Now, I’ve been wanting to write a post like this for a while because I’ve found that people who want to go hiking but don’t are struggling with the same thing that I was (and am). Before getting outside and taking advantage of the miles and miles of trails around me, I had preconceived notions of outdoor activities in general, not to mention the intimidating stereotypes of thru hikers. I’m happy to say that through all of the b*ll shit I was feeding myself, I am a hiker and you can be too.
Alter Your Mindset.
First thing’s first, a hike is just that. It’s a walk. Yeah, sometimes it turns into a jog or a climb, but think of it as a walk. With this mindset, of course you can go out for a hike!
A hike can be anywhere outside. You can take a hike in a park, along a lake, or in the mountains. The key here is that you get outside.
With that out of the way, the question of gear comes up. Yes, it’s a valid question, but you’ll see here, I’ve got some flexible answers.
Because a hike is a walk, and can happen just about anywhere outside, you’ll need good shoes. Your shoes depend on where you’ll be doing your hiking and how much hiking you’re planning on. You’ve probably seen the popular Chaco sandals and people rave about their comfortability, but if you’ll be in the deep wooded areas, you have to cover your toes!
Just imagine sticks, stones, and anything else getting stuck between the sole of your foot and the oh so comfortable sandal you just spent a big chunk of change on. Yeah, not so comfortable anymore huh?
I love Chacos, but if my hike isn’t limited to a 100% flat, paved, or sandy beach, I’d rather have toe coverage.
Trail runners are sneaker designed for people who like to run on trails. REI has a nice article on what shoes to get based on what kind of trail you run on and I’m applying that basic principle to this question as well. If you’re on a light trail
that’s been cleared pretty good and stays pretty flat, regular running shoes or trail runners will do fine.
If you’re on a more rugged trail with rocks, skinny gaps in trees, any water to pass over, or elevation along the way, you’ll need something more stable and protective. A lot of trail runners will still be fine, equipped with toe guards in front and sturdier rubber soles. Make sure your shoes have really good cushioning to absorb any hard landings. If you anticipate traveling through creeks or streams, you can get soft, rubbery soled shoes for a better grip on slick surfaces, but harder rubber soles will last longer.
Now, if you’re an adventurer who likes to veer from the beaten path or you’ll be doing quite a bit of travel up and down rocks and crazy hard trails, look into some hiking boots or rugged trail runners. The stuff that makes these shoes is really resilient and keeps you more stable on the trail or off. One key to how strong the shoe is to hold it with one hand on the heel and one hand on the toe of the sneaker and try to twist the shoe. The harder it is, the more stable you’ll be out there.
There are waterproof shoes you’ll find when you look at rugged footwear, but I would recommend checking out the boots. These will last the longest, do really well during long distance hikes, and come with higher tops, so they protect your ankles. Not to mention, they’re usually waterproof and very stylish. In my opinion.
This facet of the hiking trip is also very flexible, depending on where you are and what you’re doing on the trail. Of course dress for the weather and where layers so that you can adjust to what the day brings. I recommend athletic wear for any hard or long hikes so that you can be as comfortable as possible. Wear pants in thick woods if you don’t like scratches, and wear a hat to protect your face from the sun. Bring a rain jacket just in case! No umbrellas… just think about it.
Food & Water
You’ve GOT to have water with you. I don’t care if you’re taking a stroll to your mailbox and back. You never want to be stuck anywhere without some water to spare. I take a snack or two on any hike more than a mile long cause I love food, and why not? Of course, pack a meal if your day hike is going to take all day and you can bring a little pack to carry your stuff. I use a little 35 L bag for everything that my dogs and I need. If you’ve skimmed or skipped everything up to this point, just remember never go walking anywhere without water.
I think the important thing to remember is that a hike is a walk outside, and anyone can do it. My new friend Jen Pharr Davis was saying that no matter where you go, you can find a trail there. So take a hike!
Here is a cool article on Nerd Fitness with more tips on getting started on your hiking journey: