Group Summer Hiking Tips for Beginners

Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, I always felt I needed to go against the flow with the hobbies I chose.
As a young adult, I would always whine about how my favourite musical acts and traveling shows would skip our “small-town” of Vancouver in the 90s.

Meeting visitors and residents and teaching international students throughout the recent years, I have learned to appreciate the many natural offerings of beautiful British Columbia. Many of these folks came from places of small towns or large bustling cities. Some may argue that Vancouver is still a small city, it’s still a place growing in population amid many pieces of nature.

If you’re into staying up all night, Vancouver may not be the city for you to visit and live. But if you love the outdoors, you may find yourself awed by being able to:

  • Take a short drive to go skiing on local mountains in the winter
  • Walk among many streets lined with trees, grass or flowers
  • Hop on a train, a bus, ride your bike or walk to a local beach
  • Partake in a variety of foods from different cultures and regions
  • Find different levels of trails to explore

For fun, I spend most of my time giggling at funny posts on Pinterest, trying out a new DIY or crafting project, window shopping or seeking the next foodie place to add to my Instagram. As an attempt to add more physical activity to my week other than rushing out to catch the bus, I joined our newly formed light-hiking group at work.

Based on what I learned from our first group gatherings, here are some group hiking tips for beginners:

Days Before the Hike

Warm-up Walking

Douglas and I joke that we often work out our arms by lifting our mugs of beer for most meals.
To ease into the hiking in the woods, take time to go out for short walks in 10 minute increments. Usually before I like to head out for an out-of-town adventure, I usually go out for an hour walk every couple days to get my legs and feet building the stamina to walk longer and longer.

Understanding the trail route

Ensure the group organizer shares with everyone the details of the next group hiking location.
Find out the duration of the walk, type of trail and what the weather forecast may be. With this info, this will help you with preparation of what to bring and wear.

What to wear?

Usually being hot in the summer, it’s tempting to bring just a water bottle.
Maybe for those who hiked a short trail for a short duration of time, this might be ok.
It’s best to go with what the weather will be like during the day of the hike.

You can go with a light tee and shorts on a hot day, with a pair of sunglasses and a hat. On a little chillier day, opt for capris or longer pants and a light windbreaker or hoodie that you can roll up if it ends up getting warmer.

If the trail is smooth with little obstacles, rocks, roots and debris, a pair of socks in a pair of comfy running shoes would be fine. If you’re the type of person that likes to keep their shoes very clean, you may want to choose a pair of shoes that you wouldn’t mind getting dirty as there may be parts of muddy waters to go through or other surprises on the trail.

If there are a lot more debris to walk over, choose to wear sturdier shoes or boots.
After one hike on a soft trail with many pebbles, my feet were not happy with my usual running shoes.
If you choose to wear sturdier hiking shoes or boots, make sure they are well-broken in and comfortable to walk in for a very long time.

What to bring?

To hike light, you can opt to coordinate with a couple of your colleagues to share carrying a communal backpack with these items just in case, or you can choose to bring along a light bag with small sizes of the following:

  • Hand Towel: If it’s really hot, I like to wet a small hand towel to keep around my neck to cool down
  • Mini First Aid Kit: Though we are careful, accidents can happen sometimes. If scrapes or other things happen, it’s handy to have a few bandages, alcohol wipes and soothing gel on hand and on-the-go
  • Water: It’s important to stay hydrated!
  • A little bit of toilet paper, small disposal bag, and hand sanitizer: If you need to go, it’s good to have on hand just in case
  • Bug Repellent: Mosquitoes love my sweet-foodie blood. I tend to spray around my ankles and neck to reduce the chances of getting bit
  • Sunscreen: It’s a good idea to apply some to exposed skin before starting, and after sweating it out for 90 minutes to protect your skin from overexposure to harmful rays
  • Light snacks: I like to eat a small meal before I head out. Just in case you or another team member runs low on energy, it’s good to have beef jerky, apples, granola bars or other light healthy snacks to nibble on
  • Trail Map print-out: Make sure you let someone else know outside the group where you’re heading to before you start. A print out is easier to look over with a group when deciding which direction to go
  • Your phone or camera: It will be great to take at least a couple of shots for mementos, like at the beginning and end of the hike. For those who are shutterbugs like me, don’t forget to also pack your cable and a mini battery pack to keep your phone from dying.

Day of the Hike

Getting to the Trail

  • Double check the weather: Make sure you check to see what the forecast may be so you can adjust the layers of clothing you will bring and shoes to wear on the trail.
  • Sharing Rides: Encourage the team to coordinate carpooling together to the trail. The more popular the trail, the likely that parking will be challenging.
  • Directions & Meeting Place: Check that everyone is able to get to or meet at the trail marker. Most parks have more than one meeting area, so it’s a good idea to confirm with everyone the specific meeting spot.
  • Bathroom Break: For those who prefer running water and stalls like me, going for a bathroom break would be a good idea before starting the hike.
  • Fuel Up: Make sure yourself and your vehicle are loaded for sustainable energy for the event.

Beginning the trail meeting spot

  • Review location and time: Share with everyone the trail that is being taken, the location of the end point and approximately the time it may take to get there.
  • Head count: Ensure everyone is aware of how many people are in the party.

On the Trail

  • Watch your Step: You may find yourself tripping over rocks, roots, trees, etc.
  • Letting people by: There may be other joggers, cyclists and other quick people on the trail. Out of courtesy, step aside to the right to let them through.

Together keep in pace on the trail

  • It’s not a race: Remind those who tend to stay ahead, to once in awhile to wait for the rest of the group to catch up and take a break together. Most trails have different levels and forks, and often people can get lost. Those that want to venture on different trails, agree ahead of time on the meeting place and time so the together the team can check on each other in case someone falls behind.

Souvenirs

As tempting as it is to take a flower, piece of wood or nature from your journey, it’s best to leave those items behind. In place of tangible souvenirs from the trail, snap photos of your walk and take them to your local photo printer to share with the team later.

Though there is no wifi (in most forests in Canada and the US), you will be building better connections. Have a happy group hike!

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