Make your hike more fun by using the right gear. There are tons of different companies and choices out there. As a beginner it can be really overwhelming, so here are my suggestions to help you decide what to buy next.
Backpack & bladder
Boots and shoes
Backpack & bladder
Having a good backpack makes it so much easier to hike and lets you enjoy the moment without having to worry about carrying your water bottles or your food etc. Choosing a backpack that is neither too big nor too small, that holds a water bladder, enough compression straps for your jackets, something that is affordable and durable can be a challenging task. More often than not you will have to compromise on one or more of these factors. Below are a couple of backpacks that I would suggest.
Quest 2L Hydration pack : With a total backpack capacity 12L this is an excellent choice for a hike as short as a couple hours to as long as an entire day. I’ve been using mine for over 5 years, more than 500 miles and it is still very good. It comes with a bladder so you don’t have to buy it separate. If you pack right you can fit everything you need for even a 12 hour hike. The bladder that comes with it holds up to 2 liter (68 oz) of water.
Mountaintop Speeding 40L backpack : This 2.4 lb backpack is a good choice for both short and long hikes, it has 3 compartments. The last and the biggest compartment has a partition for hydration pack, it doesn't come with one but you can get a decent one for about $20-30 USD or use one you already have if it is compatible. It has lots of compression straps, 2 side mesh pockets for water bottles, a hip belt. This is 3 times bigger than the Quest 12L backpack. For more pictures and videos click here to go to my review on Amazon.
Shoes & boots
Look for three things when you buy your next hiking shoes – comfort, cushion and grip. There should be enough cushion to not hurt your knees while running on the trails. Outsoles (the part of the shoes that touches the ground) should provide sufficient grip to be able to walk on rocks on a steep slope so you don’t have the feat of slipping. Grooves on the outsole help prevent slipping if there is some loose gravel on the rocks. Legs expand throughout the day, so it is best to do your shoe shopping in the evenings.
Even though boots are heavier than shoes in general, they provide ankle support making them suitable for use on trails where there is a chance of rolling your ankles. Boots also usually have a harder insole (the part of the sole that touches your leg) so it is a good idea to get gel insoles (you can get them at REI or even on Amazon).
Adidas Ultraboost: I bought these running shoes for about $200 USD. I am not a person who would spend that much on shoes but I never regretted spending that much on these shoes. They are the best pair of shoes I have owned and 5 years later they are still as good as new.
Adidas Performance Men's Vigor tr:Been using these shoes for hiking for more than a year. These shoes are great for hiking on steep slopes because of the excellent soles and they cost about $70 USD.
Dexter waterproof skid resistant boots: These are the only hiking boots I own, they are skid resistant and waterproof but inexpensive. Adding microspikes makes hiking on ice easier as they provide all the grip you need.
Kahtoola microspikes: I got my Kahtoola (name of the manufacturer) microspikes at REI for about $70 USD. They are very strong and provide good grip and they makes it really easy to walk without slipping on steep icy slopes. Definitely glad I had them on my hikes where there was snow.
Hiking poles & microspikes
Hiking poles help shift some of the strain from your knees to the arms. They provide extra support on rocky terrain and extra grip while hiking on ice. You can find a decent pair for around $20. in addition to this, microspikes provide all the grip you need while hiking on ice on a moderate slope. If you are hiking on hard snow or ice you can even get the Kahtoola microspikes (you can get them from REI) to improve traction.
BAFX Hiking Poles for Walking or Trekking: They are anti-shock poles that are durable and affordable. I have been using mine for over a year, they are very easy to use, have a height adjustment and are light weight.I bought my first pair after I strained my knee too much on a steep hike and took me a couple weeks to heal and start hiking again, so spending $20 on good hiking poles is probably one of the best investments you will make. These poles expand from 26.5 inches to 53.25 inches so they are good for kids and adults.
Outdoor products Apex trekking pole set: These are the second set of poles I bought but I like the BAFX poles better because of their easy height adjustment. But they are a good alternative and cost the same.
Snowshoes increase the surface area of contact with the snow, hence preventing you from sinking into the snow. If the snow is deeper than 1 foot it usually becomes hard to keep walking. If the rangers say it is not safe without snowshoes take their words seriously and turn around if you do not have snow shoes. I bought my snowshoes from REI when they were on sale.
Down jackets have a layer of fine feathers of birds that helps retain most of the body warmth. Down jackets are very light weight but provide excellent insulation. If you are going to spend time in cold areas you should dress in layers and this will be your outer layer. But remember these jackets are not waterproof, so its a good idea to carry a raincoat or a poncho to stay dry. This jacket comes with a small pouch that is attached to one of the outer pockets, you can fold the jacket and store it in the pouch so its easy
There are variety of products such as GoPro, Sony action camera and the newer 360 degree cameras. I have a GoPro Hero 4, it comes with a waterproof cover. Using camera mounts or headstraps makes it easy to record videos hands free.
Always call and ask the ranger station if there are bears in the area and if you need to carry bear spray. I have hiked for a year before buying my first bear spray. I never needed it, that doesn’t mean that was the smartest thing to do, I just got lucky. You don’t want to test your luck this way. Grab one from the local REI, know how to use it before you need it. I like to keep mine in the side pocket of my backpack so it is handy. Bear spray just
If you are going on long hikes and you know there is water in the streams there it is wise to carry a filter instead of 1 gallon of water. It saves lot of weight. Most of the time water in the streams is pure and safe to drink but it is good to check with the ranger station. Along with the filter you may use Iodine tablets to kill the bacteria. You can find those at REI too. Follow the instructions on the package, put the recommended number of tablets in a bottle with water and let it it sit for some time as the iodine dissolves and
kills the bacteria.
Sawyer mini water filter:You can get these for about $20 at Walmart or REI. They come with a bladder and are easy to use with detailed instructions included with the package. But the water takes for ever to pass through the filter so it is time consuming. It is not the best but it works.
Do not rely entirely on electronic devices. While smartphones are great with all the amazing features, you cannot expect the batteries to last all day or to have mobile phone reception up in the mountains. Carrying printed copies of directions and maps is highly recommended. They have different options for GPS devices, so I suggest do your research before spend a couple hundred dollars on this.
Garmin Foretrex 401:I bought my Garmin Foretrex 401 GPS device from REI few months ago and I like it. You will probably need to spend some time trying to figure out how to use it before you go on a hike where you will need it.But the battery life is good, it has lots of features. It costs around $170 so it is expensive. You can record the hiking path and follow it on your way back so you wont get lost.
It is not much fun if you lose your way in the wilderness and your phone dies. You can find a battery pack (power bank) that has a solar panel on it for about $20 on Amazon. Charge your battery pack before you leave from home and let it charge all day when you are hiking.
Allimity solar charger:This comes with a 10,000mAh battery, a solar panel that charges the battery, 1 input USB port to charge the battery, 2 output USB ports to charge mobile devices such as phones and tablets, ipads, 2 flashlights that are really bright and a compass. I have been using mine for almost a year and I am very satisfied with the product. It takes a long time to charge, so charge it overnight. There is a LED light indicator to let you know that it is completely charged. I charge it before I leave and hang it on my backpack so it continues charging while I hike. Click on the link that says "Solar Power Bank" to see some.