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Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Outdoorsy Girl's Guide To: HIKING GEAR

Outdoorsy Girl's Guide To

H I K I N G   G E A R 

Welcome to the fourth post in my Outdoorsy Girl's Guide (OGG) series.  The OGG guides are designed to cover introductory posts to some of my favorite outdoor topics that still serve to educate and entertain even the most experienced outdoorsy gal.  So far, we covered the OGG to Poison Ivy, the OGG to Trail Signs, and the OGG to Hiking Alone.  Today, we are talking about hiking gear - really, the stuff to get you started.  

I get asked a lot of questions about my gear from the shoes on my feet to the pack on my back.  Before I get into any specifics, let me start by saying that building a "gear stash" times a whole lot of time and research.  What works for one person may not work for you.  Some pieces of gear need to stand the test of time, and sometimes you need to do something over and over (and over) again before you know exactly what piece of gear you need.  

Today's post is going to focus on how to build your gear stash, how you can do it on a budget, and I will share some of my favorite gear that makes all of my outdoor outings so much sweeter. 

How to Build Your Gear Stash 

(and how to do it affordably)

Start with the basics - As I already lead on to, the best way to build your gear stash is slowly, starting with the basics.  For a general short hike, you don't need anything fancy.  A sturdy shoe and various layers of preferably moisture-wicking clothing - that's pretty much it.  If you are going out for a distance greater than 3 miles, a pack of sorts will likely be essential to carry a few supplies like food and water.  

This is where I want to beg you not to fall into the trap of "I need the best of the best gear" to go do whatever it is you are trying to do.  The reality is you really don't.  That Patagonia fleece is really nice but you do not need it to go hiking in cooler temperatures.  Those high-end hiking packs are really fancy but you probably don't need 15 pockets and a bladder to start.  Do your research and focus on the basics.  The more time you spend outside the more you will figure out what you need and what you like. 

Build A Wish List - I love to build a "Wish and Want List" of outdoor gear I have my eye on.  By having a list, you are strategically ready to build your stash and provide friends and family with a few ideas, especially when the holidays come around.  When I have a wish list, I can also keep my eye on prices, snagging some of the bigger items during a black Friday deal, a closeout sale, or an offseason swap.  

Try Used - Used gear allows you to build your gear stash in a way that won't break the bank.  You don't need a brand new pair of skis and to be honest, the pair I currently own was a bargain deal at an off-season Park City ski swap.  My Patagonia vest was $15 at a thrift shop.  Search for a local second-hand sports store, or check Facebook/internet forums for people selling used gear.  

Take Care Of It - this seems simple, but taking care of your gear means you can hold onto things a lot longer and replace them a lot less.  Knowing how to care for and store your items is key.  I follow some pretty basic and standard rules to keep my gear in tip-top shape.  I always air out and dry out my tent at home before rolling it up and storing it away.  I hang up my sleeping bags and also air those out between trips (choosing to wash them once a year).  I keep my gear in organized bins that are dry, out of the sun, and in the basement where temperature fluctuations are less severe than my garage.  I try to wash my gear as infrequently as impossible (sorry..), always air dry it, and add a moisture repellant to my rain layers as needed.  Klymit (the company that makes my favorite sleeping pad) offers some great tips on storing your gear for the winter. It mostly pertains to camping gear you but you get the idea. 

My Favorite Gear 


1.  Short Hikes/Trail run - I was a big fan of Salomon's - until I discovered the Altras.   The altras are super flexible with a wide toe box which is important for my wide feet. I use these hiking 75% of the time and love the traction and comfort they provide. 

2.  Long Hikes/Rocky Hikes - I have made the mistake of hiking tougher mountains (boulder fields included) in my trail running shoe and I paid the price.  Without a metal shank and stable ankle support, I ended a few hikes with swollen feet and sore ankles.  I just love the no-fuss/back to basics, affordable price, and classic look of the Columbia Women’s Newton Ridge™ Plus Waterproof Amped Hiking Boot.  It's a boot that is as cute as it is functional and I love to rock these on the mountain. 


3.  Short Hikes - when it comes to a day pack, I want something that's not fussy, that's affordable, and that;s relatively small.  I usually just need a few small things and the less the better.  REI has some great affordable options and while they no longer carry the small day pack I had, this pack would be my next purchase. 

4.  Long Hikes - If I head out for a longer hike (5-10 miles), I grab my Osprey Mira pack.  It is tried and true and I have had this pack for close to 7 years.  It comes with a bladder, a hip and chest belt, and has plenty of storage compartments for a longer day hike.  

5.  Overnight Hikes - Osprey sold me on the quality of their gear so when it came to an overnight back, I stuck with what I loved.  When an outdoor store was going out of business, I jumped at the opportunity to get the Osprey Aura 65 half off.  It's a beast of a bag but if you backpack like I do (not ultralight, instead ultra convenientwith the fine luxuries of booze and coffee), it is perfect.  


6.  Pants REI Rain Pants - These are amazing.  Folds into nothing, they go right over your hiking pants, and are absolutely priceless if you get stuck in the rain on a hike or overnight trip.  Honestly, Adam even steals my pair for rainy days on the golf course.  

7.  Outer Layer REI puffer - Affordable, reliable, folds into almost nothing in your bag.  It's my go-to for an extra layer in my bag (which you almost need as you approach an exposed summit or a ridgeline).

8.  Socks - I never went crazy with fancy socks.  Something that wicks moisture is important.  Something that has a taller ankle if your boot has a taller ankle is important.  If you are heading somewhere wet and cold, having a second pair is very important.  This REI article is great for beginners and experts alike. Some of my favorite socks are Darn Tough Socks made in Vermont.  

Pants - Again, an item I don't go crazy on.  I usually opt for a pair of lulu lemon tights that I know will stay put, have side pockets, and will wick moisture.  In the warmer months, your average pair of gym or biker shorts will do just fine.  

Tops - I have a variety of tops I cycle through.  The important thing is to have an array of layers when you head out the door.  Sports bra, tank, long sleeve, mid-layer.  I don't have any favorites, just find something comfortable that wicks moisture.  


9. Trekking Poles - People have different opinions on what you should pay for this type of gear but here is my answer - not a lot.  I have a pair of trekking poles I bought on sale for $12 that have lasted me for about 5 years and MANY hikes.  I bought Adam this pair on amazon for about $35 and not a complaint there either.  Something like this will work and at that price, it's worth it.

10. Microspikes - This is another one of those things that I don't think you need to spend a ton of money on, you just really need to get the right style.  You want the rubber cage that stretches over your shoe with a good traction system.  Don't get the little buds, opt for the full-on spikes.  I have the pricier Kahtoola MICROspikes Traction System and have ZERO complaints, but I think a cheaper amazon version with great reviews would work too. 

11. Hat - I rarely head out on a hike without a hat.  Protection from the sun, hide my sweaty hair.  Something like this that wicks is a great option (do I sound like a broken record?) but any ratty old baseball cap will do.  


12.  First Aid Kit - This is something I (thankfully) rarely have to use but I love having on hand for peice of mind.  It really came in handy when Olive had her first encounter with a cactus while mountain biking outwest.  The tweezers were essential in removing spines while 4 miles out on the trails.  I have a smaller kit I use for day hikes and a bigger kit I use for backpacking.  

13.  Bug Spray - I typically avoid hiking in the month of July because Black Fly season here in New England is no joke.  I always keep this tiny bottle of Ben's 100% deet in my bag in case I need it.  It's not something you want to drench yourself in every day, but it's teeny tiny and will come in handy if I ever catch myself in mosquito/black fly hell.  I also purchased this bug jacket this fall which I am planning on using when day hiking with a little one strapped on board.  

14.  Bear Spray - I don't live in grizzly bear country and thankfully the only bears we have to worry about are the less threatening black bears.  That being said, they are getting far too comfortable around campers with food and hikers with snacks so carrying bear spray on a hike where I know there is the possibility of a bear encounter is key.  This is the cannister I keep in my bag and while I have never had to use it, I love the sense of security of having spray on hand. 

15.  Head Lamp - I try to avoid hiking in the darker hours but if you get caught out later than you expected, this is a great thing to have on hand.  You don't have to get anything fancy (something cheap like this will do just fine).  Throw one in your bag (it's light and takes up little room) and test the batteries from time to time.  Hopefully, you never need it but you will be thankful to have it when you head down a trail at dusk.  

16.  GPS - I want to focus on basics and necessary gear.  I have a GPS which I love to bring but or your average hiker, you are going to be hiking somewhere with cell reception and your cell phone will work just fine.  There are so many great apps (many of them free) which you can use to track your route a see a topo map.  My favorites are strava (free) and all trails (yearly subscriptions).  Using one of these apps and tracking your route allows you to see where you are, what route you have taken, and which direction you are headed.  Apps like strava even work without cell service.  Skip the fancy gadgets for now and download an app onto your phone before you go. I also HIGHLY recommend bringing a paper copy of a map with you on your hike just in case your phone dies.  

I tried to focus on only the things you need, and affordable ways to get them. The pricier items (shoes, packs) are staples you need to keep you comfortable.  The little things (like headlamps, hats) can be inexpensive.  When it comes to your layers, you don't need fancy name brands but do try to find materials that wick moisture away.  Don't forget a few safety items that will also ensure you have a fun and safe hike.  Happy hiking and feel free to comment with some of your favorite gear items or any questions you may have. 

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