Choosing the best hiking gear

Whether you’re a novice or an experienced hiker, you will definitely have a better experience if you take the time to choose your equipment wisely.

Hiking boots

Hiking boots are the most important piece of hiking equipment. If your feet hurt, you will not enjoy your hike. Two factors to consider when choosing your boots are intended use and comfort. Light-weight boots are made for short hikes of one to several hours. They are light and flexible. Mid-weight boots provide more support and protection. For extended backpacking trips, you will want a heavy-weight boot to provide even more support and protection. New boots may feel stiff, but they should still be comfortable. When trying on new boots, use the socks you will be wearing while hiking. Make sure your toes have enough room to move up and down and forward. Be sure to break them in before you go hiking.

Socks are almost as important as your boots. Light-weight socks will wick away sweat and cushion your impact. Mid-weight socks are thicker and provide more cushioning and add insulation in the colder weather. Cotton is comfortable for mild walks, but does not provide protection or insulation when wet. Silk is light-weight, wicks moisture, and is a natural insulator. It is not durable and is usually combined with other materials. Synthetic materials, like polypropylene, do a good job of wicking moisture away from the skin. They are often combined with other materials.

Trekking poles

Walking poles are not absolutely necessary when hiking; however, when climbing hills and traversing ravines, they enhance your stability and support. They also decrease the amount of stress on your legs and joints. They make crossing streams and slippery surfaces easier and safer.

There are various types of poles:

• Walking sticks — These are rigid and strong and made out of wood. Hardwood is the best type. Wood sticks are best for flat terrain.

• Metal poles — High-grade aluminum poles are strong and economical. Carbon fiber poles are lighter but more expensive.

Trekking poles have 2 or 3 interlocking sections so that you can adjust them to your height and the terrain.

Using one or two poles is more a matter of preference. Experiment both ways and do what is comfortable for you. Since I always carry a camera and water bottle, one pole is more convenient for me. Some hikers believe they expend more energy using two poles.


Backpacks are necessary for carrying extra clothing, raingear, snacks, water, guidebooks, maps and a camera.

Zippers that open around 2/3 of the pack are more practical than top-loading backpacks that often require taking out almost everything in your pack just to find one thing.

Padded shoulder straps make carrying your load more comfortable.

An internal frame will add support and comfort.


Always try to eat something 30 minutes to an hour before your hike. Some healthy choices both before and during a hike are banana and peanut butter, English muffin and scrambled egg, fruits, nuts and yogurt.

Staying hydrated during your hike is most important. Even if you don’t feel thirsty, be sure to drink (preferably water) while you are hiking. Avoid sugary snacks and beverages. They may give you a burst of energy, but they will later cause a drop in energy.

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