35 Hiking Tips for Beginner and Older Hikers

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35 Great Hiking Tips for Beginners or Older Hikers

Hiking is something that more people tend to start when you are slightly older. I'm not sure if we just have more time once we pass 40 or if other more intense activities are just too tough and we move on to lower impact sports.

While I've not ever walked the whole Appalachian trail (and seriously if anyone can tell me how to stay in the US long enough to do it please do), but I have done some great walks and hikes around the world.

There is so much information out there, but it can be very difficult to work out what advice you should 100% listen to, and what probably won't be suitable for you. I've tried to remove the guesswork and give you sound actionable tips for your first multiday hike, whether you are just starting out or finding that you do need to be a bit more aware of what works and what doesn't as an older hiker.

Fallen in the mud while hiking in Samoa
Fallen in the mud while hiking in Samoa

My Tips for New and Older Hikers

Some will ring really true and some might seem not suitable for your personal situation, but fingers crossed, you get something out of this post.

1. Walking into fitness

Never trust anyone that tells you that you will “walk into fitness” once you are on the trail. I don't know how many times I've heard this advice and I flat out do not agree with this.

Yes you will get heaps fitter after 3,4 or 10 weeks of hiking but do you really want to start out with none? NO! Trust me I've been horribly ill and way too stubborn about cancelling a hike I've had planned and found out the hard way that starting a hike with almost no fitness is one of the worst things you can do.

You don't have to be triathlon fit, but having the stamina, strength and capability you need to hike long distances over rough or hilly terrain is essential to have the best experience you can. 

Not being super aerobically fit isn't too big of a challenge as you can stop and get your breath back, however strong legs means you aren't stuck half way up or down a steep incline with cramps. Don't ignore strength exercises or you will be sorry. I don't know about you but I have no desire to start day 2 and 3 not being able to walk because my legs are so sore.

My Fitness Tips: These days I swim for my cardio and do heaps of leg work so that I can do that 900m of elevation over 3km and still walk the next day. I do squats, lunges, wall sits and as many stairs as I can find in my area. There is nothing like stairs to make you heave for breath and get your legs trail ready.

Finally, don't think that walking 15km days every day around the suburbs will enable you to walk repeated 30 km days with no soreness, but a little soreness is WAY better than pain.

2. No underwire. Ever!

Ladies, never wear a bra with underwire when you are planning on walking for more than 15km or for multiple days. It might seem like the best bra on the planet but trust me, at some point after about 12km it will start to rub somewhere.

Wearing a bra to exercise and wearing it with a backpack are two totally different things. You pack changes your posture and swinging your arms constantly can mean chafe points you've never had before. No underwire. Try this Anita Extreme Control Sports Bra. It's my new fave brand.

3. Learn what hiking gear works for you

Learn what works for you especially with regard to clothing & gear. Be open to suggestions from more experienced trekkers but be comfortable enough to ignore the hiker bullies. Yes they do exist and can be brutal in their criticism.  If you know it won't work just tell them you've tried it and its not for you. If you don't know just tell them you will possibly try it in the future. Then walk away!

Hiking in Chimanimani National Park Zimbabwe
Hiking in Chimanimani National Park, Zimbabwe

4. Trekking poles will change your life

A great set of hiking poles can and will change your life. I didn't use them for years as I found it very hard to co-ordinate with poles in my hand but once you get the hang of it you effectively have 2 extra legs. Find a quality pair that have carbide tips, can support your full weight and learn to trust them.

Quality poles don't have to cost an arm and a leg but mostly they won't be the cheap ones. Cheaper poles cut costs by:

  • not having carbide tips and only rubber stoppers on the end
  • not having secure lock-offs for your height adjustment
  • stiff rubber handles and/or grips &
  • little or no height adjustment

A great pair of trekking poles will:

  • have comfortable grips
  • super secure with height adjustments
  • the hand straps will be long enough
  • be able to take your full weight repeatedly on the down

5. Get Some Michael Jackson gloves

You thought I started writing another post then didn't you? Seriously, while we are on the subject of trekking poles, get a great pair of fingerless gloves. I have a pair of cycling gloves that I've had for 4 or 5 years now and they stop me getting blisters from my trekking poles.

My poles have cork grips which is really ergonomic and comfortable but they give me shocking blisters at about the 6km mark, especially in tough terrain when you are relying on your poles a lot.  Spend the money and get a great pair of fingerless cycling gloves and you won't be sorry. They are also great for if you have to grab a tree branch or scramble up some rocks.

Try these Bontrager Circuit Gel Cycling Gloves from Trek Bikes with Gel foam padding on the palm. From $59.99

6. Learn why you like your shoes

Make notes on shoes you’ve loved and what their features are BEFORE shopping for hiking shoes or boots. Sadly a lot of the big stores sell you what they make the most money on so you need to have some idea of what features you need in trail runners or hiking boots.

IE:

  • Shoes or boots
  • boots can offer more support but typically the soles are much harder so they can be slippery on tree roots and rocks.
  • trail runners have much softer soles so usually grip much better but only last about 800 km
  • Wide or narrow shoes
  • If you have wider feet or toes that are relatively square you will need a wider toe box
  • alternatively if you have narrow feet a wide toe box shoe might not give you enough support.
  • Waterproof or Quick Dry
  • Waterproof boots can be great if you are trudging through puddles all day in the cold but
  • Quick dry fabrics will mean you aren't putting your foot in a wet boot in the morning.
  • Personal pain points
  • I have Morton's neuroma in my left foot (which feels like I have a marble under the ball of my foot right up near my toe) and zero drop shoes completely take the pressure off and it never bothers me. Any kind of stack height (the difference between the height of your heel and the height of the ball of your foot) makes me want to cry about 3km in.  So my shoes are all 0mm height at the heel and ball.
  • Plantar fasciitis can mean only particular styles and brands suit your foot.
  • short calves might mean you need something with a higher heel height &
  • previously damaged toenails might mean some shoes just don't work.

Make a list of why any kind of shoe has bothered you in the past so you are sure to take that into consideration in the shop.

My Top Tips for Purchasing Hiking Shoes

  1. Never ever buy shoes online unless you are replacing a brand you know and love. Returns policies suck for shoes and the minute that bad boy hits your foot, its pretty much non returnable. I really envy that the US has REI with their amazing returns.
  2. Don't get sucked into trail runners or boots because the sales person says that's what you should have.  If you don't want boots don't buy them.
  3. Never be scared to walk away if nothing feels great.
  4. If you have difficult feet, look for a smaller outfitter for a more personal fit.
  5. Learn to ignore what they look like. Pretty shoes aren't necessarily great for your foot and you don't want to find that out 22km into a 40km hike.
  6. Accept that you are going to have to spend the money to try different styles. I've sold maybe 4 pairs of shoes that I've bought, worn for 5km and hate. It does suck, so nailing down a good fit in the shop is essential to avoiding this as much as possible, but sometimes its not until the 10k mark that it becomes clear they aren't designed with your feet in mind.
  7. With the advent of such amazing fabrics and materials now, in my personal opinion, I would never purchase a waterproof pair of hiking shoes or boots unless I was planning to hike in snow. The places I hike, even if its super cold at night I'd rather my shoes drain and my feet have some chance of drying out than having them wet inside boots. You will make up your mind on these things with time too.

7. Listen To Your Body & Mind

Just because you think you might like to hike multiday treks doesn’t mean you will! Sometimes the time alone won't be attractive for you, sometimes you may not be able to get over a particular fear or you just might hate putting that damn tent up and down every day. Whatever it is, you may find that hiking is just not for you. Don't force it. Stick with day hikes in your local area and see if the desire strikes again at a later date and if not – who cares!

8. Embrace The Tech

There are many purists out there who get so antsy with others using apps for trail guidance. Tell them to rack off and embrace the tech. Apps like FarOut, Gaia, All Trails and even specialty apps like for Spain's Camino are usually great.  Some are free, some have a small annual fee and some like FarOut you purchase the maps you want to use.

Don't get all stingy about it – these maps have water locations, terrain guides, stops, roads and everything you might need. Don't scrimp for $40 if you are walking 3000km of Te Araroa.

Learn how to use them properly.

  • Make sure you check periodically that you are tracking OK. Some trails cross each other and I've gotten about 6km down the wrong road before because I didn't check. Very annoying!
  • Download the offline maps or it could go horribly pear shaped &
  • Learn the intricacies of your own phone in relation to these apps.

The last phone I had was a Nokia (they are back on the scene with great Android phones again) but it I had to open my offline map in AllTrails before I lost signal or it would never load. I have a Sony Xperia now and no drama at all but it pays to make sure you know all the tricks before you are in the bush with no signal.

Tip!! Make sure your phone doesn't go flat if you need it to navigate. If the trail is well marked but something coming up might be less so, turn it off now and save the battery for when you need it.

9. Invest in a good battery bank.

Small battery packs can be hit and miss with regard to having enough for a week or 10 days on the trail, so most hikers that do longer distances carry larger ones. If you spend the money on a good fast charging battery bank, you will have enough juice that you can share it.  I love the Anker PowerCore and the 26800mAh one lasts me easily a week with about 50% left. They say it does 5 full from empty charges but I've never tested it from empty. Usually my phone is at 50-60% by the end of the day. These Anker ones also stop putting power through when your device is charged which some of them do not. Try Anker direct if you are in the US.

Jen hiking the bluff at Carnarvon National Park

Hiking to the Bluff at Carnarvon Gorge, Australia

10. Toe Socks Are The Best

Toe socks like Injinji or New Zealand's own Creeper Socks are the absolute bomb dot com!

I personally love Injinji trail crew because the top is firm without cutting off your blood supply so that dust or tiny stones don't get down your socks. The toes stop blisters between your toes and under your toe nails and they are super comfy.

11. Lightweight is often better than Ultralight

Lightweight is essential, Ultralightweight might not be for you. Learn what you can skimp on and what you must never skimp on. I always carry a snake bandage and a gps emergency beacon because you can’t walk with Aussie snake bites. I also carry deodorant which ultralighters would be horrified by, if I have the weight allowance I carry an uberlight chair (600grams) because my back sucks and I can't sit cross legged on the ground. Oh & I always have my reader.

These are things that are important to me and I'm happy to carry because otherwise my hike would be affected detrimentally. Yes I could read on my phone but I would rather save my phone battery for when I need it. Yes I could do without the chair but I get very sore from trying to sit in my tent or on the ground so I'm happy for the weight vs convenience trade off.

Sometimes the weight is worth it.

12. Sustainability sometimes takes a small hit

I bought a cooking system with a refillable fuel bottle and it drives me bonkas. I hate the thought of the disposability of the gas canisters so I bought one that took fuel and I could just refill. I seemed so sustainable but in truth, you have to set it up and prime it every time, and the “white fuel” it uses is called something different everywhere you go.

I can use unleaded petrol which is what I was tending to do, but let me tell you its hard to balance a 600ml ultralight bottle on the ground and fill it from the fuel bowser.

Unfortunately I learned the hard way that they aren't very efficient at all, so my 600ml of fuel would last around 5-7 days where as others with gas burners could last 14 or 15 with their 250gram canister. I also have to purchase this special liquid to wash it out with if I want to fly anywhere. That is usually around $30 and bizarrely you can't fly with the wash, so I have to buy a bottle, use maybe 10ml and then leave the bottle!

I've had to ditch my fuel bottle twice because I can't get the “anti-flame detergenty stuff” (I'm sure that is its technical name). It also isn’t as lightweight as other cook systems so I've found myself leaving it in the cupboard and using my new Soto Micro Stove which is actually available on Kogan at the moment for $65. Check them out.

I now try to be more sustainable in other areas to account for having to dispose of fuel canisters.

13. Uber light packs aren't for everyone.

There are some super lightweight hiking packs around now. Some are as low at 700grams and if you are young, fit, strong and have no lingering pain or injuries I'm sure they are amazing.

However, typically these Uber light packs have no support or framing, barely any shaping and are not in anyway adjustable with the exception of your shoulder straps or hip belt.

NOW – I'm not saying they are all like that and I know people that would never move away from their Uberlight pack, but typically they are not designed to carry a heavy load and if your body shape is anything away from the average they can be wildly uncomfortable.

Lightweight packs (the next option down from Ultralight) are usually constructed with a higher carrying capacity, some internal framing to help with support, back rests and ventilation area's and often multiple load lifting and adjustment straps.

Ultralight packs might be the way to go for you, but for most of us that are a little older and a little squidgier around the edges, a great quality lightweight framed pack will work better.

I would suggest borrowing a ultralight pack to test before purchasing.  While the lightweight packs are always available in various stores, the ultralight ones are often cottage industries and its online sales only. You need that bad boy on your back fully loaded for hours to know if its going to suit you so make sure you find out what their returns policy is. Exchange won't work if ultralighting is not for you.

Pack Purchasing Tips

  • Height doesn't always mean length with hiking backpacks. I'm almost 180cm and pretty well proportioned but a medium length is the longest I can use. I have one of those runners bums that juts out quite high and I need to ensure my pack sits in against my waist above my butt.
  • Always try a pack on where you can. I have been using the North Face Banchee for 3 models now and I still go into North Face to try on the new one. Shapes change and sometimes things no longer fit like they did.
  • Check the details as sometimes the most amazing design feature might not work for you. I wear my hip belt at my waist because of the aforementioned shelf butt syndrome, so I have to be careful that the hip belt on my backpack isn't shaped. Some of the women's packs shape their hip belts (which is amazing) but because mine sits more on my waist if I buy a pack with a curved hip belt it rides up all the time. These are things you need to know and consider.
  • Try it on with the clothes you will be wearing. I bought some new leggings a few weeks ago and on Friday discovered that while I knew the phone pocket was high on them, I can't get my damn phone out with my pack on. That's an easy fix obviously, but if you have dedicated hiking clothes maybe wear them to your pack fitting.
  • Buy a larger size pack. You don't have to fill it but if you need to, its good to know you have a pack that is yours and fits you well.

Some Popular Lightweight Packs

14. Camp Shoes

What are you wearing to the loo?

This seems like a strange question doesn't it? Let me rephrase that: What shoes or sandals will you use if its been bad weather and you have to get up in the night? Trust me, when you main shoes are wet and you have to pee in the middle of the night putting your dry feet into wet shoes sucks.

You have to make a decision on whether you are going to take “camp shoes” or be prepared to take your sleeping socks off, put your feet into wet shoes, pee, come back and dry your feet and put your sleep socks back on.

It's one of life's great challenges, so if you are going to be somewhere its likely to be wet at some point, a great pair of lightweight camp shoes will pay off in the long run. Check out FitKicks if you are in the US.

15. Follow your mother's advice and learn to share

If you are hiking with a partner or friend there is absolutely no need for you ALL to be carrying the same things. While I understand you might like to have separate tents if you want your privacy, but if you've ever farted in front of them, does that privacy really matter?

I always have my own tent because I'm a terrible sleeper and I'm prone to tossing and turning the whole night. That sucks for anyone else so I keep my own tent, but if you both sleep OK and you have a tent with openings on both sides sharing is caring!

Possible shared items:

  • Tent – you carry the tent and your buddy carries both the sleeping bags.
  • Toothpaste / deodorant (if you take it) / Dr Bronners or any cleaning gel – you get the idea.
  • Wet wipes – people always seem to not want to waste these (well done everyone) but carrying a full pack of wet wipes you won't need it daft. Make sure you only have one between you.
  • Poop trowel
  • Cook stove & pot – these are so efficient now that you can boil water in 2 odd minutes so it makes no sense to both be carrying this piece of gear. And if you are happy to eat the same food you can cook it all together anyway.
  • Battery bank – Of course put ground rules in place. You don't want to loose your navigation because your hiking buddy has been watching downloaded episodes of House Of Cards at night when you are asleep.
  • Sunscreen

NB: If you don't know about or haven't used Dr Bronners natural Castille liquid soaps you are missing out. You can use them on your body, for dishes, for clothes and I even use mine to wash my rugs at home. This 6 small bottle sample pack is perfect because you get 6 little bottles that are great for hiking. Once you have the bottles just buy the bigger one to refill them.

Dr Bronners is concentrated so you only need a drop or two and when you are washing your clothes in town you will thank me for the tip. You would usually either have to buy the smallest washing liquid you can find OR use the horrible super aromatic and nastily strong stuff from the laundromat.

If you've ever got a nasty rash under your arms from the laundromat detergent, Dr Bronners is for you! I personally LOVE the peppermint one but you can get unscented, sandalwood, lavender, citrus and more.

A lot of long distance hikers don't carry any kind of detergent with them and just rinse out their bowl and/or spoon with water but I've had Giardia before and a weirdly sensitive stomach so I wash stuff now. 


Jenny Marsden - Charge The Globe
About the author

Meet Jenny, a passionate Australian travel blogger and hiker who has explored 103 countries to date. With over 30 years of travel and hiking experience, Jenny has a wealth of knowledge to share with her readers about the cultures, landscapes, and people she has encountered on her journeys. She's always battling unfashionably frizzy hair and you will never catch Jenny in anything but comfortable shoes. Learn more about Jenny and her travels.


16. Understand Sleeping Bag Ratings


Learn to understand sleeping bag ratings and how companies use them. There are now an EN/ISO standard for sleeping bags. This is what companies can use to tell you what temps their sleeping bags will be best for. Unfortunately they are not legally required as yet to use this system. The other thing that is often misinterpreted is what level the publicly advertised rating is for.

There is a comfort level, a lower level and an extreme level. This is meant to show at what temperature you can use the bag in what conditions.

Comfort = a average size man (women typically sleep colder remember) dressed can sleep comfortably at this temp.

Lower limit = you might be a bit cold but you will still be somewhat OK

Extreme = you can survive in the bag at this temp but it won't be a great nights sleep.


Some companies might advertise a sleeping bag as a 20 degree bag. Keep in mind this is Fahrenheit. However this might be the extreme rating. Another company might say their bag is a 30 degree bag but this might be the comfort rating so you find yourself not being able to compare apples to apples. Find out what rating they are talking about before you commit to purchase.

And always try and get a bag that is good for at least 5-7 degrees lower than the lowest you think you will use it for. You can stick your leg out if you are too warm but being cold sucks big time.

Brad hiking Tallebudgera to Burleigh walk

Sometimes Brad comes with me and is the master of wearing whatever he feels like. It always works for him though, which drives me crazy! In saying that though, its never more than 15km so he's probably right at the limit where stuff starts to chafe and rub. 

17. Embrace multi use items

Try and think of what items you need that you can use for multiple purposes.

For example, a lot of hikers that wear a buff (a neck warmer or bandana) use it as a pot holder to get their pot off their stove, or a bandage if need be.

I carry a car chamois that I use as a towel for myself and for my tent if I have to pack up when its wet. I also use it to wring out my undies when I wash them as its so absorbent that they then take half the time to dry. It weighs like 5 grams and takes no space.

I don't carry toilet paper. I have No Issues Tissues that I keep in a tiny zip lock bag and I carry them in my pocket. They don't get all soggy from the sweat because they are in their own little bag and I can just put my pack down and rush off into the bush. I can dig a mean cat hole with my trekking pole so I no longer carry a poop trowel. Oh and of course I can blow my nose!

18. No cotton anywhere

Cotton is a wonderful fabric in everyday life but it has no place in hiking. Cotton doesn't dry quickly and will result in both blisters and chafe. No cotton. Ever.

19. Short sleeves suck to hike in

For women in particular, short sleeve hiking shirts can be a real pain. If the sleeves come to your elbows it should be fine, but many shirts that feel like they will be OK bunch up under your pack straps and leave your arms to chafe against any buckles on your pack straps.

Because I'm tall and not exactly a lightweight, the buckles on my pack straps sits just near my ribcage and without sleeves protecting my arms I can often really chafe or blister the inside of my arm against the buckle. Long sleeves completely solves that challenge.

I always find I have to put my pack on and then pull my shirt out so its not tight across my chest and with short sleeves that's a constant battle.

I have the best Mountain Designs fishing shirt that is my go to hiking shirt. Everyone tells me that I look like I'm wearing my dads shirt but I could give too hoots. Its sun friendly, has sleeve ties if its super hot, protects my neck and never rides up causing chafe on my arms.

They don't make that particular one any more (sob sob) but Brad did get a new style recently that will be my next purchase for sure. Check it out here.

20. Hike your own hike

Hike the kilometres that suit you. Don't ever feel pressured into walking further than you want to. Its your hike, do it at your own pace.

21. Ignore the know it all's

There is always one! Just smile, nod and move away.

22. Sometimes more money is less money

We all try and get gear on the cheap when we start. It is a smart thing to do, but consider how long you are planning on keeping the cheaper gear for. If you want a $400 sleeping bag but can only afford a $280 one you need to keep that cheaper bag for a long time for it not to be false economy.

Sometimes spending the money up front (provided you know you like hiking) is the best option. Lighter gear is WAY more expensive but by the time you spend $300 on a sleeping bag that is 1.4kg and then a year later spend $420 for a bag that is 650grams, that's a lot of hikes you have to have done to make the double purchase worthwhile. 

23. Never leave your shoes outside your tent.

I think I'm the only one that always brought my shoes inside my tent and that was primarily for spiders. However I learned that keeping your shoes inside the tent has other advantages.

  1. If its raining and you need to get out, you can put your shoes on inside and then zip open your door and get out. You don't have to sit there half in and half out trying to do it.
  2. They have some chance of drying somewhat if its really bad weather, where as they probably won't at all in the vestibule.
  3. A dingo can't take them! This actually happened to a guy at a camp I was at on Larapinta Trail. He got up in the morning and one of his boots was gone. They were his only shoes and we were 2 days walk from the nearest exit point. We looked for about a km radius and never found it. Fortunately for him I have monster feet and had my hiking sandals with me. They are open toed and are actual running sandals so designed to be used for extended periods, but if I didn't have them or even if they had have been one size smaller he would have been screwed. Keep your shoes in your tent.

24. Know your limitations

Everybody tells you that you can do anything. That is flat out not true. However, you might be able to do things you don't think you can with work arounds.

I can’t squat. I've never been able to and as I’ve got older and had more injuries there is no way I can. It makes pooping a challenge and means I have to have something to kneel on getting in and out of my tent but a well placed rock or tree branch works and I carry a sit pad now for tent access.

If you have a bad knee you can mitigate that somewhat with dedicated strengthening exercises, or if you have a bad back a better quality sleep pad might be the difference between you continuing with your hiking or not.

Likewise with your level of experience. If you've never done a 1000m scramble, don't do it on your own. Take someone else with you for moral support until you feel comfortable. If you're not great with heights make sure you ask if that will be a challenge with any group hikes you participate in.

Being older sometimes means having to plan more so that you can ensure that any limitations you do have won't crop up unexpectedly and ruin your hike.

25. You don't need that many clothes!

You need clothes to hike in, a good quality set of rain gear and clothes to sleep in. That's it. Possibly a pair of warmer trousers and a fleece depending on where you are hiking.

While I take a thermal top with me always, my sleep pants are a really thick pair of leggings I found at the op shop. I have started looking for another pair as they are almost at the end of their life, but they are very warm AND if I have soaking wet clothes from the day before at an absolute push I could wear them to hike in.

I never plan to hike in my sleep gear because I want clean dry gear for sleeping, but in an emergency I could. Apart from that you just wear the same clothes every day and as long as its not raining I hang them out to air out over night which works really well.

A much heavier me after hiking up Volcano Pacaya Guatemala

A much heavier me after hiking up Volcano Pacaya Guatemala

26. Understand you will poop in the woods

There are drop toilets or composting toilets at a lot of camp sites these days but they are not everywhere. Unless you are supremely regular and you are hiking a trail with privies at every campsite, you will at some point have to poop in the woods. Embrace it.

27. You don't need hiking clothes to hike.

Don't get sucked into purchasing hundreds of dollars worth of dedicated hiking clothes. I use a great pair or lightweight quick dry shorts that I buy from BigW in the summer and decent quality leggings in the winter, along with my fave hiking shirt.

28. Winter and warm clothes are worth paying for

Lightweight puffers, fleece jumpers, thermal sleep wear – this is where the “you get what you pay for” statement really rings true. I got a polar fleece at the op shop about 5 years ago and had no idea before that how warm one layer of fleece could be. I'd just bought cheap ones from KMart before that with no respect for the technology that goes into some of this gear. Cold weather clothing that is lightweight is never cheap but almost always worth it.

29. Be a scout

Be prepared, especially if you are hiking in an area that isn't well known to you. Do you need a bear canister, are there rats in the shelters, does the weather change in an instant (hello New Zealand)? You can never be too prepared to hike. It doesn't mean you have to carry items you don't need but it does mean you should carry items you will need.

30. Leave no trace

Make sure you have at least one sealable bag for your rubbish. I use odor proof bags mostly because I keep my pack in my tent and I don't want to fight off a possum in the middle of the night. Well not again!

Pack out what you pack in.

31. Learn how to pack your backpack

While you might need food at the top of your pack for lunch and snacks you don't need ALL your food at the top of your pack. Learn how to pack your backpack for the most efficient weight distribution AND for ease of access.

Typically you should put your sleeping kit at the bottom of your pack, heavy gear in the middle closest to your back, your food bag also in the middle section as its probably bulky but not heavy and then your lighter items at the top. Your puffer should go at the top for easy access if you need it but inside your pack liner so it doesn't ever get wet.

Your rain gear should go in an outside pocket for easy access, your trekking poles can be secured into the outside pockets if you aren't using them and your water bottles should be spread across both sides equally or if you use a bladder, obviously that will be inside against your back.

Mostly, don't hang stuff off the outside of your pack. Its unbalanced, it catches on everything, you can loose things and you will need that space to dry your undies or socks!

Crossing the swing bridge on the Overland Track

Hiking the Overland Track in Tasmania

32. Get a great water filtration system

You can't always be somewhere you can boil water to drink so you have to find a filtration system that works for you. I always used a LifeStraw water bottle (and I also use it travelling) but they have recently released a LifeStraw filter for the new Camelbak bladders. To say I was a little excited is an understatement.

I love bladders but they've never had any capability of filtration before so I'm very excited that now I can use my bladder again.

The cartridges in the drink bottles last for over 4000 litres and are replaceable which is awesome and the filtration cartridges for the bladders last about 3000 litres I believe.  Wild Earth has a range of LifeStraw products along with other brands like Katadyn as well.

Find a system that works for you and embrace it. Water can be scarce and just dipping your bottle or bladder into the stream and knowing your safe to drink it is worth its weight in gold.

33. Invest in a GPS communication device

These are primarily emergency beacons however some can also be used for texting if your situation doesn't warrant triggering the emergency SOS system.

No they are not cheap and Yes they do have a monthly fee but I would never head out without mine now.

I have a Garmin InReach Explorer + which gives me maps, texting, tracking and the SOS facility. The do make smaller devices that are cheaper with less features but I can't recommend these enough.

I pay $55 per month for the service, however you can suspend it if you aren't going to be using it. I always make sure I turn the service back on a few days before I plan to go just to be sure my device works properly.  I've had mine for 5 years and never used it but knowing that the emergency services will come for me if I do need it is priceless.

Finally…..

34. Test your gear beforehand

Goodness me. This seems such a simple thing to do but over the years I've seen some sore and sorry people for no other reason than they've not tested their gear prior to their hike.

  • Wear in your shoes.
  • Carry your pack fully loaded for at least 7-8 kilometres (preferably 10+)
  • Eat your food for a few days to be sure it doesn't upset your stomach
  • Make sure your maps app works offline

So there you have it.

My list of 33 things to know, do and be aware of before your first multi day hike. I hope its helped in some way and of course as always, let me know if you have any tips I've not mentioned that maybe should be here.

Oh and a bonus tip:

35. Sometimes things look bad but are OK.

Learn how to tell whether you have an injury or just a bruise. This is a photo of my feet after the Overland Track a few years ago (sorry I took the photo before I got in the shower). They look horrific don't they?

My toenails after the Overland Track

My toenails aren't even sore.

That sore is where I scraped my foot on the rock in a stream which was a little tender but nope my toenails didn't even hurt. I have weirdly formed feet which means that my toes keep hitting the top of my shoes and they turn black but never hurt. They don't even hurt when they are doing it but that skin scrape took 7 weeks to heal up and was really sore for quite some time.

It's not always what looks bad that is bad and vice versa. Learn how to tell the difference.


PIN ME!! 32 Tips for beginner and older hikers

Conclusion: Tips for the beginner hiker

I hope this article with tips for beginner hikers will help you to get the most out of your next hiking adventure, especially if you are a senior hiker like me! I am only 56 but I've had some pretty serious injuries over the years, so I feel like I hike similarly to someone at least a decade older than me. I get so many questions I felt it was time to put together some hiking advice for beginners and older hikers.


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