I’m certainly not an expert hiker, but I do love to hike and have been doing it with my family since before I can remember. My parents are both huge lovers of the outdoors, so our family spent a lot of time outdoors as we were growing up. I thought I would share some basic gear (you probably have most of it already) in case any of you are thinking of getting into hiking and aren’t sure what gear you need. Because I usually just do short hikes (a few hours at most, but normally shorter), I’m only going to talk about gear you would need for that.
- Good hiking boots: I recommend boots that come past the ankle, especially if you have weak ankles. They should be sturdy and if possible, I would recommend that they be waterproof or at least water resistant. Good hiking boots are not cheap, but they are a good investment- good quality ones should last many, many years. Mine are Montrail, but there are many other good brands out there (either go to a store like Dick’s Sporting Goods or do some research online before making your decision if you aren’t sure what to look for). You’ll want to get boots that work for you, so if you have high arches or need extra support, be sure to look at that (for example, I have very high arches, so boots that had good arch support was very important to me).
- Hiking socks: I didn’t get hiking socks until a couple of years ago (so you can go without), but I swear by them now. You’ll want to get ones that go higher than your boots to prevent rubbing. Added padding on the ball of foot and heel will help protect your feet. My mom thought my obsession with hiking socks was ridiculous until she tried mine- they really make your feet feel awesome.
- Comfortable, breathable clothes: You don’t need anything special, but you’ll want to wear clothes you can easily move in and that allow your skin to breathe. Depending on the type/length of hike and weather, jeans should be ok (so long as they aren’t really tight and don’t restrict movement). For your lower half, exercise leggings are also good. I wouldn’t invest in “hiking pants” unless you really plan to hike a lot and like the way they look. For shirts, exercise shirts, basic t-shirts, and tank-tops work well.
- Small backpack/daypack: If you plan on hiking more than an hour, you should probably bring a small backpack or daypack. It doesn’t need to be big, but should have room for water bottles, a few small snacks, and perhaps extra layers and a rain coat. if you’re serious about hiking, you might want to invest in a daypack. These will provide extra support for your shoulders and back in comparison with a normal everyday kind of backpack and, like quality hiking boots, should last many, many years. I have the Osprey Sirrus 24 and am pretty happy with it. Make sure you get a daypack that fits you correctly (they are sized differently based on weight, height, and build). There are different packs for females and males, although some will work for both genders.
- Rain jacket: Unless you are only going for a couple of hours and you are in an area where weather normally stays pretty stable, you will probably want to bring along a rain jacket. Make sure it is waterproof. I’d recommend a light jacket, as you can always put it on top of other layers. I have a Columbia jacket (it was pretty inexpensive). You can also bring a poncho if you prefer, but I like having a jacket.
- Water bottles: You are going to get thirsty as you hike, so lightweight water bottles are good to bring along. You don’t need anything special (unless you want a water bottle that purifies natural sources of water), so pretty much any water bottle will work.
Extra Gear for Winter:
- Gators or light-weight snowpants: If you are hiking in a snowy/wet and cold climate, gators or light-weight snow pants will help keep you warm and dry.
- Lots and lots of layers: long johns (I like Cuddleduds), fleece-lined exercise leggings, fleece sweaters, and long-sleeved exercise shirts will help keep you warm.
- Warmer, but still light jacket: I have a light down jacket that is plenty warm enough and also very light if I decide to take it off. It also takes up very little room in your bag.
- Hats/gloves/scarves: These will all keep you warm in really cold weather.
Extra Gear for Summer:
- Comfortable shorts: You want to be careful wearing shorts in the woods (due to ticks that cause Lyme Disease), but if you wear shorts (and I do, I’m just careful to check for ticks after), they should be comfortable. In hot/humid weather, make sure they are also breathable.
- Extra water: When it’s hot and humid out, you’ll need to be sure to drink plenty of water, so come prepared.
- Hat: A hat will help shield your eyes from the sun and will also help block your face from the sun to prevent burning.
- Bug spray: Bugs often come out more in the summer or fall/spring, so be sure to wear bug spray, especially if it’s humid out.
- Sunscreen: It’s good habit to wear sunscreen whenever you’re outdoors, regardless of the season, but you’ll especially want to wear it in the summer. Use the kind is water- and sweat- resistant, and you’ll be good to go!
Some other things you might want to bring along:
- A camera
- Hiking poles, especially if you are hiking steep or difficult terrain
- A flashlight, in case it gets dark
- A pocket knife: It doesn’t need to be super large or fancy, but it can sometimes come in handy.
- Basic first aid items: band-aids, gauze, sterilizing pads, blister pads, and Ibuprofen are all good to bring along. If you are allergic to bees, bring your EpiPen.
To those that are hikers, is there anything I left out? If you are thinking of trying hiking for the first time, feel free to ask me any questions you may have!