If you’ve read my blog before, you likely have noticed that Ryan and I love to go hiking. Since we moved to the greater Seattle area two months ago, we have hiked nearly every weekend. We even went hiking for our honeymoon down at Turkey Run State Park in Indiana – and now those hills seem so small compared to the Issaquah Alps and Cascades where we hike here!
A few people have asked me about my hiking gear, specifically my hiking boots. I have also found that having the right gear makes hiking approximately 1000% more enjoyable, but it can be difficult to figure out exactly what items are worth the investment. Currently, we are only doing day hikes, so all of my gear is suited towards shorter hikes (12 miles or less). However, many of these items will transition into our overnight/longer hikes later in the fall.
I purchased almost all of my items at REI. I love that store. The salespeople are very knowledgeable and helpful, there is a wide selection for almost everything, and the REI store brand is high-quality and affordable. (I promise I am not sponsored or affiliated with REI… I just really love their stores, products, and website, which has lots of free hiking and outdoor guides).
Hiking boots are an absolute must. Up until Memorial Day weekend, I hiked in running shoes, which was not always the most comfortable or safest option. Hiking boots provide better grip on the soles to help you stay upright and steady as you climb over dirt paths, rocks, creeks, and tree roots. I opted for boots over shoes because of the ankle support; the last thing I want to do is roll my ankle on the trail and not be able to run.
I chose my Vasque Women’s Breeze 2.0 GTX Hiking Boot (also available for men) in part based off of the recommendation of the sales lady. These boots provide plenty of cushion to keep my feet comfortable over several miles of rugged terrain and have a neutral sole, so they work well for supinators (like myself) or pronators. They also features a generous toe box, which means no blisters! Since I usually hike just a few hours after finishing my long run of the week, it’s important to me that my boots keep my feet comfortable and supported, so these boots were definitely worth the price.
Hiking is like running: a good pair of socks makes a significant difference. However, running socks are not optimal for hiking! You want a taller sock to prevent any blistering from your boot and to keep any bugs from crawling on your ankles and into your shoes. Your hiking socks should also allow your feet to breath, prevent rubbing and blisters, and work for a variety of temperatures (since the temperature can drop as you climb). Ryan uses the Smartwool Men’s Hiking Light Crew Sock (also available in Women’s) and I wear REI Coolmax Hiker Crew Socks, which are so soft and comfortable.
Even for a short hike, you need to carry water and it is prudent to carry snacks, toilet paper, and a first aid kit for any emergencies. Ryan and I both own a REI Trail 25 Pack, which is ideal for day hikes. You can fit several water bottles, food, a change of clothes, and a first aid kit comfortably into these bags, and there are numerous pockets for organizing all of your belongings. One feature I appreciate is a pocket with a hook to keep you from losing your keys. The backpacks sit comfortably and I barely notice it’s there when I wear it. Plus, the backpacks work great for carrying laptops and books around during the day! (Sizing note: the 25 backpack is unisex in sizing, but the larger backpacks are available in men’s and women’s sizes).
Just like socks, running clothes are not always the best choice when it comes to hiking. Ryan and I both wear shorts from prAna, which makes hiking clothes in addition to their popular yoga clothes. I hike in the prAna Women’s Asha Shorts and Ryan wears the prAna Men’s Stretch Zion Short. These shorts are quick-drying, durable, water-repellent, incredibly comfortable, breathable, and stretchy. Not to mention that they’re cute and have a flattering fit!
Show the environment some love and use a reuseable water bottle! Nalgene Tritan 1-Quart Narrow Mouth Water Bottle is BPA-free, durable, reusable, and easy to drink out of because of the narrow mouth. I like the Nalgenes because they seal tight and have markings that let you clearly track how much water you are drinking. If you do take plastic water bottles with you on the trail, PLEASE carry them to the bottom of the trail and recycle them. We pick up so much litter on the trails because so many people just toss away water bottles, food wrappers, and beer bottles onto the side of the trail and neither Ryan and I can tolerate how disrespectful and damaging that is to the environment. Nature is not a trash can.
Currently, I use my Garmin 10 to track the distance and duration of our hikes. I turn off the AutoPause function because otherwise it pause too much on really steep portions. Ryan and I do have our eyes on this Garmin epix hiking GPS, which tracks your hikes, leaves digital breadcrumbs so you can retrace your path, helps you find new routes, uses an altimeter barometer to track your elevation, and includes a compass.
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Questions of the Day:
What’s your favorite non-running exercise?
Do you hike frequently?