T Nation

Need Hiking Advice

I’d like to take up hiking as a hobby, and I was hoping to get some guidance on what kind of equipment to buy, as well as any other help I might need but not know I need. I’d like to take my dog with me, so I’d be grateful for canine-related advice as well.

At least initially, I suspect it will be mostly casual. If my work schedule clears up, I’d like to make a habit of it once a week but until then it’ll probably be once a month. No difficult or exceptionally long hikes (although building up to a weekend long hike/camp type thing could be fun), but for now it’s just a chance for my fiance and me to get outside together.

I remember reading about some hard shelled backpacks that were shaped to conform to your body, but they were quite expensive and I’m not so sure how necessary they are. But I imagine carrying any decent amount of weight on your back can be quite uncomfortable til you’re used to it.

Do you recommend a small GPS device? First aid kit? Any type of boot or sock that is better than another? I’m a complete newbie to this stuff.

If you’re just doing day hikes, you can probably just get away with some comfortable tennis shoes. Also, you don’t need to buy a fancy backpack or anything unless you’re going on a multi-day, overnight hike.

The most you really need for the kind of hiking you’re planning on is water and snacks/lunch etc. While not really necessary, a first aid kit and whistle are a very good idea. I’ve been on long hikes where the first aid kit came in handy.

PM me if you have any more questions.

I’ve hiked Yosemite’s Half Dome a few times and although it takes all effing day, you really don’t need all that much shit.

At a minimum I would say buy a small-medium Camel Pak with at least a 1 liter water bladder. If you are hiking in a place where there are natural springs, just buy a good water purifier- it will seriously save your ass like nothing else.

For food, bring a large zip-lock full of almonds/ walnuts/ pecans and a few shaker bottles with some protein (Metabolic Drive is damn good in a shaker bottle).

I’d definitely bring some BCAAs so you can pop them along the way- every time I go hiking I’m starving my ass off the whole time, no matter how much food/snacks I bring. Prepare for it- it’s part of the gig.

Also, you never know when shit might happen so it’s good to have a rubber poncho and one or two of those plastic packs that you break apart and it becomes an “ice” pack. I’ve never tested them out but I do have a couple in my pack just in case.

In my opinion, some people bring way too much shit for day hikes- it can be overkill.

[quote]mazevedo wrote:
I’ve hiked Yosemite’s Half Dome a few times and although it takes all effing day, you really don’t need all that much shit.

At a minimum I would say buy a small-medium Camel Pak with at least a 1 liter water bladder. If you are hiking in a place where there are natural springs, just buy a good water purifier- it will seriously save your ass like nothing else.

For food, bring a large zip-lock full of almonds/ walnuts/ pecans and a few shaker bottles with some protein (Metabolic Drive is damn good in a shaker bottle).

I’d definitely bring some BCAAs so you can pop them along the way- every time I go hiking I’m starving my ass off the whole time, no matter how much food/snacks I bring. Prepare for it- it’s part of the gig.

Also, you never know when shit might happen so it’s good to have a rubber poncho and one or two of those plastic packs that you break apart and it becomes an “ice” pack. I’ve never tested them out but I do have a couple in my pack just in case.

In my opinion, some people bring way too much shit for day hikes- it can be overkill.[/quote]

I agree with the camel back. The medium and large ones are great for day hikes.

If you ever plan on doing any back country off trail hiking then a garmin etrex GPS with the topo maps loaded will come in handy. I would also carry a compass and a topo map and know how to use it as a back up.

They aren’t real necessary on short hikes on populated trails, but they can be a life saver when things go bad (if you have practiced and know how to use them)

I’m actually going to REI this weekend to get ready for spring and summer hiking. I’m getting a new light weight tent as my wife is opposed to sleeping out in the open.

If you have any hiking or land nav questions just PM me.

[quote]mazevedo wrote:
Also, you never know when shit might happen so it’s good to have a rubber poncho […][/quote]

I lean more towards toilet paper when ‘shit happens’.

You got some pure gold there Azevedo. :wink:

I think the most important things are a small compass, the brains to use it, a knife, and a small flashlight. A GPS is nice to have, but I don’t use mine much. I’d also second the recommendation of a Camelbak or a simple small pack that holds a water bladder.

But even that isn’t necessary, just some way to carry some water and maybe a snack. Depending on the terrain where you go and how your knees take it you might at some point invest in a trekking pole.

Once you start going further you’ll figure out what fancier gear you want/need and what works for you as far as clothes and boots and stuff.

Hey I just noticed you’re from Missouri. There’s a website a guy here in MO has called www.motrails.com. He talks about all kinds of wilderness areas and trails. There’s a really good book called Trails and Treks of Missouri and Northern Arkansas that has a plethora of trails around here too.

I’d recommend getting a decent pair of boots. Nothing crazy, for day hikes or even light weekend trips you don’t need a heavy duty trekking boot. But a good comfortable boot will make your hikes much more enjoyable. A lot of people are going for lighter trail shoes these days but I still prefer a little bit higher boot that provides at least some ankle support. You never know when you’re going to step on a rock or in a hole or something and turn an ankle. A little bit of support goes a long way in preventing ankle sprains or even just helping to brace a splint in the event you need to hike out on an injury. Also, if you’re serious about making this a hobby, picking up a pair of boots now will give you plenty of time to break them in on shorter hikes. By the time you work up to longer hikes or even overnight treks, your boots will have formed to your feet and have flexed with your step plenty. Trust me, there’s nothing worse than getting a few miles into a multi day trek and feeling those tell tale hotspots.

As far as brands go, my current boots are Asolo and I love them. They’re the only boot I’ve ever owned that needed almost no break in time. They run a little narrow, but some models are better than others. My previous boots were Vasque GTXs. I bought them before a scout trip to Philmont in New Mexico back in 1998 and they only just wore out a little over a year ago. They got a hell of a lot of use and were actually still pretty good but the soles eventually just rotted out. I’d recommend them as well.

I’ve got friends who swear by merrel and others who insist L.L. Bean is the best. Your best bet is really to go to a good outdoor gear store (REI, EMS, etc…) and try on every boot they’ve got. Twice! Ask the people at the store, they’re usually pretty knowledgeable. If you can find someone there who’s close to your size and weight, ask them what they wear. When you find something that fits well, ask if you can test em out. EMS, and I think REI, have no problem with you buying a pair of boots, wearing them around for a few days and then returning them if you don’t like them. Just don’t go stomping around in the mud.

Ok, enough about boots. Other handy gear is water bottles or camel bak type things, a first aid kit, pocket knife, sunglasses, sunscreen, hat, and maybe a light rain jacket (I’m from New England, our weather changes frequently, quickly, and often without warning. Other areas of the country don’t have this problem so it might not be an issue). Other things I like to bring with me, especially on solos, is a notebook and pen/pencil, and sometimes my camera. I find I get a lot of inspiration when I’m out on the trail and like to write things down or take pictures.

You said you plan on bringing your dog (I think you also said fiance, I hope these aren’t interchangeable.;)) Do yourself and everyone else out hiking a favor and bring a leash. Those extending ones are great. I know a lot of people who take their dogs out hiking with them and as soon as they get away from the cars, let the dog off leash. This seems great, the dog gets exercise and can run around and sniff and piss and shit and do whatever it is that gets dogs off. Unfortunately dogs also get excited when other people, or dogs, or wildlife show up. Dogs can scare people, fight other dogs, and wreak havoc on wildlife. Lots of people go hiking to see birds and other wildlife. Even the animals that aren’t afraid of humans anymore will freak out at a barking dog. If you want your dog to run around and get some exercise, great, lots of hikes have fields, ponds, and other areas you can stop at and let your dog run wild. Just be considerate of other hikers and the environment. I’m not trying to sound like a dick or anti dog, just something a lot of people don’t think about but a lot of hikers and, more importantly, park rangers, get mad about.

Anyway, I’ve rambled on long enough. If you have any questions PM me. I’m sure you’ll enjoy your new hobby, there’s really nothing else on earth like getting out in the woods away from people and cars and buildings and whatnot.

Cheers,
Jay

  1. Get a good pair of boots. You will findg that the ankle support is valuable. Do not hike until you have broken in the boots.

  2. Bring a blister kit (ring plaster, moleskin). You can be all but incapacitated by a stupid little blister. Might as well bring a roll of gauze and a compress while you’re at it.

  3. Your dog also has to be fit enough for a hike. Dogs are essentially sprinters, not marathoners. Carrying a 70lbs Lab on your shoulders is not fun. (trust me on that one!)

  4. Make sure someone knows what you are doing. Many injuries has nothing to do with skill or preparedness (cue a 1000lbs bear). If you’re not at work on Monday morning, someone should be able to track you down.

  5. Rain gear

  6. High fat, high protein snacks. Trail mix has the name for a reason.

hiking shoes and a water bottle. it’s not really that complicated. you are basically just walking, but in nature instead of on a side walk.

I forgot to mention something in my last post: bring baby powder to rub under your nuts and around your crack. Walking all those miles while sweating will not feel good in that area unless there’s something absorbing the sweat and providing some resistance to friction.

I have done weeklong backpacking trips over the Continental Divide trail with nothing more than road-running shoes. So, I do not think boots are needed, instead buy a pair of trail running shoes that are breathable (and will dry quickly) and a few pairs of good socks (padded on bottom and made out of anything other than cotton).

Don’t worry about a technical backpack, you are not going to take enough gear on a dayhike to warrant buying an expensive backpack (camelbacks are very cool though) and I am very sceptical of the hard shell backpacks - I want my bag to conform to my back, not my back to my bag.

Learn how to use a topo map and compass - I have a gps and tend to use the paper topo map more.
Matches and first aid kit.

I always look as my hikes as ways to shed the some of the bullshit of everyday life - as such, I try to take as little as possible and I encourage you not to get caught up in all of the cool, new gear and instead get out a see the countryside.