Disclaimer: The title may be misleading.
I had a request from a friend to do a post on hiking gear yesterday, so what better time to take an inventory of what you've got and think about what you might need to accomplish your hiking goals and dreams in a safe an comfortable manner!
Just like a hike, we will begin at the bottom.
Quality footwear. You can tell ours have been used! Dana and I both have shoes that have dual uses. Ours are Dakota brand hikers/work shoes from Mark's Work Wearhouse. They are steel toed, and that makes them quite a bit heavier than a lot of other shoes designed specifically for hiking. I don't have any issues with it: when you inevitably run your foot into a rock, run scree, kids drop a rock on your foot, your toes are well protected. You won't notice the weight difference unless you're switching shoes often. The kids shoes are not steel toed! I don't even think they make them. Reuebn's shoes are Redhead's from Bass Pro Shops and were about $40. They are a solid shoe and have nice ankle support for wobbly youngsters. Sabrina's shoes are too small. :( They were a steal of a deal at Shoe Wearhouse, at $11. They are TEVA's and have awesome grip! This little girl has climbed shale, dirt, mud and rocks in them, and they have never let her down. Also, they're a small size 11 if you need a pair of kids hikers.
When you're looking for shoes, look for a snug heel and good support. There are many many options out there and at varying prices. Most companies will have warranties on their shoes covering any defects.
Blister tip: Sock liners. Now, I don't have any, but I have been inadvertently been applying the principle. I like to wear wool socks when hiking, but wool makes my skin itchy. I wear a pair of thin, dress socks inside my woolies and they both eliminate itchiness and absorb any friction between the shoe and my foot. I've never had a blister when hiking.
Next up: Layering.
Reuben volunteered to show us what he might wear while hiking. Apparently he's not going to wear pants, but I'll overlook that for now. He prefers to wear jeans when hiking, or shorts. I prefer anything with movement: yoga pants, leggings, shorts and if it's cool I wear jeans. I should invest in some hiking zips, but as of yet I've been too cheap. Here Reuben has chosen a yellow Grey Wolf tee for informational purposes, a moisture wicking long sleeve performance layer in flash orange for visibility, solid outer layer that is water and wind resistant. He has also chosen Redhead socks from Bass Pro Shops. They are thick and very durable. They come with a lifetime warranty. Got a hole? Take them back and get a new pair!
Packs and Contents.
#1) Fit: Straps should fit snugly on your shoulders and not cut into your neck. Vented, breathable straps are important. This pack is going to be attached to you all day and it's really gross to have your straps sticking to your body. This goes for the back of the pack as well. It should be padded, so any pointy parts inside the bag aren't jabbing you all day. MAKE SURE the pack fits your back snugly. There are women's and men's packs and make sure you've got one that fits your back. It it's too long, it won't sit flat and will swing a bit, or cause you to compensate with posture. This hurts by the end of the day. The bottom should sit at your waist and the wait strap will buckle at your waist. The chest strap should be snug over the breastbone. This takes a ton of pressure and weight off your shoulders.
#2) Storage and Pockets: The kids MEC bags in these photos have one large compartment, 2 external mesh side pockets for water bottles, and one pocket in the top for things you want to reach easily. I keep mittens and a snack in Sabrina's. Reuben keeps his compass in there, his knife, a flashlight and a pair of mitts.
Dana's pack, the Ascend brand, has many little pockets all over the place. Easy to store cell phones, and small knives, binoculars etc. My pack is the one with the black X on it. It has one large back compartment, a large mesh compartment, an open top compartment, and a smaller front pocket that easily holds small things you want to reach easily. It's also got a clip inside to attach your keys to. You want to know those aren't going to fall out in the mountain, or in the river, or over a cliff, or get locked in the trunk. Experience.
#3) Contents: A few of the things in the lower photo are optional, depending on your weather, elevation degree of ascent/descent. Some things aren't optional. Lets talk about those first.
Non-Optional: Toilet Paper. I shouldn't have to explain this; just remember to leave no trace.
Bear Bells: SOme say they're pointless, but they're cheap, so attach one to your bag.
Bear Spray: Ours is in a belt-loop holster, easy to reach at all times. Read the instructions and know how to use it. Pick up a can at any outdoor store. You can also get mini's that strap on to your wrist if you're travelling light.
First Aid kit: Mine is 2-3 person kit. Check it before you go, especially if you used it last time you were out.
Sunglasses: It's bright above the treeline!
Knives: You just don't know when you're going to need it. It doesn't need to be a machete (Dana), but a Buck knife or small jackknife will do fine.
Flashlight: Sometimes things don't go as planned, and you're not off the mountain until after dark. Bring a light.
Mitts: fingers get chilly.
Optional: Rain coat: If it looks like rain, bring it.
Hiking Poles: Takes 15% of the weight off your knees when using them to ascend or descend.
Binoculars: Not necessary, but it can be fun!
You don't have to look like a cowboy, but have a hat. It'll keep the sun off your head and the ticks from crawling down your back. No one wants heatstroke or Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever or Lyme Disease.
Sunscreen and bug spray. Use it! Now let's talk hydration. Dehydration is your #1 enemy out there.
Carry as much as you can. Some trails have water sources along them, and some do not. For example: Yellowstone has water sources everywhere, and you can't drink any of it. I like to use the 2L water bladder in my backpack. The advantages are great: the hose it always near my mouth and I drink more then. You are hands-free! MAKE SURE IT"S PROPERLY SEALED! I've had most of my water run out of an improperly sealed water bladder before. Being soaking wet is no way to start a hike. Also, kids get SUPER GROUCHY when they're thirsty. So, invest in a water conveyance that works best for you. I carry the water bladder and the kids usually have a full bottle. Many packs will have a compartment for the bladder in them. Look for that when shopping.
I hope that this has been informative! Please forward any questions to Myself or to Sarah! We would be happy to help you find an answer. Or go shopping with you. :)
Sarah and Cory have a passion for hiking and being out in nature. There is no feeling quite the same as standing on the top of a mountain, sitting by a hidden lake, the jelly legs at the bottom of a steep descent, the sun on your face or the wind in your hair. Even our children have come to love it!