I tried to pin-point which item on this list is most important, but I’m not sure I can. There are so many crucial pieces to planning and executing a successful hike with a beginner.
Needless to say, having a flexible itinerary is definitely towards the top of the list. Choose an area with many trails and trail junctures, with the easiest option being VERY easy. You want your beginner to feel accomplished at the end the day. Turning around before the summit may feel like failure to your hiker. To keep spirits high, plan a hike that anyone can complete, regardless of weather. Then, have alternate routes that you can take if things are going well.
Proper Gear Is Worth The Price
Send your hiking noobie a packing list, and give them plenty of time to get the items. One obvious item on the list will be footwear. Be sure to stress the importance of this one. Hiking in Nikes is all too common among the beginner hiker community. Urge them to make the investment in a pair of proper hiking boots. The durability, traction, ankle support, and waterproofing will be worth the money. If your hiker is borrowing boots, or owns a pair of old boots, make sure they’re still in good condition. Once I was hiking with a novice hiker who was wearing boots that hadn’t been worn in many, many years. Fast-forward to mid-way through the hike and both soles had fallen off. Not fun.
Before you embark on your hike, do a quick look through their gear. You may find you’re both carrying bug spray, or that they have a charcoal grill tucked away. Get rid of anything adding extra weight. Let’s make this hike as easy and enjoyable as possible.
All Eyes On The Map
While you’re pawing through their bag, have them take a look at the map. Avoid having anyone in your group “hiking blind”. You want everyone to know what to expect, and to have a general idea of important trails/junctures. If only one person knows the route, there will be no one to catch a wrong turn.
Your Body Needs Energy AKA Calories
Most people getting into hiking don’t anticipate the large number of calories they’ll burn. If possible, make your pal a pre-hike breakfast, or stop at a diner for a stack of pancakes. You want to start with a full fuel tank. I took a friend on their first New Hampshire 4,000 ft. hike and all they had to eat for breakfast was a rice cake. Let’s just say it wasn’t an easy hike for anyone.
As the experienced hiker, carry some extra water and more food then you think you’ll need. Sometimes all you need is one more Snickers bar to get your novice hiker from point A to point B.
Pace Is Paramount
Aim for a “conversational” hiking pace. A “conversational” pace is a walking speed that everyone can maintain while chatting. This will ensure you’re moving at a sustainable speed. I also recommend having the slower hiker in front. Their conversational pace may be a bit slower than yours, so this will keep it easy for everyone.
Taking breaks will be the peanut butter to your conversational pace jelly. Stop often and take in the views. Drink water before you’re thirsty. Eat snacks before you’re belly is rumbling. Rest your legs. De-layer and re-layer. If you’ve planned your trip well, there should be no rush.