Summer is right around the corner, and maybe one of your goals this year is to try hiking. It can be intimidating the first time, especially if you’re not exactly an outdoorsy type. But the great news is that hiking is accessible for all types of people and fitness levels. Plus, you’ll clear your mind and get a little exercise. Before you hit the trailhead, it’s good to be prepared. Here are 7 pieces of gear you need to get started.
1. A backpack. You might already have something lying around your house that would suffice, but if you don’t, search your local outdoor store for a “day pack.” Options run the gamut. This pack by Gregory is $100 and has an ergonomic design, plus pockets and clips to separate clothing, food, car keys, and other necessities. There’s even a similar women’s design. To get some extra mileage, use this pack as your “personal item” when traveling on budget airlines.
2. Rugged shoes or boots. You’ll want your feet and ankles to be supported on the trail, so plan to invest in some quality shoes. Keen offers a huge selection for the whole family, and they’re well-priced in comparison to other brands. To narrow your search, consider what type of terrain you’ll be hiking. For a casual wander, a lightweight pair may work fine. If you’re tackling uneven mountain terrain, consider a mid or high- top durable boot.
3. Moisture-wicking clothes. Hiking-specific clothing may seem like overkill, but their signature breathable fabrics make them worth the investment. A T-shirt like this one, which won’t break the bank, is a polyester and spandex mix and a perfect first layer. Look for the same properties in pants. Stay away from cotton, which traps moisture and will dry very slowly if it gets wet.
4. High-energy snacks. You’ll burn a lot of calories while hiking, so make sure to pack more than you’d typically eat. There’s no harm in having extra. Options that really pack a punch include nuts, dried fruit, protein bars, beef jerky, and whole-grain crackers. Make it fun! Pack a picnic and stop in a beautiful spot on the trail to enjoy it.
5. Water bottle. It’s essential to stay hydrated while on the trail, and on most paths, there’s not a place to fill up, so you’ll need to bring it with you. Flimsy gas station water bottles aren’t a great choice, because they often leak in a backpack. Nalgene offers products that are both practical and stylish, allowing you to choose something that fits your personality. A 32 oz. bottle is a good start, and you may need more or less depending on the length of your hike, and the altitude.
6. Rain gear. Even if the sky’s perfectly blue, pack rain gear. Especially in the mountains, the weather is unpredictable and can change very quickly. Having a rain coat within easy reach will ensure your comfort and also your safety, because hypothermia can set in if the temperature drops and you’re wet. This jacket by Patagonia is available in both a men’s and women’s version, and it’s top notch in quality.
7. First Aid kit. Even if you’re ambling an easy path and think nothing can possibly go wrong, it’s a good idea to be prepared. You’ll want items like bandages and antibiotic ointment on hand. You can make a kit up yourself using these tips from the American Red Cross, or for $10 you can purchase one like this that’s readymade for the trail.