So you want to get into hiking, but you’re not sure where to start? Do you need hiking boots? Do you need those expensive trail snacks?
The answer is yes and no. Good news is you don’t NEED all of the fancy equipment to get started, but there are some helpful items that will get you off on the right foot.
Just over two years ago I moved to Arizona from Wisconsin, land of the cows and the rolling green pastures, and I knew absolutely nothing about hiking other than I wanted to give it a try.
Two years later, I have hiked so many mountains, I have lost track of them all. From the magnificent Grand Canyon to hiking Zion, I have done a decent amount of hiking and have done it without spending a fortune.
Here are the top 5 tips and pieces of equipment you need before you get hiking.
1) Invest in Hiking Boots.
A highly anticipated, yet dreaded purchase. Boots can be pricey and boots can be cheap. Watch out for both. At first, my husband held off on investing in a pair of hiking boots because he wanted to see if he could squeak away with the pair that he found on a clearance rack at a department store. Three miles up a mountain and a sunken-in sole later, he strongly regretted wasting any money on those boots. At the same time, I invested in a pair of Keen mid-height, waterproof boots. They have been FAN-TASTIC. I can’t speak highly enough about them. I have hiked down the Grand Canyon, trekked snowy mountainsides, sludged my way through swamps and dry, dry desert sand dunes and those boots have never let me down!
What’s the takeaway? Invest in your boots! My husband went back 3 months later and bought Keen boots for himself and he’s now a very happy camper.
2) Snacks on snacks on snacks.
You know what’s better than having a snack, as you soak in the view of the mountain you’ve just summited? Absolutely nothing.
I’m a frugal woman. I don’t believe in spending money on expensive trail snacks if you’re just going out for a day-hike! Pack yourself some calorie-dense snacks of your own instead of investing in that $5 granola bar that doesn’t really look that good. Some of my favorites include nuts, apples and peanut butter, or homemade trail mix.
3) The Backpack.
Now I’ve had my fair share of embarrassing moments on the trail, but one of the first was hiking a local mountain in Phoenix for the first time with my HUGE backpacking backpack on. Isn’t that what all legit mountain hikers wear? Huge backpacks that make you tip over when you put it on?? Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong.
For a simple day-hike, invest in a day-pack. I bought mine off groupon for $40 and I know other friends who have bought theirs at Target for the same price. I could’ve spent $125 for one at REI, but this is an example of where you can cut corners and get a decent piece of equipment.
Don’t underestimate the power of wearing two pairs of socks AND bringing a pair of backup socks.
One of my favorite beginner backpacking podcasts, The First Forty Miles, gave me the idea of wearing two pairs of socks. The extra cushion and protection for your heels and toes is amazing. There’s nothing worse than being stuck on a trail with terrible blisters and wearing two pairs of socks cuts down on that problem significantly. Also, you don’t know how comforting a pair of backup socks is until you’ve been hiking in the rain for an hour and you see a dry area up ahead that might provide you with some temporary relief from the rain while you throw on a new pair of socks for yourself.
5) REI FTW.
Two years ago I was new at hiking. I knew nothing other than I wanted to hike. REI is a wonderful place to buy equipment because if you’re not 100% satisfied, they’ll take the equipment back and give you credit towards the piece of equipment you actually want. The first pair of hiking boots I bought weren’t quite the right fit for my feet. I hiked at least 6 different times in them and my feet ached every time. I brought them back to the store and walked out with my beloved, comfortable Keens with NO questions asked. If that’s not enough to convince you, multiple times a year REI has their “Garage Sale,” where slightly used/returned items are sold at a major discount to REI members. Lifetime memberships are $20 and you automatically get 10% back at the end of every year because you’re now a part of the REI co-op. Talk about a fantastic deal. Peace. Love. REI.