Hiking for Beginners on a Budget

Hiking for Beginners on a Budget: Everything You Need to Know

If you love the great outdoors, chances are you’ll love hiking. The wide open spaces, beautiful scenery, and fresh air — what’s not to like? Whether you spend all your time on the trails or you’ve never hiked before, hiking is an activity that can be enjoyed by anyone and everyone. But getting started can be tricky. From knowing where to hike and what gear to invest in, starting this new hobby can be confusing — and expensive.

If you’re interested in hiking, here’s everything you need to know about getting started on a budget.

What is hiking?

You don’t need to be a fitness expert or wilderness champion to become a hiker. For the most part, hiking is really just walking. Hiking is typically defined as the experience of walking along manmade trails or roads that are well-marked and well-maintained. While hikes do range in difficulty, they often aren’t too strenuous and if you take your time, they can be completed by anyone in good health. A hike can be anything from strolling through flower-filled valleys to steep inclines up snow-covered mountains. It all depends on your fitness level, interests, and experience.

Three people in silhouette surrounded by trees at sunset
Once you get the hang of things, hiking becomes immensely rewarding

How to prepare for a hike

Prepping for a hike is easy as long as you prepare. Without the necessary research, gear, and planning, a simple day hike can turn into a nightmare. So make sure you’re prepared for your trip and follow these tips:

Do your research

Where are you hiking? What’s the weather like? Are there public restrooms along the trail? One of the biggest mistakes you can make (especially as a beginner hiker) is heading out without doing some research. Read some blogs, call the park you’re visiting, and please, always check the weather!

Pack the right gear

Different hikes require different gear. For instance, sometimes you may need to layer up to stay warm, while other times you’ll want shorts and a t-shirt. It’s entirely dependant on where you’re hiking, the season, and your own preferences. Regardless, it’s always wise to bring a raincoat, a compass, and a map.

Have a plan

Hiking is supposed to be a relaxing adventure, so while it’s nice to clear your head and walk, always have a plan in place. Know where you want to start and end, always inform someone of your trip, and have an idea of what you want to see.

A worm's eye view of several people hiking across a brown trail
Why not bring some friends out on the trail with you?

What do you need to pack on a hike?

As mentioned before, every hiking trip is different and will require different gear. But there are a few items every hiker should have if they really want to dive into the hobby:

  1. Basic hiking clothes (quick-dry shirts, lightweight hoodies, thermal leggings, convertible pants, and a really great raincoat)
  2. Hiking boots or sneakers
  3. Walking sticks (if you feel they’re necessary)
  4. A backpack (the size will depend on the length of your hike, but typically something small and comfortable is ideal)
  5. Sunscreen and bug repellent
  6. A hat
  7. Emergency thermal blankets
  8. Toilet paper (biodegradable is preferable)
  9. Mini first aid kit
  10. Enough food and water for your trip (plus some extra for emergencies)
  11. Camera (if you also have an interest in photography)
  12. Binoculars (if you want to watch the wildlife)
  13. A compass
  14. A map
Two backpacks sitting on a rock outdoors
Make sure to pack light when you’re hiking

Great places to try hiking

As a beginner, you’re going to want to ease yourself into hiking. There’s no point in trying to tackle a highly difficult trail on your first go, so take it easy and consider these “beginner perfect” hikes:

The Bruce Trail – Ontario, Canada

The Bruce Trail spans over 850 kilometres from the Niagara River to Tobermory, with over 400 kilometres of side trails. While the whole span might not be good for beginners, there are dozens of stretches with amazing views that make perfect day trips for any beginner.

Yosemite National Park –  California, USA

Yosemite National Park has become somewhat of a legend to hikers thanks to its range of scenery, trails, and difficulty levels. For beginners, the park offers a number of day trips that will give you a feel for the landscape without bruising your feet.

hiking in the mountains
Hiking is an all-seasons activity: enjoy the trails at Yosemite National Park in the winter

Fairy Pools – Isle of Skye, Scotland

This hike is great because it’s beautiful, easy, and only takes about three hours. Great for anyone visiting Scotland and looking to hike, it won’t disappoint on photo opportunities and is a great way to test your hiking skills before tackling a more challenging trail.

Koh Phi Phi Viewpoints – Thailand

This beach has become one of the most iconic travellers stops in Thailand, and for good reason: the views are spectacular and the water is crystal clear. For the best views, you’ll have to hike up to the beaches viewpoints. Only 25 minutes in each direction, it’s a short hike that won’t challenge a beginner.

Two women sitting on a cliff, looking down at the Phi Phi Islands, Thailand
Make sure you stop and enjoy the views, like these ones on the Phi Phi Islands, Thailand

Tips for your budget

While hiking has become a popular pastime for many, it would be a fib to say it’s the cheapest hobby on the planet. By the time you purchase your gear and get ready for the trails, it’s amazing how much money you’ve invested. Before you commit yourself to the hobby, try hiking with these budget friendly tips. Later, if you decide it’s right for you, you can start spending the big bucks.

  • Ask your friends.
    Hiking is a very popular hobby. Chances are someone you know has all the gear you need and they’d be more than willing to let you borrow it. So call in some favours or post on Facebook to see if someone can help you out.
  • Thrift stores are goldmines.
    A lot of people don’t think to check thrift stores for hiking gear, but a lot of the time you can find decent raincoats, backpacks, and thermal wear right there on the racks for half the price.
  • Rent (but only a few times).
    A lot of parks have begun renting our hiking and camping gear, similar to ski resorts renting skis. This can be a really cost-effective way to try the hobby without spending huge bucks, but after a few times, it would be better to buy your own.
  • Use your phone.
    It’s amazing the technology that’s packed into your mobile phone. Today, most smartphones come equipped with compasses, offline maps, and emergency communication apps. So skip the expensive GPS gadgets and start with your phone.
  • Skip the fancy foods.
    You don’t need to invest in expensive hiking food from outdoor retailers or hiking shops. 90 percent of the time the food is already in your kitchen, so pack some apples, nuts, and a sandwich, and you’re good to go.
  • Visit the Dollar Store
    Choose your discount variety store of choice and search the shelves for deals. First aid kits, socks, matches, hats, rain ponchos and much more are sitting right there for $1. Don’t worry about name brands, just get what you need and get on the trails.
A man sitting on a log over running water, with a pair of hiking boots beside him
Hiking doesn’t have to be expensive if you know where to look for equipment

For beginner hikers, the task of getting ready to hit the trails can be daunting. It’s a lot to take in. So take your time: do the research, pick a destination, and get your gear on a budget. Hiking is the easy part, so follow these tips and you’ll handle the hard part with no problems.

Are you an experienced hiker, or just getting the hang of things? What are your best tips for beginners? 

Jesse is a blogger and content creator who loves travel, the outdoors, and her dog, Molly. When she isn't planning her next trip, she can be found watching Netflix documentaries, enjoying time by the water, or eating soft-serve ice cream. Follow her on Instagram, Facebook, or check out her blog.

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