that you have read our comprehensive checklist for hiking beginners go out and enjoy the great outdoors! And remember – always hike with a friend!