Before you head out on those trails its important to be properly equipped to make your trip as enjoyable as possible. And, unless you have an unlimited supply of money and plan to bring along a pack mule, some planning is vital before you venture out on a shopping spree. If you’re just starting out and trying to figure out how much you’re really going to enjoy your newfound hobby, taking on a few day hikes is a good place to start. Going this route you’re not investing a great deal of money since the needed equipment is fairly minimal. REI offers some helpful packing lists, along with many other helpful articles to get you started thinking about your excursions.
The most important investment you make is your shoes. Get bad ones and even a short nature hike can turn your feet into swollen, blister riddled stumps. No one wants that. The right pair of shoes can cost you anywhere from $75 – $200 but will stay with you for potentially thousands of miles and help maintain your foot health and, subsequently, your mental health. If you foresee mostly day hikes in your future, you should be fine to stick with a pair of lightweight hiking shoes. These resemble typical running shoes with some extra oomph. They are low-cut, which offer little or no roll protection for your ankles. This option does not offer a great deal of support for toting heavy loads, which isn’t a major concern for the typical day hiker.
Another option is a standard hiking boot, which is easily found in either mid-cut or high-cut. These boots are a little sturdier than the lightweight shoes and offer more ankle and load support.
The fairly recent emergence of barefoot technology and Vibram’s Five Finger shoes circa 2005 offer yet another footwear option. Vibram advertises the Five Finger brand as a “foot glove” and offers many intriguing pros to its somewhat unusual footwear. All of their options are going to be in the low-cut category, but if barefoot hiking is something that interests you, check them out.
Your second consideration should be your pack. A daypack should be very manageable in size, around 1,830 cubic inches and should help you keep your essentials organized. You have quite an array of options here, as well. A top-loading pack resembles traditional backpacking packs and allows for easy over-stuffing and has a minimal number of pockets and compartments that tend to add bulk. The panel loading packs resemble the backpacks you’re used to carrying in school and generally tend to weigh a little more with their addition of extra compartments and zippers.
Beyond these two categories, you also have different styles to consider and really depend on your planned activity. REI has some good tips and tricks here, as well. One thing to consider with your pack is how you plan on hauling your hydration. A great inexpensive and readily available option is repurposed Gatorade bottles, but these can add some unwanted bulk. With the introduction of hydration packs from companies like CamelBak, carrying aforementioned H2O can be more streamlined and comfortable. The hydration packs can be carried in their own packs, but many packs offer their own bladders or are equipped for you to add a previously purchased bladder. It makes drinking hands-free and more convenient, as well.
If you’re confused or exhausted already, don’t fret! I will have a lot more information to pass along in future posts. Around the Knoxville area, consider stopping in Blue Ridge Mountain Sports in the Farragut or Bearden area, River Sports Outfitters on Sutherland, or the Coleman Factory Outlet in Pigeon Forge. All offer an immense selection of equipment and helpful associates to answer your questions. As a plus the Coleman Outlet offers some wonderful deals for all of you outlet shoppers out there!