How to Explore When You've Never Done it Before
There's a first for everything. Everyone has to start somewhere. And more cliches about getting outdoors and exploring for the first time.
If you thought schlepping your groceries back to your dorm room without a car was a hike, you may want start getting outdoors by lacing up a pair of boots and hitting the local trails.
You don't have to be an expert hiker, seasoned outdoorsman or experienced canoer to get outside and soak up everything nature has to offer. Adventuring outdoors can be pretty intimidating for anyone whose knowledge and history with hiking and other outdoors activities is, well...limited. You have to start somewhere, and because there truly is a first time for everything (cliched, I know), hitting the hiking trails can be a brand new experience fraught with stress, nerves and maybe a tad bit of fear. All you need, however, is a few simple tips for a solid outdoors experience that will have you frequenting local nature haunts in no time.
Do Your Research...Seriously
Ever wondered how fellow hikers and outdoors enthusiasts find new trails, discover new camp sites or stumble upon taller mountains to climb? Those experiences started with a computer. Maybe a smartphone or Instagram feed. Or word-of-mouth. Doing your research about the area you're going to hike through, camp or canoe in, or visit for the day is important for your own personal safety and limits. Think a certain trail might be too "hardcore" for your first-ever hike? Look up less strenuous trails on a local conservation site or check platforms like The Outbound to find simple adventures you can have even without years of backpacking experience. Research also allows you to find new or hidden gems where few people camp or hike, making your time outdoors serene and memorable. Regardless of the destination, know where you're going, the dangers or risks to hikers involved and what to expect when you get there.
Be Prepared For, Well, Just About Anything
Obvious tid-bits of advice here would include things like, "Check the weather before you go," and "Bring a rain jacket just in case." But it's important to be prepared for more than just a light shower when you're about to head outdoors. For example, you may want to bring a water-resistant backpack with you that contains a first-aid kit, your phone, a flashlight, a water bottle, some sunscreen and maybe a snack. Sound intense? It might be, but you can't predict what will happen when you're adventuring outdoors and it is always better to be over prepared than under. Plenty of lifestyle brands like Herschel Supply, United by Blue and others sell stylish yet functional equipment like backpacks and water bottles that you can take with you anywhere, including on the trails. Be ready for anything.
Know Your Flora & Fauna
Knowing about local flora and fauna isn't just for conservationists and hippies anymore. Being aware of the type of wildlife and various plant species that exist within your local hiking and camping areas is important not only for your personal safety, but for theirs as well! From bears, wolves, moose and more, there may be a plethora of wild species in your conservation areas and local Parks that could cause risks for dangerous encounters. On top of that, poisonous or dangerous plant species could have you hiking home with rashes, allergic reactions and more. Keep abreast of the flora and fauna around your area so you can safely hike, camp and adventure outdoors. Your local conservation authority(ies) should have information on wildlife and plant species available through their websites so you can learn how to hike and respect nature at the same time. You should also be cognizant of how littering on the trails or using harmful body products in lakes and gorges/quarries can harm flora & fauna. Ditch the scented lotions and pack up your garbage if you stop to smell the ragweed!
Know Your Limits
You know how most trails, camping sites or hiking areas will provide information about the levels of their difficulty? That's because most people may underestimate how strenuous, arduous and physically demanding some hiking areas are. If you're not a seasoned hiker or you feel you may not be in the best shape for hiking what can equate to a double-black-diamond, choose to traverse an easier trail or simply walk in a wooded area where people ride bikes, walk their dogs, etc. You may have to start "small," but you will eventually work your way up to being able to hike and explore new, more challenging areas. Don't push yourself for the sake of a good Instagram photo or to try to prove to yourself (or others) that you're ready for anything. It's better to work at it then injure yourself and not be able to work at it at all.
Treat the Trail as You'd Like to be Treated
Most trails and outdoor areas where people frequently visit will have their own sets of rules as to how you should behave on the trails, but keep in mind that those "rules" or guidelines have been created for a reason. Acts like littering or smoking in protected areas can do serious harm to the flora and fauna, but you can also risk injury to yourself if you go off the beaten path where signs or regulations tell you not to. This happens in National and Provincial Park too often, and has even resulted in death in some circumstances. If you respect your surroundings, chances are you'll have a fun and productive time outdoors. Consider how you'd want your own home to be treated if people were always coming through it, then treat your local hiking and outdoors areas with the same respect.
When it comes to exploring the great outdoors, you should be stoked to get out there and see what's up with nature. Don't let the fear or anxiety of getting outside for the first time (or after a long break) keep you from enjoying it. Be a responsible outdoors enthusiast and experience something new! Just ensure you're being safe and respectful whilst doing so.
Cover Image: Jon Flobrant
Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.
Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph.