I started with crappy sneakers, not enough water and heading out with an empty stomach and without much of a plan, and I too slowly learned what worked well for me. This is my contribution to the collection of “how I do a thing” posts on the internet that someone might find helpful.
This might seem like a no brainer, but I spent a while hiking on an empty stomach before I learned it wasn’t the best. Some it was that I always ran before eating, so why would I need to eat before a day of hiking? (These are the kind of insightful hiking tips I will have for you on this list.) Bringing lunch for the trail was also a revelation.
I started hiking in lightweight sneakers better geared towards trail running. Turned out when I bought a pair of hiking boots, my feet and ankles were actually protected and supported. “Get new hiking boots” was one of my goals for the year in 2020, and it was accomplishable.
Pack with water bladder
I always thought the folks with the little drinking tubes sticking out of their packs looked kinda doofy, and, when I finally decided I should get something to carry, you know, food with me, I we determined not to fall for a dumb hydration thing. The guy at the outdoor store convinced me I was wrong, and I am now convinced he was right. Even with my Ospry Manta 28, I still carry a water bottles with me on longer hikes, but it’s a lot easier to drink water when it’s right under my chin. It’s also been great to have a comfortable pack with enough space that I can bring along enough food for lunch and snacks, rain or cold weather gear, quadcopter or whatever else for the day.
When we went inn-to-inn hiking in the Rockies five years ago, Phoebe loaned us poles, which were another accessory I was convinced was super dumb. Turns out it makes it easier to go up or down way more comfortable. They’re really helpful for scrambling up steep slopes, but also a lifesaver as you head down steep rocks at the end of a long day.
Much of my hiking growth has been allowing myself to accept substance over style. What’s cooler than two pairs of socks? Everything, but blisters suck.
There are folks who swear by convertible pants, but my opinion is they are bad pants and bad shorts. I’ve liked my pair of Kuhl Renegade Rock Pants, but I’m sure there are better options, so try some things on.
You want to know I secret? I never look at a map on the trail. This is a dumb thing that has led me to make wrong turns, add extra miles and get just sort of lost. I recently added this app, all of $6, to my gear and it’s been worth every penny. You can add GPX and other file types (created with, say, Caltopo or downloaded from AllTrails) for maps to your iPhone (and Apple Watch).
Has GPS made us lazy and myopic? Absolutely, but it sure is nice to just hike.