Walking is a simple exercise that is great for overall health but day hiking can be even more rewarding. Not only do you get the benefit of walking (actually the added benefit of walking on uneven surfaces, killer hills, and the occasional scramble/bouldering effort) but you get out in nature, take your first tentative steps towards more in-depth outdoor activities (like camping and hiking), learn some valuable skills (wayfinding, etc), and develop a number of skills that will help you in a survival/disaster situation.
To begin hiking, you can hit the trails that are nearest to where you live. Most areas have parks, nature trails, or other areas developed for walking and hiking that are perfect for beginners. After you get comfortable in these locations you should then consider day hiking in local wilderness areas which will offer even more of a challenge.
Of course there are a few cautionary warnings, namely, be aware of your surroundings (pay attention and watch for animals, snakes, people, etc), don't get lost (use a map, go with a group, stay on marked trails), and come prepared. Here's what you need for a simple day hike:
- Comfortable walking shoes
- A daypack or fanny pack
- Trekking poles
- Bottle or two of water
- A sun hat or hat and gloves (depending on the weather)
- Coins and cash
- Flashlight with good batteries
- Rubberband/safety pin/zipties
- Lunch/granola bars/snacks
- Compass/whistle/magnifying glass
- Wet wipes
- Packet of aspirin/bandaids/alcohol wipes
- Emergency blanket
- Paper and pen
- Map and/or GPS device
- Wallet/cell phone/keys
- Appropriate clothing/jacket
- Firearm (optional)
You may be thinking that a lot of these things are overkill for a simple day hike and if you are walking a circuit around your local park you may not need all of these items but if you head out to the actual wilderness for a day hike, you definitely want to carry all of these items. Most will pack down quite small and all will be useful in the event of an emergency. Here's a bit more info to get your started:
- To find locals to hike with, Google hiking groups and you location (where I live there are a half dozen hiking groups including a couple of Meet Up groups, a seniors only hiking group, and daily hikes organized and guided by the local park service).
- Check out this link to find trails near your home. You can also Google hiking trails and your area to get a list of hiking sites and trail lists.
- Check with your local outfitter (REI, less likely, Walmart) for info on local trails and local hiking groups.
- Don't wait until you have gear that would make an AT hiker envious before you start. You can gather the above gear at your local thrift store, Dollar Store, and Walmart and get started immediately. Once you know what you are doing and learn what features you want in your gear, then you can hit up REI and/or incrementally build your gear cache until it is the envy of all of the hikers on the trail.