I’m pretty sure I’ve been hiking longer than I have been able to walk. When we lived on the East coast my parents would to take me up the trails of the Shenandoah mountains for as long as the photo evidence will allow me to remember. In fact, one of my earliest memories is of getting in trouble at preschool because I taught all the kids how to pee on the single stick tree in the playground, a new skill I had acquired from hiking that previous weekend. Yet, while my parents liked to hike and camp, they were never too extreme, nor were they the kinds of people who had to have the BEST gear. We worked with what we had until we needed an upgrade. Upon upgrading various trail gear over time, I realized… you never really know how much you’re suffering until you experience the alternative.
I started out with just the basic basics. A pair of discount hiking boots I picked up at Sports Basement, a Kirkland Brand camelback I bought from Costco, and trekking poles? My ego was too big for those. All these things were totally FINE for the time. Sometime after we moved to Los Angeles, I started to get really into hiking again. My friend Alexa encouraged me to hike back to the Bridge to Nowhere with her. My first hike over 10 miles. I was hooked, but my feet were dying. No only did my shoes hurt but the blisters were unbearable. So, per Alexa Hughes’ recommendation I made my first investment in new gear: socks.
Wrightsocks CHANGED everything for me. They’re double lined so there is NO CHANCE of a blister. It’s been 3 years since I bought them and I still haven’t gotten a single blister. This reminds me I should probably order a few more pairs.
My second investment: shoes. I was actually really resistant to shelling out the big bucks for good shoes. My husband encouraged me to spend a little extra, knowing how important a good pair of hiking boots can be. I did some research, tried on just about every pair at REI until I finally landed on Keen. Surprisingly NOT the most expensive boot in the game and this boot still makes the top 10 list of quality hiking boots for 2019. Ironically my husband also walked into REI, totally unresearched and mentally prepared to spend $300 on a pair for himself, but without any of my influence he also ended up falling in love with the same pair of boots. (Yes, we have the same boots, it’s gross, I know.)
From there it was probably another two years before I invested in anything else. My boots were killing it, I was crushing new peaks, but subsequently my day pack was getting heavier the higher we climbed and began rubbing me raw in all the wrong ways. After almost every hike in 2017 I would have big welts on my back from where my pack’s skeleton would poke and prod me.
Third investment: proper day pack. I had seen Osprey packs all over the trail. Talked to a few hikers, read a few reviews, and decided that was the way to go, while I did try on a few other packs I ended up with the Osprey Womens 24L Sirrus pack with the raincover. This was another game changer. I had no idea what it felt like to be comfortable with your pack! Now, this thing feels like a safety blanket, I feel naked if I hike without it, it’s just become that much of an extension of me. Ha.
Again, I went for about another year, tackling 4 out of the 6 pack of Southern California sporting the aforementioned. My dear trail friend Lori always raved about how much she liked her poles and how much they helped. For some egotistical reason I was again really resistant to trying trekking poles. It wasn’t until my husband finally agreed to hike a peak with us that I actually listened to my friends and look into a pair… for him. Since he has had so many knee problems and they say poles take about 25% of the load off, I thought maybe they would make him enjoy hiking again. I was right! He took on his first peak with a pair of Black Diamond trekking poles and swears he will never hike without them again. This piqued my curiosity, so I gave them a try myself, and I’m an asshole for holding out for so long. They turned uphill into a full body work out, took the load off, and my hips and knees felt SO MUCH BETTER the next day.
Fourth investment: trekking poles. Currently we’re working with 2 different brands in our house. We have the pricey Black Diamond’s, and the knock off version we purchased from Costco. Surprisingly the knock off have really good reviews and are almost identical to the Black Diamonds, so if you’re looking to give them a shot try the knock offs first.
That’s about it for now as far as my evolution of gear goes. There are a few other things that I can’t hike without that’ll you’ll find in that Osprey pack of mine:
- UV Buff. Makes a great neck cover, headband, forehead protector. To be honest, there isn’t a single outdoor sport we do without our buffs. Wool Buffs are the jam in the winter.
- 3L bladder for water. Just ordered this bad boy as I had been working with a 2L for awhile and that just isn’t enough for this thirsty girl. Also, this insulated straw will be clutch in the winter. No more frozen packs while skiing!
- YumEarth organic Lollypops. Great for when you need fast glucose on the trail. Working on a trail nutrition post that goes a little more in depth on that.
- Electrolyte packs. I’m not really brand loyal here, but Vega and Liquid IV are my go to’s when it comes to rehydrating.
I’ll do a full “what I pack” breakdown but I hope this helps anyone looking to get more into hiking and up their game ever so slightly, over a three-year period. Haaaaa. Anyway, questions, comments? Always here for it.