Hitting the Trail with a New Hiker

Sharing our love for the outdoors and enjoying nature with people we care about is a big part of what it is to be an outdoorsman. Most of us have someone in our lives—significant other, friend, or child—who we would love to take hiking, but who’s never been before. Here are a few tips on how to make your first-timer’s first trip to the trail a memorable and enjoyable one.

Making the trip special will involve more than simply inviting them along the next time you hit the woods, especially if it’s an overnight trip. First, you should never force or guilt trip anyone in going hiking or camping; you’ll be struggling against a negative attitude of obligation rather than enjoying the time with your company.

One key thing to remember is that when you take a first-timer, the trip will not be about you at all. Inexperienced outdoorsmen will require you to slow down and meet them at their level, so you can forget about reaching far checkpoints, improving your pace, and minimalist gear preparation. Instead, get your partner involved and invite them to choose what they’d like to see or do during the trip, and then plan the outing around that. If possible, try to plan a trip that has great scenic views or unique experiences, such as waterfalls, wildlife migration, or night sky activity.

To prevent any potential comfort-related misery, try to plan the trip around favorable weather conditions. Furthermore, don’t plan on hiking long or tough trails, either. Odds are inexperience on the trail means inexperience physically, so you won’t want to throw them into a situation they can’t handle. Also, to make things more comfortable, I suggest bringing more luxuries than you might normally bring, such as pillows or a thicker sleeping pad.

You should take an active part in helping your friend pack and bring the right gear. Offer to share any gear you already have, unless they want to buy their own. If they choose to purchase gear for themselves, make a trip out of it and shop with them for it. Make sure to grab important, but often overlooked items, such as extra socks, first aid kits, and batteries. Also, if your partner picks up more serious gear—pack or boots—be sure they fit and are broken in properly before the longer trip.

Whether it’s a spouse, a child, or just a friend who wants to learn, first-timers can be a lot of fun to hike with. Taking the time to listen, plan ahead for comfort, and prepare properly will show an appreciation for their willingness to step outside of their comfort zone and try something new, which will also go a long way towards boosting their morale before you set one foot on the trail.