If you are taking a two-hour hike with your children over easy terrain, then you really don't need anything more than a first-aid kit and a few basics (for more ideas, see the Hiking with Kids page). But if you're planning a hike in the mountains or other remote wilderness area, then you definitely need the right gear.
30 minutes of moderate walking/hiking will burn 220 calories. It can cause the release of endorphins also known as the "body's natural high".
Are you a mule? Neither am I!
Yes, carrying extra weight on your back gives you a great workout. You may even appreciate the extra training value. But let's face it, nobody actually likes hauling weight - especially uphill!
Backpacks are an essential part of your hiking gear. Getting the right pack will help you be a happier, more comfortable hiker.
Start with these tips on how to fit a backpack. Did you know that they make packs especially for women? A proper fit is the critical first step to your comfort.
What is a daypack? How does it differ from an alpine pack? What about an expedition pack? Get the right type of backpack for your needs.
Another consideration is the general weight of the backpack - we're not mules remember! Lighten up your load so that you will be a happy hiker.
If you are going to be pounding the trails on or off mountain, trekking poles
(also called Nordic Poles) are another essential part of your hiking gear. They are similar in appearance to ski poles, but are adjustable and are designed specifically for walking.
Trekking poles involve your upper body in the workout by engaging your shoulders, arms and pectoral muscles. They help relieve tension and pain in the neck and shoulder region - you'll especially appreciate them if your pack is heavy. When used correctly, they also help improve posture,making you stand upright helping you breathe better.
Nordic poles can also significantly reduce stress to your hips, knees, lower back, ankles and feet. They make uphill climbs easer too, because you're climbing with all fours instead of just two. Poles also give your more stability in crossing streams, traversing steep slopes, and crossing rough sections of trail. Here is a quick summary of how to use your trekking poles correctly.
When you are hiking, your personal comfort is very important. Hiking clothing
, therefore, becomes a very important part of your gear in keeping your body within comfortable temperate ranges.
The best way to accomplish this is to use a layering system - preferably made of wool or synthetic (polyester) fabrics.
Base Layer: This is the innermost layer next to your skin. Look for close-fitting (but not tight), moisture-wicking, quick-dry synthetic long and short-sleeved t-shirts and tanks.
Insulating Layer: Often called a soft shell, this middle layer provides warmth when needed. Polyester fleece jackets are highly recommended. They are available in different weights (warmth factor) and some are also able to block the wind.
Outer Layer: This is your protection layer against rain, snow, cold wind, etc. Look for waterproof breathables (such as GORE-TEX) and finished (taped) seams in both jackets and pants.
Synthetic hiking clothing wicks perspiration away from your skin, keeping you warm, even when wet. And it dries quickly. Even your underwear should be partly synthetic, and sport bras should be entirely synthetic. As a bonus - this type of underwear is usually seamless, which means no chafing, bunching or binding! Also look for long underwear and tights in synthetic fabric with a bit of lycra for stretchiness.
Why the layers you ask? Because your body temperature changes constantly depending on whether you're going uphill, downhill, in wind, or in the hot sun. If you've only got one extra layer, it's either on or off, and you're either roasting or freezing. Bring two shirts, one thin and one thick. Wear the thin one while hiking, and the thick one when you're stopped. Always keep the thick one dry in case you really need to stay warm. You can pack a down vest for warmth, but don't hike with it, it will be useless if it gets soaked.
Hats and Gloves:
You lose most of your heat through your head and extremities, so keep them warm. A thin pair of synthetic gloves are great while hiking on cooler days. Keep a pair of thicker fleece gloves with leather palms nice and dry in your backpack. You could also consider a waterproof glove for rainy days.
Fleece hats or thick headbands will add a lot of heat, without adding a lot of weight. On sunny days, a hat with a wide brim is a must.
Socks are the most under-appreciated elements to your foot's comfort. Good quality hiking socks
use synthetic materials to wick away perspiration - one of the major causes of blisters. They are also fitted and do not "bunch up" like cotton socks. It is always a good idea to take an extra pair in case they get wet.
Other Must-Have Hiking Gear Items:
A Watch. It is easy to lose track of time when on the trail.
Water. Even in cooler weather you lose water when exerting yourself. Keep hydrated.
Healthy Snacks. Fruit bars, energy bars, Gorp (good old raisins and peanuts), etc.
Maps/GPS. Always know where you are and how to get back.
Bear Defense Spray
and a Bear Bell
. Making noise can alert the wildlife to your presence so that they can avoid you. Bear spray is an extra precautionary measure that could save your life.
Flashlight and matches or lighter.
More Hiking Gear and Helpful Tips!
Hiking Trails and Gear is a great place to learn more about hiking, including gear, boots, trails, tips, reviews and more, for and by real trekkers. A great resource for hikers whether you are a beginner or an experienced backpacker.
Hiking For Her provides hiking tips, gear,
clothing, trip planning, nutrition, navigation,
safety, injury prevention and other important
elements of trail time. All from the
unique perspective of an experience AND avid