Blyde River Canyon

Hiking For First Timers: Tips and Tricks


So you are finally ready to tackle hiking for the first time and experience the great outdoors head on. Going on your first proper hike can be intimidating but it doesn’t have to be. You may be concerned about what to pack, what to wear, how much food to bring, and how to keep safe in the wilderness. Well that’s why I’m here, to help you through the process. I have done many hikes in my life with friends, my dad and when I was a boy scout and I have had to learn most of these tips and tricks the hard way, through bad experiences. So instead of making the same mistakes I have made, learn from them and you can avoid having a miserable trip and instead focus on taking in the beautiful nature around you. And when you get into the rhythm of things, you will find out why we hikers are always searching for our next trek: it is because hiking is actually quite fun and enjoyable, not to mention the sense of adventure you get from it!! This Hiking for First Timers guide will help you with everything you need to know before trekking out


Skip to the end of the post if you want a list of the essentials you need to bring and pack when Hiking.

One of the best views I have ever seen on my hikes. The climb was hard but for views like that I would do it again any day

Invest in proper hiking boots

Probably one of the most important parts of having a good time while hiking is looking after your feet when hiking. You do this by getting a proper pair of hiking boots that won’t give you blisters and sores.

You want a pair that go over your ankles for stabilization. This is useful to ensure you don’t roll your ankles on rocky, trails that have loose stones everywhere (been there, done that, really not a fun experience).

Keep in mind you don’t want to wear brand new shoes that have never been worn on the trail because that will cause blisters (ironic I know). Wear brand new shoes for a day or two before the hike to wear them in a bit.

Some people prefer to hike in trail running shoes which is a another option but I personally prefer boots because of the ankle support. This is only a issue however if you are trekking trails with lots of loose stones and sediments. If the trail is more even and packed down, trail running shoes should suffice.


Hike with other people

One the most fundamental rules for new hikers and hiking in general is to hike with other people (some more experienced hikers prefer to go it alone but that is a personal choice).

There are a couple of reasons for this:

1. It is just safer. If something bad goes down you have other people there to help you and if you can’t move the others can go and get help. The ideal number in a group is 4 or 5 so if something goes wrong 2 can go get help and the other 2 ( or 1) can stay together to help the injured person.

2. You can split the load between all the people in the group so as to lighten the load on each individual.

3. It’s just more fun. Hiking in the mountains with friends away from all the responsibilities of normal life is just guaranteed to be a good time.


Water. How much must you bring?

When you first start hiking one of the biggest things people stress about is having enough water. So how much should you bring with you?

You don’t want to bring much more than 3L (split it up between a 2L and 1L) with you on the hike because after that point the weight becomes to much.

You can refill your bottles along the way at streams and rivers but there are a few general rules to follow when doing this though.

The general rule is that you should avoid filling up from still water sources. Still water is more likely to have bacteria and microorganisms that could cause you to get sick.

If still water is the only water resource make sure to boil it properly before drinking and/or use purifying pills.

Streams that are really high up in altitude are generally safe to drink straight from the ground. Rivers lower down should probably be purified before drinking and cooking, especially if you know people live upstream (humans can really be very gross sometimes).

With regards to how much water to consume 1/2 litre per hour of moderate activity in moderate temperatures is good. You also want to drink before you are thirsty.

Best Day Hikes in Durban


 When hiking you want to be eating at least 3000 calories a day or 200-300 calories per hour of walking. It is always advisable to pack slightly more than you think you will need but don’t overdo it.

Remember everything you add to your bag is extra weight to carry.

Pack dry food that doesn’t expire fast. Premade hiking meals from outdoor shops are also a good option. They are easy to cook and are done cooking in a few minutes.

When you are hiking pack lots of high energy snacks filled with carbs for longer lasting energy and salts to keep your electrolytes up.


Learn to cook with gas

Many trails don’t allow open fires, especially in dry areas, so bring a gas canister to cook your meals.


Health Conditions

When hiking keep in mind conditions you might have like asthma, heart attacks etc. and come prepared beforehand.

Tell your hiking group about it and explain how they must react if things go south. Also don’t overexert yourself. If you need to rest, rest!


Avoid hiking after dark

 This may seem like common sense but I once heard someone say that “common sense is not always that common”.

The risk factor of something going wrong in the dark when hiking, goes way up. If you are doing a day hike make sure you start early so you can get back before sunset.

If you have to hike after dark make sure to have a strong flashlight on hand with extra batteries.


Do your research beforehand

Things like weather, trail conditions, how long the hike will take and the skill level of the hike are all things to know before actually stepping on the trail.

Don’t do anything that is way above your fitness level or skill. You can push yourself a bit, after all that is part of the fun and challenge, but don’t try jumping into a 3 day 50k hike when you are starting off. Hiking like anything else is a progression . You start off easy and you work your way up.

I suggest a 5-10k hike for your first trek. Also you want to choose your route beforehand so that you don’t get lost in the middle of nowhere.


What to Pack

For most things you need for hiking you can get pretty cheap at any outdoor store, but there are a few things you shouldn’t lowball on, like the hiking boots I mentioned earlier.

You also want to buy a proper hiking backpack, a sleeping bag with the correct temperature range to where you going, first aid kit, emergency shelter, proper clothing, a headlamp, navigation equipment (GPS or phone, maps) and cooking equipment.

Check out the list below for a full packing guide…


How to Pack

A very important tip in hiking is making sure that your bag is not to heavy. Remember everything you bring will be on your back for many hours on end, often over tuff terrain and uphill.

A big mistake that many beginner hikers make is overpacking because they have a ‘be prepared for every situation’ mindset.

I get it, it is scary to think about not having your daily cup of morning coffee or having to cut out the cookies for a few days.

I’m obviously kidding around but the truth of it is that many of the things you think are necessities are actually luxuries. Leave them behind and rough it a bit. That’s part of the fun.

Another important aspect of packing is how you pack your bag. Instead of just chucking everything into the bag and forcing it shut, you want to put the heavy stuff on the bottom of your bag as close to your back as possible, and the lighter stuff on top. It makes a big difference, I promise.

Let someone know where you are going before you leave

 This is just a safety precaution in case you get lost for a few days. The person you told can report your disappearance to the authorities, you can get rescued and you can have your favourite dinner meal served to you that very night. How convenient!!


Wear the right clothes

When hiking layers is key. When it gets cold, you put more layers on. When it gets hot, you take the layers off. Simple right?

You want to have thermal clothing for your skin layer, light clothes over that and then a heavy jacket layer to keep out the wind and cold.

Pack a raincoat (for yourself and your bag) for the rain. If your clothes get wet in very cold environments, take them off immediately and change into spare clothes, and try to bring up your core body temperature as fast as possible.

Get a good pair of gloves, a beanie for your head, as well as woollen socks for cold environments.


Bring a few garbage bags to store your trash as well as wet and dirty clothes. You can tie these bags on the outside of your bag as you walk so they don’t mix with your stuff inside


Leave no Trace

Hiking in the wilderness is a beautiful experience, PLEASE KEEP IT THAT WAY.

Don’t litter or leave anything behind you on the trail. Look at the tip above regarding trash.

When I was in Scouts we had a motto we lived by, ‘leave a place better than you found it’.

Hiking Checklist

Hiking Packing List


Proper sturdy hiking boots – if you can get waterproof, snake proof boots, that’s even better

A strong reliable hiking bag – 60L to 85L for overnight treks – if you are just doing a day hike a regular backpack will suffice

A First Aid Kit -doesn’t need to be to advanced, just needs the basic stuff

headlamp with spare batteries

An Emergency Shelter/Blanket

An Emergency Survival Kit – doesn’t need to be to extravagantyou can buy them complete at the store for a few bucks.

Sleeping Bag – you only want one for the specific temperature range you feel you will experience – carrying around a -7 C degree bag in a place that only experiences minimum 10 degrees C is just unnecessary weight.

Food and Water (Look above for details)

Purifying tablets

Clothing (Look above) – Mostly with hiking you can wear the same clothes a few days in a row before changing (Don’t worry you will survive, it’s not as bad as you might think) – Bring spare clothes though for if the ones you are wearing get wet.

Navigation Equipment like maps and a phone with signal or GPS

Cooking Equipment – lightweight pot, gas canister, plastic fork and a portable kettle if you really need it

Eating Equipment – knife, fork, spoon, plastic cup, plastic plate/bowel, pot cleaner and sponge, biodegradable soap, dishcloth


Tent or Hammock


Hiking poles (optional)

Small Travel Pillow (optional)

Fire starter kit

Radio or Flare (optional) for rescue if needed

Sun protection

Bug Repellent

Toilet Paper (Yes you might have to do the dirty in the wild, that is an experience you will never forget)

Small lightweight shovel for you know…

Toiletries (Although to be honest not really essential on the trail)

Entertainment to pass the night hours like a book (optional)

Lots of Snacks

Water Bottle – 2L and 1L

So if you learn and apply these tips and tricks to your next hiking adventure you are sure to avoid the mistakes I used to make as a beginner hiker. So you can skip the hard parts of hiking, learn from my mistakes and appreciate the beautiful nature around you. With that being said, go out hiking, Chase the Adventure and have fun.


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