“It’s the journey, not the destination.”
Never is this more true, than with hiking. Although the “destinations” of our hikes find us in all kinds of breathtaking places like mountaintops and waterfalls, for those of us truly infected with the bug, the trail itself is a love affair. It’s not an inconvenience or a thing to be rushed, it’s an opportunity to enjoy the outdoors on our terms, at our pace.
The Best Hiking Gear For You
Trusty hiking gear is what allows us to take full advantage of this opportunity. While there will eternally be blisters and sore muscles, good equipment keeps us safe and comfortable, to power our exploration.
There are countless gizmos and trinkets that you could amass, but here are few of the most foundational pieces of hiking gear:
To many folks, whether or not you have a backpack on is the chief difference between “hiking” and simply just “walking.” Even though delineations like that are just semantics, the fact remains that a hiking backpack is a mainstay of folks on the trail.
Hikers keep all kinds of things in their backpacks: water, trail snacks, first aid supplies, maps and navigation equipment, extra clothing and more. If you are planning to sleep overnight on your adventure than you have a compl
One of the biggest questions to answer is whether or not you need a frame backpack. If you don’t need a frame, than a backpack similar to what you used for school is a great option. Several manufacturers make really durable versions of these. Unlike your school backpack, you can find backpacks made of ballistic nylon, with ultra supportive harnesses, reinforced zipper pulls, quick release buckles and more. You can also find knapsacks, and assault style packs on the market.
Frame backpacks offer greater carrying capacity with superior support. The frame give added rigidity to the load that you are carrying, and does a better job of more evenly dispersing the weight.
External frame backpacks usually offer the greatest carrying capacity, and are what you think of when you picture the classic “Boy Scout” style pack. Just like the name suggests, internal frame backpacks have an aluminum or molded plastic frame on the inside of the pack.
We put together an entire guide on how to choose the best hiking backpack, complete with a few of our favorite packs.
A solid pair of hiking pants will keep you comfortable in virtually all weather. They protect you from the scrapes of brush and brambles, from the bites of insects and critters, and from the sun’s rays.
It’s important that hiking pants are lightweight and permit all kinds of movement (I know, hello Captain Obvious!). A runner up requirement for many of us is that our hiking pants be waterproof (or at least water resistant). Thanks to the marvels of modern textiles, it is possible to get pants that are all this and more.
Check out our complete guide and top hiking pants recommendations here.
Many people have a pair of hiking boots sitting in the closet somewhere. And hey, if they’re working well for you, awesome! On the other hand, if you are in the market for a new pair, there are plenty of fantastic options.
If there were a single north star we could point you to in the search for new hiking boots, it would be “don’t try to be cool.” This is one time when you need to ruthlessly forget about premium brand names and all the buzz from marketing and well-meaning friends. To be completely honest, it’s impossible to ever fully rid ourselves of all that stuff, but at least push it to the far corner of your mind.
Hiking boots need to fit well, be lightweight, and hold up to the abuse of the trail. In short–COMFORTABLE. Your feet are more inextricably tied to your overall happiness in the outdoors, than anything else.
The price of hiking boots can vary drastically, from $30 – $300 (or even more!). We also recommend getting really good socks, and at least checking out hiking sandals.
It seems crazy to think about it, but hydration packs have really only come into being within the last 2 decades (obviously there were iterations that some people had before that). But in that time they have revolutionized the time we spend in the outdoors.
Far from being just a product to sell, hydration packs have done a lot to keep people safe in all activities–running, cycling, skiing, and yes, hiking. By virtue of the simple fact that water is more readily accessible, we drink more more frequently and in greater amounts.
Hydration packs come with all shapes and sizes of bladders. Make sure you have one that you like before you hit the trail.
Depending on the weather, vegetation and ground conditions, hiking sandals may actually be a more comfortable way to go than boots.
Sandals are better for warmer weather and wading through water. With a sturdy pair of Chacos or Keens, you can hike and wade all day. Your feet will dry quickly, and love the fresh air.
On the flip side, they aren’t as good at protecting your feet from insects, brush, irritants like poison ivy. Also, if you will be camping, your hiking sandals don’t give you quite the same level of protection around campground tools like axes, hatchets, hammers, and knives.
At the end of the day though, sandals are just plain comfortable! Why not free your feet to be that much closer to nature?
One of the most important things about hiking socks is to make sure that you have several different pairs with you. Why? Because at night, the socks you’ve been hiking in all day will be sweaty and cold. Conversely, if you have a new, fresh pair, you will be able to give your feet a treat by slipping into them.
When the sun is out or you have decent air flow, you can wash your socks, and recycle them again for another wearing. If you always have a few pairs of socks with you though, you never have to put your feet through the misery of being soggy and cold.
Hiking socks typically are some combination of 3 things: wool, cotton, and synthetics. Wool feels awesome, and has really good warming properties, but the retention is really crappy (one of the reasons many of us prefer wool for “evening socks” even if not trail socks). Cotton is extremely comfortable with boots but can also become stiff over time. Synthetics wick well and have other benefits, as well as drawbacks.
The best way to get really good hiking socks is to buy a few different pairs. After a couple wears, you will be able to tell which ones you like the best. Go back and buy a few more pairs of these.
We share a few more tips and our favorite socks here.