Whether you're just getting started hiking or if you need to replace equipment that you've had for a while, selecting the right gear can certainly make the time you spend in the great outdoors more enjoyable. When you are shopping for hiking gear, it's important to consider what type of hiking you are likely to do and how often you plan to use your equipment.
Typical Hiking Gear
Serious hikers who plan to hike deep into the backcountry and spend several days at a time in the wilderness need different items than those who enjoy visiting state parks and hiking maintained trails for a few hours at a time. Depending on the type of trip you're taking, hiking gear can get very specialized. However, there are a few pieces that you'll need to have no matter how long or how intensive your hike is going to be.
The type of boots you select will depend on the type of terrain you'll be hiking through. You wouldn't get the same type of boots for hiking through the desert as you would for hiking through the rain, and this needs to factor into your decision.
Eastern Mountain Sports has an excellent selection of hiking boots that can match any type of terrain you can imagine. Examples include:
- ASOLO boots are a great option for desert hikers due to their ability to breathe and flex.
- OBOZ boots are ideal for hikers who need something more durable and waterproof.
Hiking clothes are specifically designed to be tough while also wicking moisture away from your body. A good pair of hiking pants or a good hiking shirt will be tough but will also dry quickly. Location, season and climate will determine the types of hiking clothes you need.
Cabela's has an excellent selection of hiking attire, with options available for all climates and terrains. For example:
- Cabela's Ultimate Outdoor Pants are great for desert hiking. They don't have as much insulation as some other options, but they do have great moisture wicking properties.
- This down jacket is great for hiking in the snow or in generally wetter climes, where it's best to have something with a mixture of insulation and drying ability.
Having a good knife with you at all times is an important part of hiking. There are a lot of different issues that could come up on any given hike that can make a knife very useful. You don't need to be in a life or death situation for a knife to be a useful tool, though survival situations do go a long way toward illustrating the importance of having a knife with you even if you're going on a day hike.
Columbia River Knife and Tool (CRKT) knives are a great option for most hikers, and they build most of their knives with backpackers or hikers in mind.
- The P.E.C.K in the Dark knife by CRKT is a great example of a knife that is light enough to stay out of your way, but tough enough to last through any issues you may have on the trail.
- If you want something a little more heavy-duty, the M16-12 Zytel model by CRKT is an extremely tough option for people who are interested in folding knives.
The type of hydration system you choose will depend on a lot of different things, including your personal tastes and the terrain you're traveling in. One of the largest considerations is your own personal comfort with different water systems.
Many people love using water bladders, and most backpacks provide a holster for the reservoir because of this. However, other people prefer to use bottles since they can actively see how much water they have left at all times. Options include:
- For people who want a water bladder system, the MSR Dromedary bags are a very popular option. These water reservoirs are light, they're tough, and they come with the MSR guarantee of durability.
- Those who want a lightweight bottle-type system may want to look into the Platypus bottles. Platypus started out much smaller than it is now, but has quickly gained a lot of positive attention from backpackers due to the lightweight design of their bottles.
When it comes to a general hike, a daypack will be more than sufficient for everything you need to bring. There are lots of different styles of daypacks for you to choose from, and it really does pay off to buy a daypack that has been designed for hiking. They are specifically built to be comfortable on the trail, which is something that a general backpack can't say.
While many people may not care one way or the other when it comes to how their pack looks, this is a concern for some. The following packs provide a good basic understanding of the different types of daypacks you'll run into while shopping:
- The Gregory J53 Backpack looks like a hiking pack and it functions like a hiking pack. It's built for the trail and it will obviously look like a hiking pack if you use it in other contexts.
- The Mountain Hardware 33L Enterprise backpack looks more like a traditional backpack and won't draw attention when you use it for everyday things.
There are certain specialized items that may be necessary for your hike that wouldn't be necessary for someone in another part of the world. Take some time to think about the unique environmental issues you'll be facing in your climate and find basic necessities that you may require on day trips in your area. For example:
- Even a day-hike in Utah's canyon country could require you to bring a water filter to safely refill your water reservoir in a canyon river.
- If hiking in the Pacific Northwest in the winter you may find that you'll need extra hiking socks due to how wet it is.
Five Places to Find Hiking Gear Online
There are a number of places where you can purchase hiking gear, including brick and mortar stores that you can visit in person as well as online retailers. Five popular places where you can buy hiking gear include:
- Backcountry.com is an online retailer that specializes in all types of outdoor gear. They have everything from specialized backpacking gear to everyday hiking and outdoor gear. They enjoy good ratings on ResellerRatings.com and an A+ rating at the Better Business Bureau.
- Cabela's is a well-known hiking and hunting gear retailer and is recommended in The Complete Idiot's Guide to Backpacking and Hiking. You can shop online or in store locations with Cabela's. Their selection of hiking clothes goes above and beyond when it comes to quality. They have everything from expensive name brands to cheaper bargain brands, making their gear accessible to a broad range of people.
- Amazon is the world's largest online retailer, and that comes with a number of unique perks. They carry gear of all types and brands that can suit any hiking need and they do it for a very reasonable price. Prices here are typically below what you can find in retail stores for identical merchandise.
- REI is a consumer's cooperative that sells a wide variety of high-quality outdoor equipment for active outdoor enthusiasts. REI's website is recommended by Outside magazine's Gear Guy as one of the top five online resources for camping gear, and REI stores are popular with outdoor enthusiasts. This retailer is also recommended in The Complete Idiot's Guide to Backpacking and Hiking.
- Eastern Mountain Sports is popular with people in the backpacking community, evidenced by its high ratings and positive reviews on Backpackinglight.com. The company offers the same type of gear offered by REI, focusing on high-quality equipment that is built to last. Because of this, though, prices may be a little steeper than at other stores.
It's easy to get excited when viewing all of the equipment options available and start purchasing one of everything you come across. However, many of the available items are needed only by serious hikers who plan to spend several consecutive days in backcountry wilderness situations. You don't want to carry more items with you on your hiking outings than you actually need. Additionally, quality hiking gear is not cheap. You certainly don't want to spend a lot of money on unnecessary equipment that you are not likely to ever use. Make a checklist of the items you really need before you start shopping, and don't make additions to the list without being sure that you are making the right decision.