Ever wanted to start hiking? Trail walking allows us to reconnect with ourselves and nature whilst disconnecting from this digital world. Whether you’re looking to step up your fitness or find a new way to de-stress, follow these 5 top tips to get your hiking journey off the ground.

Choose an appropriate trail

Location is everything when you first venture into the world of hiking. You want to make sure you’re choosing a trail that suits your abilities, not only considering your fitness levels but also your navigation skills. The last thing you want is to end up in a spot with no phone signal, unsure of the way back and with your legs giving up on you. A good place to start is finding somewhere local to where you live, that has a known public footpath and is in a relatively open space (for good visibility; think small hills or trails across farmland). Thankfully, there are apps such as AllTrails that can provide you with routes and track your position, even if your phone loses data connection. Sadly, these apps won’t carry you home if you overexert yourself!

If you’re completely new to walking, try starting with 1 to 2 miles (around 30 minutes), and gradually increase your distance as you become more experienced.

Start in good weather

It’s no secret that you’re likely to be in a better mood if the sun is shining, and tying this in with some light exercise is a real recipe for success. By selecting a day that’s due to be sunny, you’ll enjoy your hike far more than walking through torrential rain. The weather is also going to affect the trail, and not all of us want to partake in ‘Tough Mudder’ when starting a new hobby. Try not to start on a day that’s too hot if there’s unlikely to be shade, or on a day that’s too windy if you’re expecting to gain altitude.

Don’t overpack your rucksack

aetla magazine how to start hiking rucksack

Social media and stock images often lead us to believe that to go on a hike you need a large backpack full of equipment. However, after packing such a bag with all “essentials” and setting out, we often find this to be an unnecessary weight to carry. If you’re only planning to be out for a short while on your first few hikes, choose a water bottle of ~1L capacity and keep extra water in your car for when you get back. If it’s sunny, pack some SPF. When you start to advance in your hiking skills, you’ll intuitively know when your packing needs to be stepped up.

Invest in your feet

A good pair of hiking shoes will soon become your best friend. If you’re planning to do a lot of hiking in England, getting a fully waterproof pair of shoes is a smart idea. Wearing trainers can quickly wear out not only your shoes but also your feet, and a hobby that causes you pain isn’t likely to be one you’ll stick with! Any hiker will tell you that socks are just as important as shoes. Woollen socks will help to protect your feet, wick away sweat, and keep you warm in cooler weather.

Find a trail-buddy

As with most things in life, many of us feel more confident trying something new if we’re not doing it alone. Going on a hike with a friend has many benefits, from pushing you to get off the sofa because you’ve made plans with someone, to allowing you to feel safer walking in remote locations. You’re also more likely to have a good laugh rather than a good cry if you get lost.