During the pandemic, Raina and I knew we needed to spend more time outside. We began hiking on the reservation near our home with our mini golden doodle Nava. The first few times, we didn’t have the right gear; now we do. Here’s a look at the hiking gear that we’ve come to depend on.
The first and most important piece of hiking gear you’ll need is a good pair of hiking boots. Hiking boots not only increase your traction but, if you get a pair that are ankle-high, they can help you avoid a sprained ankle. I love my Ridgemont boots, and Raina is pretty happy with a pair she got at REI, but if you don’t feel like schlepping to a store, you can check out some of the many offerings on Amazon.
I never thought much about the socks I wore when hiking until I got a huge blister. I went in search of the right socks and stumbled upon Darn Tough’s offerings. They make a variety of socks that include low, no-show, and ankle lengths. The socks come in a range of colors, designs, and materials. I’m partial to socks made from merino wool, but it is worth trying a few to find what is most comfortable for you.
Before Raina and I headed to the Galapagos Islands a few years ago, I purchased a few pairs of prAna’s Stretch Zion Pants. They are, by far, the most comfortable pants I have ever owned. I’ve since bought a few more pairs, and they have been my go-to pants throughout this pandemic. When the weather was cooler, the Stretch Zion Pants were great. Now that it is warmer, however, I needed hiking shorts.
Thankfully, prAna also makes shorts using the same Stretch Zion material, the prAna Men’s Stretch Zion Short. They are comfortable, durable, and have just the right amount of pockets. At just under $70, they aren’t the cheapest shorts you can find, but to my mind, they are worth the price.
For Hanukkah this year, I purchased Raina a pair of TrailBuddy Lightweight Trekking Poles; yeah, I’m THAT romantic! I like the TrailBuddy Trekking Poles so much that I later bought myself a set. They were a huge help when there was snow on the ground, and they are even more helpful when the trail is muddy. As a side benefit, the poles came in handy once when an unleashed dog lunged at Nava. I put the pole between the two dogs and pushed the other dog away.
The TrailBuddy Lightweight Trekking Poles come with a protective storage bag and various accessories so we can use the same set of poles regardless of the terrain. At just $37.99, they are an inexpensive investment in staying upright on steep hills.
During the pandemic, I began replacing much of my wardrobe with garments made from merino wool. I’m rather obsessed with the material and will be doing a series of reviews of merino wool cloth in the coming weeks. Merino wool is perfect for hiking. It helps regulate body temperature, it wicks away sweat, it offers UV protection, and, best of all, it doesn’t smell. Seriously, after our four-mile hike in 90-degree weather the other day, I let the shirt dry out in the sun, and it was ready to be worn again.
You’ll pay a premium for merino wool clothing, Woolly’s t-shirts are among the least expensive and are still $55 each, but I have found it well worth the cost of admission. One or two of these t-shirts can replace almost all of the ones currently filling your dresser drawers.
The first few times we went hiking, I grabbed one of my backpacks and threw two water bottles into it. I quickly became annoyed that each time we wanted to drink, I had to take the backpack off, open it up, and pull out the water bottle. We finally bought two Mubasel Gear Insulated Hydration Backpack Packs with 2L BPA Free Bladder.
For just $36, these backpacks gave us just enough room for some of the gear we like to keep with us and a hydration bladder that can hold up to two liters of water. The included straw means we can grab a quick drink without having to stop.
Mask mandates have largely been lifted, but I still like having a mask with me. Mission makes a line of neck gators, masks, and neck gator/mask combos. They also offer skull caps, hats, and towels. All Mission products share the same cooling DNA technology, and it is that technology that has made me a fan. For example, halfway through last weekend’s hike, I was feeling myself begin to overheat. I took off my gator, poured some water over it, shook out the excess, and put the gator back on. It made a huge difference in my comfort level and allowed me to finish the hike far more comfortably.
I’m partial to their $20 Mission All Season Neck Gaiter/Face Cover with Adjustable Drawcord. It is made from breathable fabric, is reusable, machine washable, and provides UPF 50.
I’ve been a fan of Tilley hats for years. My first Tilly, a TH5 Hemp Hat in Natural, has been around the world with me. I’ve worn it in Israel, Greece, the Galapagos Islands, Zion National Park, and more. It goes with me on every trip and, while it is looking a bit “loved,” it is still going strong. I’ve added to my collection of Tilley hats over the years, but my original TH5 remains my go-to hat for hiking and travel.
At $90, the Tilley TH5 Hemp Hat isn’t inexpensive, but they are comfortable, great in hot weather, and will last forever.
The last piece of gear that always comes on a hike with me is my Apple Watch. Wearing the Apple Watch while hiking means I don’t need to carry my iPhone to track how far we have hiked. But there is more to it than that. My Apple Watch has cellular. That means that, even if I don’t have my phone with me, I can call for help if anything happened in the woods. I would never consider hiking without some way to reach others and, with the Apple Watch, I can do that without a phone.
Raina and I have become much more proficient at hiking this year. And while I’m sure the hiking gear we use will continue to evolve, at least for now, this is the gear that has made all the difference.
Do you enjoy hiking? What hiking gear do you swear by? Let us know in the comments below.