Every year for our anniversary, my boyfriend and I spend a long weekend in a remote cabin devoid of technology, and then embark on a pre-dawn hike in order to enjoy a mountain-top sunrise. Though it’s unlikely that I’ll be up for our Year 5 hike next month, I’m anxiously anticipating the day I’ll be well enough to hit the trails again and explore the vibrant silence of nature.
If my days consisted of nothing more than writing, yoga, cooking, and nature hikes, I would be one happy girl. Thus, I’ve been constantly researching and refining my gear over the last ten years. My current ensemble feels absolutely perfect!
Whether you’re an avid hiker, a novice, or interested in some simple exploration, here are some ideas to get you started. I’m also happy to answer any questions to the best of my ability. No affiliate links below; the links are simply there to help you do your research and determine what’s best for you.
My Favorite Hiking Gear
Brooks Cascadia 12 Trail Running Shoes: I have low-volume feet that always slid around inside my hiking boots, that is until a wonderful REI employee introduced me to these bad boys. They’re one the most expensive pair of shoes I have ever purchased, but they keep my feet snug and secure on both rocky and muddy terrain. My gorgeous National Parks edition is no longer available, but the same style is available is other colors. If you buy only one piece of hiking gear, I would highly recommend properly-fitted hiking boots or trail running shoes.
Osprey Raptor 14 Hydration Pack – 3 Liters: Life is the desert means that an adequate water is absolutely vital. This is technically a cycling pack, which means great shock absorbency. It has straps across the belly and sternum to ensure a secure fit, along with lots and lots of pockets in all the right places, and a hydration bite valve that connects to the sternum strap with a magnet. Expensive, but worth every penny.
Kuhl Women’s Destroyr Pant: Sleek is not how I would typically describe hiking-wear, but these pants are durable and breathable with a flattering drape. In desert environments, the pants are cool and protect your legs from sharp branches. In tropical climates, they can handle slips and slides down muddy trails and prevent insect bites. After three years of abuse, they still look brand-spankin’ new.
Exofficio antimicrobial mesh underwear: There is nothing worse than feeling sweaty, especially in unmentionable areas. My boyfriend bought the men’s boxers after an extended conversation with a train-hopping hobo. After two years of teasing him for his overpriced “hobo boxers,” I bought a pair and haven’t looked back. They’re breathable, sweat-wicking, and everything else you’d expect from athletic undergarments.
Darn Tough Socks: 100% Merino wool, lifetime guarantee, and perfect for hiking in any temperature and any weather condition. Somehow my feet are always comfortable in these socks, whether it’s 30 degrees or 115 degrees, and whether it’s hot and dry or cold and rainy. Did I mention if they ever wear out, the company will replace them for just the cost of shipping? They’re great!
Smartwool layers: Merino wool is king when it comes to temperature regulation, adding an extra layer without adding bulk. I tend to get cold easily, so Smartwool is an everyday base layer staple in winter, but especially when spending extended time outdoors. It also is great sun protection in the summer, without getting too hot. I always toss a beanie and long sleeved wool shirt in my pack, just in case I’m stranded someplace overnight.
Fjallraven Helags Cap: There are few things worse than sunburn on your scalp, so find a good hat. Make sure the top of your head is covered, opt for a bill, and consider the tackier versions that also offer neck and ear protection.
Frogg Toggs Chilly Pad Cooling Towel: This thing was a lifesaver the last time I went to the Grand Canyon. The heat was sucking the moisture from my body quicker than I could replenish it, and my hydration pack was always empty by the time I reached the next fill station. Wetting this thin, absorbent towel starts a chemical reaction that keeps the towel cool and moist for an extended period, helping the body with temperature regulation.
Leki Trekking Poles: Typically reserved for those with bad knees and arthritis, trekking poles are a great tool for anyone. The poles help with stability, testing future steps, and taking some pressure off the knees. I’ve found these to be partially helpful on unkempt trails where a rock slide has occurred–by poking around a bit, you can gauge the safety moving forward before taking a step.
HydroFlask 40oz Wide Bottle: Perfect for shorter, cool-weather hikes that don’t necessarily require a full 3 liters of water. I love that I don’t need to grasp the container, but can instead dangle it from my fingers. These are also clumsy-proof, as evidence by dozens of dents and scratches all over mine.
Black Diamond Storm Headlamp: I always carry a headlamp, in preparation for some crazy meteorological blackout event, or in case I don’t make it home before sunset. I’ve often gone exploring a new trail without realizing how long it will take to retrace my steps, so some form of flashlight is a must. Phone flashlights work too!
ProBar Bolt Energy Chews: These chews pack a punch–loaded with carbs, sugar, and electrolytes, they serve as a yummy pick-me-up in the middle of a lengthy hike. There’s no yucky stuff (like fructose), which is a big plus for me.
The “Be Prepared” Kit: Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. Sometimes people get hurt and sometimes rock slides make it impossible to make a full descent before sundown. My boyfriend and I each carry the following medical supplies in our bags, with the goal of stabilizing the injured party until medical help arrives.
- A few pairs of Nitrile gloves, in case there’s blood
- Quik Clot hemostatic & coagulation agent, to stop bleeding until you can receive medical attention
- Triangle bandages, to immobilize an injured arm (tip: just cut up an old sheet)
- SAM Splint and self-adhesive gauze, to stabilize injuries
- Trauma shears, to cut through clothing and access an injury
- Trioral electrolytes, to prevent and support recovery from dehydration
- Mylar blanket, to help contain body heat if you’re stuck out in the cold
How about you? What are you hiking must-haves? Any gear have you been eyeing lately? What would you recommend that others check out?