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Trying Something New: Hiking 101

With groundhog day behind us, Spring rapidly approaches – and so do opportunities to be active outdoors! The science is solid, spending time outdoors supports mental wellness. So get a double-dose of self-help by exercising outside with a walk or hike.

New to hiking? No need for fancy equipment. Here are a few tips our Cal Adventures team have gathered from our experience taking folks on their first hikes:

  1. Plan ahead. Know where you’re going, how long it should take and what to do if you get lost. Consider bringing a map, drop a pin on your smartphone, or know which way back to people. Hint: It’s usually downhill. Downhill leads to water, water leads to people. If poison oak is expected (don’t worry, it just makes you itchy), check out some of these tips on identifying or avoiding it.
  2. Check the Weather. It’s no fun to be caught in the rain without a rain jacket or umbrella. If rain is expected try to avoid wearing cotton fabrics – they won’t keep you warm when wet. Bring an extra layer for warmth or sun protection.
    Don’t have a rain jacket or rain pants? Don’t worry if you’re the only person using an umbrella on the trail, everyone else is jealous and the ventilation can’t be beat. Want to make a fashion statement? Make a poncho out of a plastic trash bag – one hole for the neck, two for arms. Warm and cheap.
  3. Sun Protection. Cover up arms and legs, wear a hat, sun glasses and sunscreen. Even if covered up, or you don’t burn easily, WEAR SUNSCREEN on your face and exposed skin. Sunscreen prevents long term skin damage, and keep tattoos looking fresh. 
  4. Bring water, a snack, a layer and a bag or don’t, but at least consider it. Remember, water is much more important than food. Bring a backpack or other hands-free bag to carry your supplies, including an extra layer in case the weather turns cold. Carry these in a backpack or other hands-free bag. If on an urban hike, just tank up before departing, make good choices and have fun without being weighed down by a backpack.
  5. Use the bathroom before departing. Many hikes do not have convenient facilities, but may have plenty of facili-tree and facili-bushes. Plan ahead to best enjoy your adventure!
  6. Pack it in, pack it out. Anything you bring on the trail, please carry out as well – your fellow hikers will appreciate it! Bring a small bag for trash, or unwrap items, (and remove fruit stickers) before hitting the trail. Besides trash, this includes “composable” items such as apple cores, orange peels, or toilet paper (add an outer opaque paper bag for additional privacy). Unfortunately, our bay area hikes see too much traffic to handle vigilante composting.
  7. Foot Care. Lace your shoes snugly – loose laces or overtightened ones will cause blisters. No need for special hiking shoes on our self-guided adventure hikes but consider wearing thicker socks than are commonly worn in urban settings. Just don’t over do it, sweaty feet aren’t fun (and blister more easily)!
  8. Have fun!

Can’t make it outside today? UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center suggests Noticing Nature at home can be effective at strengthening feelings of awe, connectedness, and hope – powerful wellness tools during a pandemic.


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