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Hiking For Beginners On A Budget (Full Guide)

As popular as hiking may be, there are many people who have never been on a hiking trail before. For a lot of people who have never been hiking, the cost is the problem. This is because they imagine hiking to be an expensive hobby, due to the type of gear and gadgets required.

Hiking for beginners on a budget is all about making the most of what you already have, rather than splashing out on the best gear there is. Shop around and ask friends and family for old gear, and ensure you start small in case you decide hiking isn’t for you, as you don’t want to waste money.

You need careful planning in order to cut costs, have fun, and still stay safe on your hiking trip. Below, we have highlighted everything you need to know as a beginner hiker. We also discuss some useful tips to help you start hiking on a budget.

Is Hiking An Expensive Hobby?

Hiking can be an expensive hobby, but it doesn’t need to be. Shopping around and asking around are two great ways to get gear on the cheap – or even get it for free. There are also lots of places to hike for free, so hiking can actually be a very cheap (or free) hobby.

There are a couple of factors that determine the cost of your hiking trip. Understanding these factors will enable you to make cost saving decisions, thereby helping you to hike on a budget as a beginner. As with any hobby, things can get expensive quickly if you don’t look for ways to save money.

Location

Where you choose to hike determines your mode of transportation, which impacts the overall cost. For hikes that are very near where you stay, you can simply walk there or take a short drive. This will typically cost little to nothing for transport, as you are not going far out.

For hikes that are several hours away, a longer journey is required. For long drives, you may need a full gas tank for the trip to your trail and back home. If you are visiting a trail that is in another state, you might even have to go by air. Regardless of how you get to the trail, how you travel can clearly impact the overall cost of your hiking trip.

Duration

It’s important to consider the amount of time you intend to spend on your hiking trip. You can decide to spend a couple of hours, a full day, or a couple of days. Spending days on a hiking trail incurs extra costs for supplies to cover food, sleeping arrangements, and other necessities.

Cost Of Admission

The cost of admission charged by the hiking trail is another factor to consider. While some trails allow hikers in free of charge, others charge a fixed entrance fee. Other trails offer annual passes, which come at a discounted price, and this can be a good way to save if you plan to do a lot of hiking in the same areas.

Supplies

Supplies include the gear and personal items you need on a hiking trip for your safety and comfort. The type of gear you need depends on the type of hike you are undertaking. For a short trip to a local hiking trail, you may only need regular clothes that are suitable for hiking, hiking boots, a backpack, first aid supplies, and some food.

For a longer trip that will take days, you need to make provisions for a tent, sleepwear, food, toiletries, and things like cooking equipment. Other items to purchase include insect repellent, flashlights, firewood, and more. If you happen to bring a pet along, you will need to pack supplies for them as well. Longer hiking trips can become expensive if you don’t employ some basic strategy.

What Do Beginner Hikers Need?

As a beginner hiker there are certain items you need before you go on your first hike. These items are essential hiking gear you will use on subsequent hiking trips. Don’t skip these items to save a few dollars. You should consider them necessities that will make your hike comfortable and safe.

Hiking Boots And Socks

The most important gear to have as a hiker is a good pair of hiking boots. As a hiker, you are going to be moving for long periods of time over different kinds of terrain, some of which may be rocky or muddy. Hiking boots help you maintain balance while on the trail. In addition, hiking boots also provide traction, ankle support, and water resistance to keep your feet dry.

Hiking socks work with your boots to protect your feet on the trail. Hiking socks provide cushioning for your feet, while also ensuring your boots fit properly. High-quality hiking socks will help absorb moisture from your feet, while also ensuring breathability.

Trail Clothing

Not all your regular clothing will be suitable for hiking. You need trail-ready clothing that allows you to move freely and comfortably. You will need to climb, walk, and stretch your limbs, so it’s important you have clothing that does not hinder your movement. Long hours of hiking typically make you sweat, so you need to consider things like breathability.

It’s also crucial to avoid wearing clothes that chafe on a hiking trip, as this will cause a lot of discomfort. Find pieces of clothing that are made with breathable fabric and dry quickly. Be sure that these garments stretch properly and do not chafe.

Backpack

Every hiker needs to own a backpack, as it carries all the supplies needed for your trip. For beginner hikers, a medium-sized backpack is a good option. Your backpack will hold all your basic needs including snacks, spare socks, jackets, water bottles, and portable gear. A backpack with a durable fabric is the best choice, as it should be suitable for all weather conditions.

Choose a waterproof bag in order to keep your supplies dry whenever it’s raining. Pick a bag with padded straps in order to reduce the strain on your arms. Another thing to look out for in a hiking backpack is the presence of multiple pockets. With multiple pockets, you will be able to organize your backpack properly.

Loops and clips on a backpack will enable you to attach accessories you need to be readily accessible, such as a flashlight or compass, so these are other things to look out for. External mesh pockets are helpful for keeping your water bottles secure and close to hand.

Water Bottle

It’s important to stay hydrated all through your hiking trip, so a water bottle is a must-have on any hike. A good water bottle will also keep your water cool even if it’s a hot day, which in turn can keep you cool on a particularly warm hike.

Trekking Pole

Although it’s not a necessity, a trekking pole (or two) may be worth it as well. A hiking stick is helpful when climbing slippery surfaces, as it can help you maintain your balance. Pick a stick with a secure and comfortable grip, and one that is telescopic or foldable for easy storage.

First Aid Kit

Having a first aid kit is an essential thing to bring along as a beginner hiker. These are important regardless of your experience level, but even more so as a beginner. A basic first aid kit will do, so this won’t eat too far into your budget.

10 Essential Pieces Of Hiking Gear For Beginners

1. Navigation Tools

Navigation tools, including maps and a compass, are necessary for hiking, so you don’t get lost on the trail. With a topographic map and a compass, you are almost certain of never losing your way. Make sure the compass works and the map is up to date before leaving for your hike.

Depending on where you’re hiking, your mobile device may be enough for navigation. However, the further out you go, the less chance you have of getting any service. So, having physical navigation gear with you is key.

2. Sun Protection

Exposing your skin and eyes to the sun while hiking poses serious health risks. Therefore, you need to make adequate provision for sun protection before heading out. A pair of quality sunglasses will block out ultraviolet light and protect your eyes from harmful radiation. Besides protecting your eyes, sunglasses help with visibility on very sunny days.

Sunscreen is crucial for protecting your skin when you spend long hours hiking. Exposing your skin to ultraviolet rays will leave you at the risk of sunburn, premature skin aging, and even skin cancer. Use a sunscreen product with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 and above.

3. First Aid Kit

You need a first aid kit on a hiking trip. This kit will provide you with immediate treatment for injuries and discomfort. There are two options available to you when it comes to choosing a first-aid kit. You can either buy a pre-assembled kit or put together a personalized kit.

Whichever option you choose, there are certain items that should be in every first aid kit. These items include adhesive bandages, disinfectant, gauze pads, and pain medication. You can add other items based on your personal health needs, and what you’re likely to encounter on the trail (insect bite treatments etc).

4. Repair Kit

A hiking gear repair kit will help you to deal with problems that you might encounter with your gear. There is no telling what can happen on the trip, which is why you need tools to cater for unforeseen damages to your gear. Your repair kit should include duct tape, zip ties, safety pins, cordage, fabric repair tape, and a knife.

A knife is one of the most resourceful tools to take along on a hiking trip. It comes in handy for a number of activities, such as food preparation, gear repair, as well as for making kindling for a fire.

5. Lighting

A light of some sort should be added to your hiking backpack, whether you intend to spend the night on the trail or not. When you go hiking, there is always a possibility of the hike taking longer than you planned. In some cases, it gets dark when you are still on the trail. If you intend to hike for multiple days, a headlamp will be helpful for all your camping activities.

A headlamp is the best option for illumination, as it ensures that you can keep your hands free to maintain balance and perform other tasks in the dark. Don’t forget to pack extra batteries for your headlamp. If you will be hiking with other people, each person should have a headlamp of their own.

Obviously, if your hike is only a few miles in an area you know, and you’re hiking early in the day, you shouldn’t need to worry about bringing lighting. However, for anything longer than a few miles in unfamiliar territory, or in familiar territory close to dusk, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

6. Food

You need energy for your hikes, so it’s best to choose food with a lot of calories. Snacks like energy bars, jerky, nuts, and dried fruits are your best options. Not only do these food items give you energy, but they are easy to pack and they have a long shelf life. They are also ready-to-eat, saving you the time and stress you would have spent on cooking.

If you want something that is more filling than energy bars and nuts, sandwiches with cheese and meat are a good option. If you intend to go on a long hike, it’s best to pack extra food for later meals. On short trips, packing extra food won’t hurt, as it can come in handy should you unexpected delays.

7. Water

Staying hydrated is crucial to your well-being on a hiking trip. Water helps to regulate your body temperature when hiking, cooling you down when you feel hot. Take a water filter/purifier if you have one – it will come in handy in the event you run out and need safe water on the trail.

8. Fire Supplies

As a hiker, you need to know how to start a fire in case of an emergency. You might get stranded or lost, and a fire will keep you warm. Therefore, it’s important to go hiking with supplies to start a fire. Some of the things you can use to start a fire are fire starters, fire flints, waterproof matches, and butane lighters.

9. Emergency Shelter

Emergency shelters will keep you safe from the elements in case you get stranded on the hiking trail. Things you need to make an emergency shelter include a bivy sack, an ultralight tarp, and an emergency blanket. These items can be easily carried in your backpack. Preparing an emergency shelter will help keep you safe and dry should you need to spend the night in the wilderness.

10. Extra Clothes

The weather conditions can change quickly while you are hiking. It’s important to always pack extra clothes when you are planning a hike. Another reason why you might need extra clothes, is if you end up having to spend the night on the trail.

Hiking Etiquette For Beginners

As a beginner, it’s crucial you understand basic hiking etiquette before going on your first hike. Hiking etiquette serves as an unwritten code of conduct, which makes the activity safe and enjoyable for all hikers. Below are basic pieces of hiking etiquette for beginners.

Don’t Make Lots Of Noise

Apart from being a great way to exercise the body physically, hiking also has benefits on mental health. Hiking provides relief from day-to-day stress with quiet nature and beautiful sights, thereby helping hikers unwind. As such, it’s important to keep things quiet while hiking. Shouting and making unnecessary noise may ruin the experience for other hikers.

Bathroom Etiquette

While you should use the restroom before you embark on your hike, no one can predict the call of nature. If you need to use the bathroom on the trail, you are not supposed to do it just anywhere. Doing your bathroom business on the trail is unhygienic and it will spoil the experience for other hikers.

If you need to pee, move away from the trail and move at least 200 feet away from the nearest water source. Find a spot that is clear and relieve yourself. Avoid peeing in areas that have lots of plants and vegetation. Any items that you use to clean up should be kept in a Ziploc bag in order to avoid littering the trail.

If you need to poop, you will require a potty trowel or toilet paper and a Ziploc bag. You do not want to make other hikers uncomfortable or even sick, so makesure that you are at least 200 feet away from the trail and nearest water source.

Dig a hole that is about 6 inches deep and 4 inches wide to bury your poop after you have relieved yourself. Put the toilet paper in the Ziploc bag, in order to dispose it properly later.

Respect The Wildlife

Hiking trails are home to lots of wildlife, and you should be mindful of animals on your hike. Making unnecessary noise or moving too close to the wildlife might make them feel threatened, which may cause them stress.

Do Not Litter

Littering affects the environment by releasing harmful substances and poses safety hazards for wildlife. Littering the trail with trash also reduces the beauty of the scenery. Take a Ziploc bag along to put all your trash in, and adhere to Leave No Trace principles.

Right Of Way

When two parties are walking in opposite directions on a narrow trail, the person walking uphill should be given the right of way. If the person walking uphill decides to wait for a short break, then you can go downhill.

A hiker walking has the right of way over a mountain bike. However, it’s always easier to step aside for the bike to go through. Horses always have the right of way, and it’s best to keep your distance to avoid spooking them.

4 Tips For Hiking On A Budget

1. Ask Your Friends

You most likely have friends and family that go hiking already. You may be able to get used hiking gear from them to save some money. They may also be able to help you choose the best hiking trails in your area, and some general hiking tips to make your life easier.

2. Thrift Shopping

You will be surprised when you find out how much you can save on gear by going to a used clothing store or thrift shop. For a few dollars, you can often get items like backpacks and jackets that are still in good shape. Some shops even let you haggle, so you may get a better deal than you were expecting!

3. Choose A Hiking Trail Nearby

Hiking on a local trail will save you the extra cost of transportation – even more so if you find one that grants free entry to hikers. You will also save on supplies, since you won’t need to camp overnight before you return home. Hiking locally is also a great way to experience the area in which you live in a new way.

4. Use Your Mobile Device

Dedicated navigation gear such as a map and compass might be too expensive for beginner hikers on a budget. Your smartphone is a more economical alternative to maps (provided you have one) as you can download all the navigation tools as apps on your phone. Make sure your phone is fully charged before leaving and, if your budget allows, bring a portable charger.

Final Thoughts

Hiking doesn’t have to be expensive. With a little preparation, and by sticking to trails close by, you won’t have to break the bank. Borrowing gear from friends, packing only the essentials, and buying anything else you need from a secondhand store are great ideas for beginner hikers on a budget.