Know Before You Go: Your First Mountaineers Hike

Before you head out on your first hike with The Mountaineers, there are a few things to consider. From choosing the right hike to packing the right gear, we want to make sure that you're prepared! Welcome to our community.
Sara Ramsay Sara Ramsay
March 09, 2018

Maybe you’re an experienced hiker looking for a new community of outdoor enthusiasts. Or perhaps you have a bucket list with hikes to see a waterfall or lake, reach an overlook view point, or catch the wildflowers in peak season. Perhaps this is your first hike in decades, or ever! Regardless of why you’ve joined The Mountaineers on a hike, we are excited that you’re here, and we want to help you prepare to head out on your first hike with our community. Welcome!

Choose the Right Hike

Hikes with The Mountaineers are open to everyone, and do not have any specific skill prerequisites. All of The Mountaineers hikes are categorized using a consistent difficulty and leader ratings, which consider overall distance against overall elevation gain, pace, and terrain.

Many hikes in the Pacific Northwest have an average elevation gain of 500-1,000 feet per mile, which means that for every horizontal mile you travel, you’ll climb 500-1,000 vertical feet - or the equivalent of 40-80 flights of stairs. If you’re looking for a hike with less vertical gain, consider a trip that winds through one of Washington’s many old growth forests. If you're looking to hike at a slower pace, consider one of our Exploring Nature trips with the Naturalists!

Before signing up for a hike, read the route/place description to make sure you know what to expect. You can find a link to this description on every hike activity listing page, or you can search our route/place descriptions directly. You can also read recent trip reports to get an idea of current trail conditions and other things you might want to consider for your trip.

Remember that The Mountaineers is a volunteer run organization, and our trips are peer-led outings. Groups stick together - this is an important component of our community - and each member of the group is responsible for his or her own personal safety and well-being. If you’re new to The Mountaineers, be sure that your goals and expectations for the trip are aligned with those of the group!

Find Day Hikes

Find Exploring Nature Trips

Sign-Up for a Hike

Hikes are typically posted several weeks to a month in advance of the activity date, and you can view all upcoming hikes on our Find Activities page. You can filter by difficulty rating, by a certain date range, or by location using our map search feature. One you choose a hike, sign up! The Mountaineers require advanced registration for all of our activities. This is an an important component in planning safe trips, and it ensures that everyone in the group will be well-prepared for day’s activity.

All of our hikes are led by volunteer leaders. Start times will be listed, but scheduled return times are not included in the event that something comes up during the trip. Check your calendar to make sure that you’re free during the day, and that you don’t have any early evening commitments. The Mountaineers provides community-based recreation, and our leaders expect that folks who register for trips know what to expect and are committed to the group. Thank you for being flexible!

We do know plans can change at the last-minute. When you register for an activity, take note of the registration close date. If possible, follow our best cancellation etiquette and cancel your participation before registration closes when necessary.

Several days to a week in advance of your trip, you will generally receive a “Hello Hiker” email from your leader. This message is to confirm your participation and to provide any last-minute details about equipment, conditions, or meeting location. Additionally, many leaders will use this email to help the group facilitate carpooling.

Bring the Right Gear

The Mountaineers’ leaders general require all trip participants to carry the Ten Essentials. This gear list is broken down in “systems”, designed to be flexible, based on the specific nature of the trip. For a good idea of what you’ll want to bring on your day hike, take a look at our blog about the Day Hiker’s Ten Essentials.

While the Ten Essentials do serve as a great starting point for your packing list, here are a few other items that I always consider before a day hike:

For most outdoor activities, I choose non-cotton clothing - usually polypropylene or wool - which dries quickly and will keep me warmer when its wet. I always dress in layers, and when it's warm, I prefer to hike in shorts - though many Mountaineers will choose to hike in pants year round. This can be a good way to protect your legs from prickly vegetation, and also from mosquitoes.

Speaking of mosquitoes, in the summer, I always bring a small bottle of insect repellent in addition to my travel-size tube of sunscreen. Depending on what type of insect repellent you choose to pack, be careful where and how you apply it. DEET-based formulas will eat away at plastics!

My most valued piece of gear is my footwear. A good pair of hiking boots or shoes can really make or break a trip! I prefer to wear a lower-profile hiking shoe for day hiking, almost like a pair of trail runners - something that is stiff enough to be comfortable over varied terrain, but something light enough to let me move more freely. I also prefer to hike in waterproof footwear, given how wet and muddy it can be in the PNW. That said, the most important thing is to choose a pair of comfortable boots or shoes, that fits your foot, and that meets all of your needs. Do you know that you have a tendency to roll your ankles? Consider a taller boot with more support!

To carry all of my gear, I choose a 32L daypack (meaning the internal volume is 32 liters) with a light internal frames and a comfortable hip belt. This gives me plenty of room for my Ten Essentials and anything else that I might need for the day. I also love that my daypack has a pack cover, which helps to keep me and my belongings dry in the event of a storm.

One other thing to consider is a sturdy pair of trekking poles. Trekking poles provide additional balance and stability, and they help to take the weight off your knees when you’re walking downhill!

Be Prepared

In advance of your first hike, be sure that you’re prepared. Consider doing a little in-town training, make sure that all of your gear is packed and ready to go (double check your packing list!), and take a look at the weather forecast. It's no secret that it rains in the PNW, and it is generally safe to plan on some amount of precipitation during your outing. As you choose a trip, take a look at the 10-day forecast. The vast majority of our activities run rain or shine, so be prepared for a change in weather! Invest in a good pair of rain gear - our Experticity team offers a wide variety of gear discounts - and get out there to enjoy it!

We hope that you enjoy your first hike with The Mountaineers!

Have more advice?

Are you already an avid member of our community? If so, what else do you wish that you had known before your first hike with The Mountaineers? Leave us a comment and we’ll use it to update this blog or create future blogs on this topic.

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