Hiking is a great summer activity. Hiking is one of the best outdoors exercise there is for the price.

You don’t need expensive or special equipment. No need for a specific level of physical condition or stamina, or invest too much money in it. Hiking is fun, easy, price effective and can also be educational.

There are basic guidelines when it comes to hiking but nothing too complicated or expensive.

Before deciding on going hiking make sure you have someone to go hiking with. One of the most important rules in hiking is never going hiking alone.

Even when hiking can seem completely safe, and for the most part it is, you could pass out because of overheating, get lost, a sting by a bug, etc. So it’s very important to have someone that can look for help, take a look at your injury or get the stinger off of you. Besides it is more fun to have someone to share the experience with.

After getting your hiking partner or group ready, pick a location depending on your preferences. Are you interested in wildflowers? Do you like lakes or rivers? Is wildlife what you are looking for? Or just some exercise?

Get ready

The Internet is a great source of information. One of the favorite pages for National Parks nps.gov and for State Parks stateparks.org.

Once you are there and find the park that catches your attention, the site will have a description of the Park, a list of the amenities, a map, the fees (usually ranging between 3 to 15 dollars per person depending on the park and the amenities they have), do’s and don’ts and any other specification they find useful or relevant.

One important note. Check the description of the hike, and especially the level of difficulty of the trail. Some parks with hiking trails have conditions for people with handicaps. Some trails might be for the advanced hikers only because of the terrain.

Once you find the park that sounds a good fit for you, read carefully about the wildlife and flora. This will come in handy when deciding what to wear.

If there is Poison Ivy growing everywhere, you should wear pants or longer shorts. If the hiking trails are under trees maybe a hat won’t be as necessary as if you go on a trail in open spaces.

Gear

As a basic gear, you should have comfortable clothes (adequate for the weather), and a pair of comfortable, durable shoes.

There are some people that love hiking boots, for others they couldn’t be more uncomfortable. When selecting your footwear have in mind that you are going to walk for an extended period of time and that the terrain will vary, you may encounter mud, rocks, water, and even clay.

Remember to use sunblock, especially if the hours that you go hiking are between 9 am and 4 pm, and if the trail is bare of trees. Bring plenty of water. You do not want to overheat. Bug spray is necessary. Also, remember not to wear any type of perfume as the “sweet smell” attracts bugs.

Hiking is not a competition

Hiking is not a competition or a race. Use your own pace.

If you are hiking with a partner, the stronger one should go first when hiking up a hill so he can help the other one. Every time you take a step make sure that your foot is firmly set before taking another one.

Twisting ankles are the number one injury when hiking. It is essential to know your limits and listen to your body. If you feel like you need to rest, stop and sit down, part of hiking is also enjoying the view and the sounds of nature. Look for birds and wildflowers, or just enjoy the fresh air and the outdoors.

Protect the nature

Stay in the trail at all times. When you enter the park you should ask for a map of the park, bring the map with you to know where you are at all times.

Do not wander far from the trail or the park amenities (i.e., bathrooms, benches, camping sites, etc.). Respect the wildlife. Animals can look cute or harmless, but they are wild animals and could attack you out of fear. You never know what is going on with an animal it could be hurt or just be trying to protect its babies.

Have fun

Try to find someone who wants to go out of hiking for the same kind of experience that you do. If you want to go for an easy hike, and spent some time looking at the pretty flowers and wildlife, and your partner only wants exercise, it doesn’t work. You may get into a situation where neither of you is satisfied with the end result.

So bring partners that have your same mindset.

Most importantly have fun.