Intro to Hiking & Camping

By Kimberly Lajoi

There is something special about being immersed in nature. Something physically, mentally, and emotionally rewarding about hiking to the top of a mountain. Or drinking water straight from a natural source. The air is cleaner. The views are better. It’s something spiritual. To those who have had little exposure to the outdoors but have been craving it on the inside “for some reason” – this guide is designed to get you started.


Almost anyone can hike! If you think you’ve never been hiking before, I’m sure you have and you just didn’t know it. A hike is a long walk…to anywhere. That’s it. Sounds simple, right? It is – to a degree.

Of course, it depends on where you want to go and what you’ll have to do to get there. Hiking down the street to your neighborhood park will be different from hiking a trail in a national park. Will you have to walk up a mountain? Will you have to walk through water? What will the weather be like? Will you be in the presence of wild animals? What are the rules of the land? These are some things you’ll need to think about. In some cases, you’ll have to travel prepared to survive. 


To someone who has never hiked or camped off the beaten track, the thought of taking on either or both for the first time can be overwhelming. Some questions you might ask yourself are:  

1. Where will I go?  

2. What equipment will I need?  

3. Will I be safe?  

Preparation is key when venturing into the outdoors. Don’t stress! This guide will help you approach these questions with more confidence. Here are a few things to consider before you take on your first hike: 

Are you in good physical health? Are you physically able?

  • Find appropriate trails for your fitness level. You may be able to walk around town without issue, but that doesn’t mean you can tackle a 10-mile trail up and down a mountain without preparation. While hiking is as simple as a long walk, in practice it can indeed be a strenuous physical activity.
  • Many local, state, and national parks throughout the globe have facilities and trails accessible for individuals with disabilities. Visit to learn more about the accessibility efforts of the U.S. National Parks Service. 

Who will you go with?

  • Solo – many solo hikers will tell you that enjoying nature on your own is very rewarding. You get an opportunity to reflect, be with yourself, and disconnect to reconnect.
    • Although with the right preparation you can safely and happily hike anywhere solo, if you are venturing out into bear country (or any other region where wildlife may be a concern), think safety in numbers. It is advisable to take a friend – not only for safety but also for the company!
  • Friends/Family – there’s nothing like exploring new places with the people we know and love! Hiking is a great bonding activity that could strengthen (or test) any relationship
  • Hiking Club – we’ve seen an abundance of hiking clubs that encourage certain groups of people to recreate outdoors emerge and flourish over the last few years. Chances are your home state has several local groups that you may align with. Hiking with a group is fun and allows you to embrace community in the outdoors. 

What will you need?

  • Clothing/Gear – Plan for variable weather (See Sample Packing List below)
    • Note that accessories like hiking boots and backpacks are not one size fits all accessories. What might be good for a friend might not work for you. Our bodies are made differently so equipment fits us differently.
      • Spend time walking around, comparing and testing out different gear. Make sure your backpack fits well around your waist and shoulders so that the weight in your pack is evenly distributed and not causing unnecessary strain. Being in the outdoors is a physical activity – there is no need to put extra wear and tear on our bodies due to the wrong equipment.
  • Solo Wanderer Tip: Be sure to take advantage of the experts at your local outdoor outfitter!
  • Dress in layers – you can experience both warm and cool temperatures on the same day.
  • Moisture wicking gear helps keep us dry, and Merino wool is great for staying warm in cold temperatures.
  • Water – You always need access to fresh drinking water in order to stay hydrated on the trail. Plan to have about two cups of water per hour during a moderate hike. Roughly two liters for a typical day hike.
    • Typical signs of dehydration include dry mouth, dark urine, headache and muscle cramps.
  • For longer hikes, you’ll need to find other ways to replenish water along the trail. Drinking mountain water tastes like life, but before you go drinking water straight from backcountry sources, most times you’ll need to purify it first. The last thing you want is to get sick from harmful bacteria and parasites lurking in the water. Drinking contaminated water can cause symptoms like dizziness, nausea, stomachache, vomiting, and more
    • When sourcing water, remember:
      • If it stinks, don’t drink!
      • If it’s still, don’t drink!
      • Look for clear, running water

Water Purification Methods

If you’re unsure of the quality of your water, it’s better to be safe than sorry!

  • Boil It
    • This is a simple, but lengthy method as it takes time for the water to boil and cool down
    • Bring water to a rolling boil to kill off the nastiest bacteria
  • Filtration
    • Filters are handy for overnight or multiple day hikes, when
      you’re unable to carry in all the water you’ll need. They come in
      many different sizes, from pocket filters to filters large enough
      to accommodate a family. 
  • Chemical Treatment
    • Using purification tablets to treat your water (e.g., chlorine tablets, iodine, etc.)

Other Needs

  • Snacks/Food – What you might pack in terms of food and snacks will depend on how  long of a hike you do. For the average day hike, light trail snacks are sufficient. For  longer hikes, you’ll want to pack in more food and/or dehydrated meals.
  • Sun Protection – The sun is a very powerful star. No matter what season you’re hiking or  camping in, you need to have sun protection. Items like hats, caps, visors, sunglasses,  and sunscreen are a must when we are exposed outdoors.
  • Light – No matter how long a hike, always take a light source with you. Be it a headlamp  or a flashlight, you’ll want to be prepared for situations where you may not have  daylight to rely on. Getting stuck out in the dark in an outdoor setting isn’t the same as  getting stuck out at night within city limits. 


  • Communication – Always let someone know where you’re going and when you expect to return
  • Hike In Numbers
  • Be kind to others but Always be Cautious of Strangers
    • It’s awesome making friends on the trail. However, be wary about telling random people your plans, especially if traveling alone.
    • If you feel uncomfortable in a certain situation, leave.
  • Avoid Getting Lost
    • Do not rely on your phone to navigate you. Always carry a backup navigational device, like a map or compass.
    • Do not go off trail
    • Pay attention to trail markers – trails are usually marked and identified by color
  • Be Bear Aware
    • Always check reports for wildlife activity in the area. Nine times out of ten, unfortunate animal encounters happen when animals are startled or when they feel threatened.
    • Noise – Make noise to alert animals of your presence and to reduce the risk of an unwanted encounter. Talk, sing, play music (respectfully), or use bear bells
  • Pack out trash. Store food away from campsites and not in your tent trash.
  • If you encounter bear:
    • Stop and evaluate. Do not run! Identify yourself calmly so the bear is aware of your presence. Make yourself big. Back away slowly, do not turn your back. If you get attacked, keep your pack on.
    • Bear Spray – releases a strong pepper-spray like chemical to deter the animal in a self-defense situation
  • Solo Wanderer tip:
    • I carry a satellite GPS messenger in case of emergencies. I’m able to track myself and send basic messages to certain contacts and an SOS to emergency personnel as long as I’m in an open air environment. I can also get accurate time and weather data

Packing Checklist For A Day Hike

*this list is non-exhaustive.

  1. Backpack – big enough for a water bottle, light jacket, snacks, phone 
  2. Water – the water that you carry in and any water you source 
  3. First Aid kit – basic supplies to treat injuries and mild illnesses 
  4. Snacks – salty things are great for hot environments because salt helps us retain water. When  you’re hiking in the desert, for example, you sweat at a higher rate, which means you lose salt at  a higher rate aiding in dehydration. So keep your salt levels up. 
  5. Lighting (e.g., headlamp, flashlight)
  6. Toilet articles (e.g. toilet paper/antimicrobial pee cloth, pee funnel, shovel and bags to carry out and dispose of waste properly)
  7. Fire source (e.g., matches, lighter, fire-starter) – you may need to start a fire in an emergency to  keep warm, ward off animals, or send a signal for help
  8. Clothing (including hats, gloves, sun protection) 
  9. Rain Gear – includes rain protective clothing and cases or covers for bags and any sensitive  equipment
  10. Safety gear (e.g., compass, GPS device, map) – Don’t rely solely on your phone. Our phones are  great for taking pictures and doing some simple navigation, but they have batteries that will die.  Or you might lose or break it. 
  11. Insect repellent and Sunscreen 
  12. Knife/Hatchet – can be used for cutting rope, wood, or in self-defense, if necessary
  13. Trekking poles – accessory that can be very useful when going downhill by taking pressure off  your knees


Use this worksheet to jot down places you want to see, both local, domestic, and foreign. Be as  specific or as broad as you like. This will help direct you to specific hikes.

• What do you want to see? (E.g., waterfalls, giant trees, wildlife, bridges, sweeping views, lakes,  etc.)

• Where do you want to go? (E.g., Canada, Yosemite, Iceland, Appalachian trail, the mountains,  the desert, local trails/sites, etc.)

 What kind of hike do you want to have? What are your parameters? (E.g., easy stroll, “I want a  challenge,” shaded trails, no steps, etc.)


What does it mean to camp? Camping is the temporary occupation of a place, usually outdoors and usually for enjoyment.
Here are a few different ways to camp – each type has pros and cons:

Types & Styles Of Camping

  • Tent/Hammock – sleeping in a tent or a hammock.
  • Frontcountry Camping – camping within designated campgrounds that are accessible by vehicle; these sites usually have toilets/showers, trash disposal options, and running water. Also provides the option for car camping.
    • What’s great about it? – You’re able to bring more items since you’ll have your car close by – no sacrificing X for Y!
    • What’s Not So Great?  – Some campgrounds host a lot of campers so you may not  get that “wild” and “serene” outdoor experience you’re craving
  • Backcountry Camping – camping either on designated or undesignated grounds that are not accessible by vehicle. These sites typically require some hiking in, do not have running water, there may or may not be toilet facilities (think outhouse), and usually have no other amenities. This is the kind of camping we often think about as being  authentic.
    • What’s great about it? – You’re able get away from the crowds and wake up  each day with nature surrounding you
    • What’s Not So Great? – You can’t bring as much gear because you have to  consider the weight of your pack
  • “Wild”/Dispersed Camping – also falls under backcountry camping with similar pros and cons, but usually refers to  camping on public lands outside of designated grounds; there are no services here.
    • Remember that while it can be a great idea to have a potentially more authentic experience of nature, consider how you are impacting the land. What animals and plants are you displacing for your experience? The goal is to minimize your impact and to leave camp spots better than you found them whenever possible.
    • RV/Camper/Campervan – Lodging solution on wheels, in between a hotel and sleeping on the ground
      • Frontcountry & Backcountry Camping – Usually the journey for your vehicle stops in the  frontcountry. However, if you’re lucky enough to have a 4×4 vehicle you can easily access many off-road backcountry spots too.
        • What’s Great About It? – More freedom than staying in hotels because you can essentially stop and camp whenever. You also have the comfort and safety of traveling and sleeping in a vehicle, which typically has a bed, as well as cooking, toilet and/or shower amenities. Great for those who are not too keen on sleeping outside in a tent.
        • What’s Not So Great? – Limited access to certain sites and maintenance costs. If you’re traveling with a mate(s), things can sometimes get dicey in such a small space

The key to a safe and enjoyable camping experience is preparedness. Imagine getting to your campsite  or hiking miles into the backcountry only to realize you forgot an important item (although this will happen at times no matter how prepared you are). What you need and bring will ultimately depend on your style of camping, the length of time, location, and weather. See Packing List below.

Sourcing Water

Sometimes you won’t be able to carry in all the water you’ll need for your camping trip so you must consider how you will source clean water. See Purification methods above.

Using The Bathroom

Many of you are probably wondering how you go to the bathroom if there are no toilet facilities around.  Get ready to pop a squat! Sustainably of course.

  • Toilet Articles:
    • Toilet Paper
      • In lieu of toilet paper, there are companies that make reusable antimicrobial pee cloths
    • Trowel (tiny shovel) – for scooping any waste that needs to be packed out, or for  burying waste in the ground (at least six inches deep!)
    • Plastic bag – for storing used tissue or waste

– Find a private spot off trail and away from your campsite.

– Avoid peeing in water sources unless you are in a large body of water like a river, and away from  any campsites.

– Personal Hygiene – make sure to sanitize your hands and any equipment you use after using the bathroom.

– Solo Wanderer Tip: I like to bring a gallon-sized plastic zip bag and some toilet paper, and store the used  toilet paper in the bag until I get to a place to properly dispose of the trash. And if it applies to you, consider a pee funnel for peeing while standing up.

Getting Clean

Showers can sometimes be hard to come by when you’re adventuring outdoors. Take them when you  can get them. Many frontcountry campgrounds have showers, but backcountry sites do not. Here are a  few ways to keep clean:

1. Take a Swim – if you’re close to a safe body of water, simply taking a quick dip will help to wash  off dirt and give you that clean feeling. Do not use soap in bodies of water as it can harm marine life.

2. Use water to bathe out of a camp sink or container – do not dispose of dirty water on plants.

3. Use biodegradable body sanitizing wipes (and pack them out with you).

4. Find a facility offering showers for a small fee – places like these are abundant among popular camping routes


Camp food can be as simple as hot dogs over the fire or dehydrated meals that you boil in minutes with  water. Or it can be more involved. More…gourmet! I once made salmon, shrimp, and shish kabob  veggies. There’s nothing like eating good food in an outdoor setting. It’s all about your preparation. 

Cooking outdoors also comes with certain responsibilities like clearing your trash, packing out what you  brought in, keeping your food properly and safely stored away from animal access and camp, and  extinguishing fires completely. Never bring food in your tent. This can dangerously attract wildlife.


Here are some tips for safe camping:  

  • Be aware of your surroundings and remain alert
  • Keep safe distances from wild animals
  • Be cautious of strangers
  • Avoid drinking unpurified water
  • Stay hydrated
  • Stay up to date on weather conditions – weather can change abruptly and for the worse
  • Pack food adequately; Store food safely
  • Keep someone informed of your whereabouts
  • Always have a way to direct yourself, using a map or compass. 

Caring For Our Land/Low Impact

Everywhere you step is a home for something. At all times when you are recreating outdoors, be  conscious and respectful of the land. The goal is to explore and heal as much as possible while  disturbing the plants, animals, and land as little as possible. This is accomplished by:

1. Acknowledging Indigenous land and those who came before us 

2. Increasing your footprint – going beyond leave no trace and actually leaving places better than you found them wherever possible 

3. Not feeding or harming the animals and plants  

4. Completely Extinguishing Fires 

5. Using eco-friendly gear 

Packing Checklist For Camping

1. Backpack/Camping bag – big enough for your clothing, gear, food, water and shelter 

2. Shelter (tent, hammock, tarp, etc.) — Solo Wanderer Tip: A lightweight hammock is a great investment. Not only are they  great for lounging, they can be slept in under the right conditions and can be setup almost anywhere you can find two tall anchors 

3. Bedding: Sleeping bag, Sleeping bag liner (optional), Sleeping pad, inflatable pillow (optional)

4. Lighting: lanterns, headlamps, flashlights 

5. Toilet articles 

6. Fire Source: lighter, matches, starter, camp stove, etc. 

7. First aid kit: basic supplies to treat injuries and mild illnesses 

8. Electronics: cell phone, camera, battery chargers 

9. Camp chair

10. Hatchet/Pocket knife – for cooking, chopping wood, self-defense 

11. Clothing – dress in layers  

12. Cooler/Bear Storage

13. Food/Snacks/Beverages 

14. Safety Gear: compass, gps device, map(s), satellite messenger 

15. Water: the water that you carry in and any water you source 

16. Insect repellent

17. Sunscreen 

18. Cooking utensils and Food storage 

19. Towel

*This list is non-exhaustive.


The best thing about camping is disconnecting from society and connecting with nature. Getting back to the basics. Checking in with yourself. And enjoying what was naturally put here for us ALL to enjoy and protect. Remember: you are a steward of this land.

Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) should feel safe, welcome, and represented outdoors. Let’s get away from the notion that Black and Brown people don’t do certain things. Black and Brown people do hike. Black and Brown people do camp. We do all the things. This guide is for everyone! But especially we want to inspire and prepare those who look like us and are wondering about the Outdoors.

So go ahead – get out there!

Find Kimberly on Instagram @k.lajoi, and support her travel company @solowanderers (!

Photos courtesy of Kimberly Lajoi.

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