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New to Hiking but want to start...Looking for resources/advice/books/direction

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I recently had the good fortune to move from a sub-sea-level urban swamp to one of the nicest places in Colorado. I am a self-proclaimed 'indoorsy gal' who doesn't know the first thing about hiking or backpacking. I want to learn how but to be honest I am intimidated. I don't know anyone here so I would be doing all of this (happily) solo. Are there any books I could read or good instructional websites? What about bears? Should I get a firearm? What if I lose track of time and it gets dark? Should I wear a helmet? These are the concerns that come to mind. I have till the spring to do my homework and get this stuff they call "gear". I could investigate trying to ski this winter but I don't have the wherewithal or the time. 

Thanks so much in advance for any assistance!

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Hey Wagyu!


Hiking in the USA always sounds so much more dangerous than it is here in the UK.  The most dangerous animal I have encountered on a hike is a sheep and I don't think I'd ever require a firearm unless it was after some sort of Zombie Apocolypse!


Having said that, I use some resources here in the UK; the main one being 


PYB.co.uk which is a charity which is set up to teach adventure and outdoor skills to people designed at getting them out of the door.  Theres some good stuff on the website to take a look through..


Other than that I ay just get out there and explore, let someone know where you've gone and make sure your phone has plentuy of battery.  Learn how to use a map and take it with you and get some decent shoes!


And have fun!


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If you are hiking in an area that has lots of bears, then you might want to read about how to protect yourself. Most bears ( except for grizzly bears , which are rare ) will go away if you make noise, and aren't really aggressive. I wouldn't worry about a helmet unless you are going to do rock climbing. I do pack a flashlight in my backpack in case it gets dark and I am still on the trail(it actually happened once , and I did use my cell phone flashlight,) The sites I know are all about my local trails, so not much help. But , if you google hiking + the name of where you live, you will probably come up with a list of trails, and they usually include all the details about the trails (animals you may encounter, terrain, etc) Or go to Amazon (or your local bookstore) and look for hiking around your area, and you should find some ideas.


I was curious, so I googled grizzly bears in Colorado, and they say that there are no longer grizzlies in Co. So , the only bears you MAY see  will most likely  just wander off when they see you

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You might see if the library has books on hiking. I've picked up all sorts of hiking books from my local library system, including how-to books and trail guide books (100 hikes in some part of the state type thing).


The ten essentials or ten essential systems is a good place to start you thinking about what to bring on a hike. There's tons of info about that on the internet. One thing to remember is that if you don't know how to use something, it won't do you much good. For example, people will tell you to always bring a map and compass (and it really is a good idea), but if you don't know how to use them, they won't help you if you're lost and maybe you should learn before you need them.


Do a little reading about how to react to bears and cougars, but don't stress too much about it. Find out if there are any poisonous snakes in your area. Most of the time, wild animals will leave you alone if you don't startle them and give them enough space. If you're really concerned about large animals, you can get bear spray (kind of like pepper spray), but personally I wouldn't bother unless I was in grizzly country. If you don't already use firearms or plan to learn and practice on a regular basis, I wouldn't recommend getting one. If you don't practice regularly, you won't be able to use it effectively if you need it.


Check the time of sunset before you go. It's pretty late in the earlier part of the summer, but by August and September, it can be earlier than you think. Take a flashlight or headlamp in case you're out later than expected. Don't plan to use your cell phone as a flashlight because it could be your primary way of communicating in an emergency. If your phone battery dies because you were using it as a flashlight, you won't be able to call for help. Some areas in the woods don't have cell phone service. If you're in those areas, put your phone in airplane mode so it won't drain the battery looking for service. Carrying one of those phone charger battery things is not a bad idea.


Tell someone where you are going and when you will be back (leave yourself a buffer so they don't panic if you're just running a bit late). That will really help search and rescue know where to start looking if you get in trouble and aren't able to call for help on your own. If you do need help, call 911 because the sheriff's office usually runs search and rescue.


Learn about avalanches before you do stuff in the snow. In my area, there are several popular trails that become very dangerous in the winter. With a little knowledge, you can usually figure out some safe areas to go.


Reading back over what I've written, I realized that some of it might look kind of scary to someone just getting started. A lot of what I wrote has to do with when things go wrong, but 99.97% of the time things go right (or if they go wrong, you're able to get out of trouble on your own). Be prepared for the major things and have fun!

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On 12/31/2019 at 10:35 AM, Wagyu Swag said:

I recently had the good fortune to move from a sub-sea-level urban swamp to one of the nicest places in Colorado. I am a self-proclaimed 'indoorsy gal' who doesn't know the first thing about hiking or backpacking. I want to learn how but to be honest I am intimidated. 


Don't be! its a great hobby and a very simple one....


On 12/31/2019 at 10:35 AM, Wagyu Swag said:

….. I don't know anyone here so I would be doing all of this (happily) solo. Are there any books I could read or good instructional websites? ...

to ALL this I would say the First rule is ...

START small and START simple.


hiking is walking


Walk someplace within your abilities (distance, terrain, difficulty)-- then after THAT hike a slightly harder hike; repeat until you are ready for Anything Colorado can offer!


the "hikinglady" has some great advice; https://hikinglady.com/

actually MANY places has good advice.



On 12/31/2019 at 10:35 AM, Wagyu Swag said:

 What about bears? ...


I'm NOT in the west; but out here in the East we have black bears.  they aren't aggressive and if you don't mess with their kids, you are (generally) fine.  as with all animals, the best idea is to give these animals SPACE and you will be lucky to see them sprinting away from you.


myself I wouldn't be scared of bears in the Western USA with this philosophy. as other people are saying, don't get too worked up or obsessed on this.  there are very VERY few negative interactions with animals anywhere in the continental USA.  


On 12/31/2019 at 10:35 AM, Wagyu Swag said:

 Should I get a firearm? 

NO...err , well you can ofc.  but there are a heap of regulations to know about. and I really question WHY people feel the need to do this (in my state)?  why??


are you planning to shoot someone or something?  its very unlikely that will be needed and its probably ILLEGAL in nearly every likely scenario.

if your worried about people (solo, female hiker... ok), Pepper spray is easier to conceal and very good on bear AND people!  I gave my daughter pepper spray and she doesn't even hike!

its not a bad idea to have some. IMHO.


On 12/31/2019 at 10:35 AM, Wagyu Swag said:

 What if I lose track of time and it gets dark?


Your best Question, yet!

*Getting Lost (especially at dark)


A) STOP!  can you see another marking for your trail?  how long ago did you see the last mark? (here in the East they use Painted marks on the trails, called "blazes")

if you CAN easily and safely do so, be ONTRAIL


'B) if you Can't get on trail or it is very dark and not safe to travel.  bring OUT the gear!  you should always hike with enough gear to handle a night.  you don't need sleeping bags and a tent, neccesarily.  but the ability to make a FIRE, enough clothing not to get hypothermia, and some food and water are all very important.


some parks do not allow fires, but generally in an emergency those rules can be considered exempt.  SURVIVE first even if you must break some rules* 


(*major note; ah the West! there is an important difference in the west- and on some times of the years it is VERY dangerous to start a fire.  smokey says DO NOT CREATE forest fires.

if those conditions are possible make sure you have sufficient gear to survive WITHOUT a fire)


C)  Wait, wait, wait and wait some more.  do not move until you can do so safely.  if you are a SOLO hiker; this an mean the whole night and getting back to the car in the morning.  Still, solo or not, it IS a good idea to let someone know where you are... What if you break a bone or something?  even a facebook post Could make All the difference!


D) Lastly, and FIRSTLY.  especially about the prospect of being lost. its Good to travel with a map/compass AND gps. AND learn how to use a map!  there are vids online.  it will see awkward at first- but do not skip it and just RELY on technology.  technology can be a flighty thing.


in the East, walking DOWN usually brings you to a town. but even here those rules of thumb are hard to rely on.  I live quite next to a large reservoir in a national forest, which way is "downstream" in a large reservoir?  see.  beware rules that seem to simple... they are usually not as handy as you would hope they would be.


On 12/31/2019 at 10:35 AM, Wagyu Swag said:

Should I wear a helmet? 


No! and you should try not to try in the hardest most rugged terrain (which in Co, is really rugged!).


start simple, start small and if it looks like you ought to have a helmet.  Don't "hike" it.


On 12/31/2019 at 10:35 AM, Wagyu Swag said:

Thanks so much in advance for any assistance!


Your welcome.


and just so you know of my experience level.  I am pretty obsessed of it here in NW Pennsylvania.  I had a chance to go to boulder and hiked a pretty awesome hike near the flatirons.


Colorado is a big state, so this could be completely out of the question or a great place to start.

very nice beginner trails near chautaqua institute.  I climbed up to the Mount Green.  in CO and other places in the west; hiking to the tops of the mountains is a thing.


start little.



other questions to think about

*  how do I know HOW far to go and how fast I will travel a given trail

* What precautions should I take for altitude sickness

* to USE a stick on NOT (great controversy in that btw)

* the Perfect Boot! 

*the Perfect backpack!

* how to predict the weather (or at least allow for precautions of it)

* which is better, the more wild, less traveled trail or a really busy popular trail?

* how much water do I bring


maybe this Makes it seem even MORE overwhelming.  but I assure you all these questions and more resolve to a few common sense choices.  most of them become obvious with experience.


PS. good point about avalanches. and it was a REAL problem last year (as I recall). 

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