Hiking has always been a passion of mine and Grant's. We even had our first date at Pedernales Falls State Park and got engaged on a hiking/camping trip in Big Bend National Park. You could say it's our thing.
Over the years I have sought out the best gear for hiking and I am frequently asked about it by friends and family. Therefore, I have conducted a list of gear that you must have in order to enjoy your hiking trips.
1. Comfortable Shoes
This is a given since hiking is simply walking through the woods. But there are so many options, where do you start?! I get it. I myself have had at least 6 different pairs of hiking boots, shoes, and sandals and choose different shoes for different hikes.
My favourite pair of hiking shoes are my boots. I have had them for 6 years and absolutely love them! I even plan on getting married in them in October for our hike-in wedding.
My boots are Vasques high top waterproof hiking boots and they have been my tried and true, go-to shoe for most terrain. I have gone through multiple pairs of boots, hiking shoes, and sandals but I always go to my Vasques boots before any other pair.
You might be thinking that you must get yourself a pair of Vasques hiking boots now because I said they are the best, but you would be slightly mistaken.
They are the best FOR ME. You see, I went through a 2-hour process of trying on every boot and size of each boot in REI the day I chose these boots (shoutout to REI staff for being the most knowledgable and patient).
Why would you search for 2 hours for the perfect shoes? Because everyone's feet are different and every hiking boot is made different. You can search for the deepest depths of the internet to research the best brand, but at the end of the day, what works for me will not always work for you.
You want the fit for the shoe above all else to work for your foot. Make sure you have room for your toes to expand (because they always do when you workout or hike) and that you have toe room so when you trip over a rock your toes are protected.
Find a shoe that is supportive of ankles and a sole that works for your foot shape (high arch or flat foot). Keep in mind that you can buy different inserts for the soles of the boot if you cannot find the perfect pair.
Take care of your feet, because they are what is going to get you on and off of the trails.
Yes, water is one of the most important elements of survival. Always, ALWAYS bring water with you on any trail! This might be obvious, but you would be surprised how many times I would meet people for hikes and they don't pack any water.
Depending on how long you'll be out and the climate in which you'll be hiking will determine how much water to bring with you. I've been to some parks, such as Enchanted Rock State Park, that suggest during the summer you bring a gallon of water per person.
A good way to find how much water to pack is to bring 1/2 a liter for each hour you will spend on a moderate trail with moderate temperatures. This is a good article to check out for more information about packing water.
There are different options of how to pack in your water like a water reservoir or simply a bottle of water that I use in different hikes.
Most of the hikes Grant and I go on, we pack at least one water reservoir with us. We both have 3 liter bags that we fill and with however much water we will need for the hike. I really prefer a water reservoir over a bottle just because it's so easy. You pack it in a backpack and you can drink while you hike without having to stop to get your bottle out of your bag.
I have had a HydraPak for years and it has been the best reservoir for me. It's the only brand of a water reservoir that you can flip inside-out which makes cleaning a breeze. It was also important to me to be able to purchase a cover for the mouthpiece because I don't like putting my mouthpiece on the ground when I take my pack off.
I am not one of those people that thinks you need the best and most expensive gear in order to go hiking, but I would do your research on a water reservoir. Water is such a vital element and you do not want your reservoir to pop on the trail.
You can't go wrong with a water bottle. I love my 32-ounce bottles and I took one on a hike just yesterday. But you have to realize 32 ounces is not a lot of water, especially on a trail.
I only pack this little amount of water if I know I will not be on a long hike and the hike is well covered. My hike yesterday was in a cavern so naturally, it was a cooler environment so I was sweating less.
Know how long the trails are, the weather, and how well covered the trails are before deciding if you want to only bring one bottle.
3. First Aid Kit
I recently was planning a trip with a friend who had not been on many hikes (if any at all) and she was self-conscious about bringing her inhaler. She told me she was debating on bringing it and she didn't want me to make fun of her. Sis! I NEVER leave for a hike without a first aid kit with me.
I believe it is such a vital thing to bring with you and I have used it on more than one occasion to treat myself, a friend, or a dog.
I do have different kits for different types of hikes. For instance, I have a day-hiking kit which is smaller and contains things such as moleskin, sting wipes, and pain medication. If I know I will be in the wilderness longer I pack a bit more because if I am injured far from camp or my vehicle, I want to know that I can treat a wound and get back to safety.
You can get some great first aid kits that are designed specifically for hikers at any outdoor store. I encourage you to always have a kit handy and that you keep it stocked.
Never go onto a trail without knowing where in the hell you are going! You don't necessarily need a GPS tracking device, but at least grab a map (or take a picture of it) before you go on the trail.
Know how long each trail is and what trails intertwine with one another. Know your hiking limit so you don't overdo it and become fatigued on the trail.
Have a plan before you go out to play. For my solo hikers, I always make sure I let someone know where I plan to be and when I plan to back just in case I fall and break my ankle on the trail (I'm clumsy, remember).
Many rangers will advise you to leave your destination in your car for the same reason. They frequently drive around the park and if a car is sitting for an extended period of time, they investigate in order to find out if they need to go out on a rescue mission.
Practice safe habits always when you go into nature.
Yes, I have listed 5 things that are hiking must-haves. The fifth thing is to store 3 of the others; your water, first aid, and navigation.
You don't need the fanciest backpack for this, just something that is comfortable to wear and big enough to store what you need.
I am guilty of having multiple backpacks that I use on different occasions. My go-to backpack is a small 18 liter backpack that is perfect for day hikes. There is enough room for everything I need plus a few snacks. It's light and breathable with multiple pockets for my things.
I have a couple of bigger packs for when I stay out overnight but choose a back that will be best for whatever hikes you choose for you.
Where To Buy The Gear
Most sites you will research when looking at gear will say you need the best and most expensive gear in order to be successful on the trails. I'm not going to lie, I used to be that person that would spend hours researching something as simple as a backpack.
I do believe that some items should be of the best quality so that it doesn't fail on the trail and leave you in a bad situation, such as your water container, but most of your gear does not need the most expensive products.
That being said, my favourite place to shop for gear is REI. Their stuff is more expensive, yes, but they offer an unbeatable guarantee that the products you buy will last. If they don't, they have a no questions asked return policy. I don't buy everything there, but those things that are most important I splurge and buy them at REI.
For all other gear such as first aid kits or backpacks, I check out cheaper stores like Academy, Walmart, and I even check out local thrift shops. You'd be surprised what you find at the thrift stores, especially if you're looking in a town where most of the residents are into outdoor activities.
If you remember correctly, my favourite pair of hiking shoes I got at an REI garage sale.
Once you obtain a good pair of shoes, a reliable water container, and a first aid kit, there is no doubt that you won't be the happiest person on the hiking trail. Black Widow Adventures loves hiking and all things outdoors and we want to help you enjoy it as much as we do.
We believe this is the gear you need in order to be successful and worry less on the trail. Always be safe on the trails and remember to leave no trace. Whatever you pack in, you pack out with you.
Leave nature natural above all else and enjoy your time in the wilderness.
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