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Why Having the Right Hiking Clothes & Hiking Gear is Key
You can’t just go walk outside your door and start hiking. Hiking is a sport that just like any other activity requires proper gear and clothing, designed to withstand the outdoor elements.
Having the right items can make or break your expedition — and will definitely affect whether you fall in love with hiking or decide that it’s not the right kind of pursuit for you.
Proper hiking clothes and gear ensures you will have a comfortable day out on the trail and that you’ll be protected from the elements — in case you run into inclement weather.
For example, you’ll want a rain coat if you plan on hiking in wet conditions. For this same reason, you might also want to invest in a pair of waterproof hiking boots.
When you’re out in nature, you have to be prepared for unexpected weather conditions, such as wind, rain, and snow.
Trails can be frozen, muddy, slippery and occasionally scattered with large rocks and boulders. There will often be puddles or shallow stream crossings.
Depending on where you’re hiking, you might need to be prepared for high gains and losses in elevation.
Consider your experience, level of preparation, and the kind of gear you will need before setting out on your first hiking trip.
Do you plan on hiking beginner, moderate, or strenuous trails?
Deciding on your ideal type of trail pursuit is a good first step in picking out the hiking clothes and hiking gear that will be appropriate for you.
Get Familiar With These Hiking Gear Brands
Although this list is not comprehensive, these are some of the major hiking gear brands, many of which will be highlighted throughout this site.
Some are specific to footwear or apparel while many offer a wide range of products.
Patagonia: Patagonia is known for its provision of high-quality outdoor gear, including sport-specific apparel ranging from skiing to hiking, climbing, and trail running.
The company is perhaps just as well-known for its commitment to environmental sustainability.
Patagonia’s mission: “Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.”
Merrell: Merrell is an American maker of high-performance hiking boots. Its product line includes lightweight trail-runners to heavy, insulated boots.
Merrell has expanded to include outdoor apparel but remain most renowned for making strides in the hiking boot industry.
Their secret to success? Combining American cowboy boot technology with the Italian boot manufacturing process.
KEEN: KEEN is a quality hiking boot manufacturer regarded for its original and versatile brand values.
The story began in 2003 when the company asked if a sandal could protect your toes — and launched its first successful product that has since transformed into an innovative collection.
KEEN is regarded for its astounding dedication to disaster relief and the creation of KEENFest, an outdoor festival that encourages industry members to get together.
Ahnu: This New Zealand shoe making company is small, but mighty.
Its small collection of products includes women’s waterproof hiking boots that are high quality and affordable.
Ahnu shoes can be purchased directly from the website or through one of the company’s prominent outdoor retailers.
Salomon: Salomon is a major outdoor shoe, equipment, and apparel brand committed to inspiring individuals to get outside and play more.
Its collection highlights hiking shoes, mountaineering boots, clothing, and a whole range of snow sport equipment, including skis and snowboards.
Salomon’s products are built to withstand the rigors of the outdoors and often feature Gore-Tex elements.
Columbia: This popular outdoor brand is based out of the Pacific Northwest. It’s known for apparel, shoes, and equipment and excels in all three categories.
The company’s 70 year history makes it a renowned and reliable presence in the outdoor realm.
Columbia began as “Columbia Hat Company” — and has since been transformed into one of the industry’s most trusted brands.
Danner: Danner is a superior boot making company regarded for its products’ handcrafted precision.
These boots are made tough to last — meant to withstand anything nature throws their way.
Some of Danner’s products are designed for law enforcement and the military — so you can be assured they take durability seriously.
Marmot: Marmot was founded as “Marmot Mountain Works” in Grand Junction, Colorado by two students who dreamed of designing their own mountaineering equipment.
The company designed over 100 puffy jackets for 20th Century Fox’s movie, The Eiger Sanction.
It is most renowned for apparel, sleeping bags, and tents.
The North Face: The North Face is named after the coldest, most unforgiving side of a mountain — and it makes mountain wear that lives up to its name.
Perhaps one of the most famous brands in outdoor equipment, the North Face has been in business for over 50 years.
The North Face lives up to its mantra ‘never stop exploring’ and sends athletes on far-flung expeditions all over the globe.
Camelbak: Camelbak is an outdoor equipment company based out of California best known for its hydration products.
The company began when bicycle enthusiast Michael Eidson was competing in the “Hotter’N Hell 100” and stayed hydrated by filling an IV bag with water and slipping it into a tube sock, which he wore in his cycling jersey.
Osprey: Osprey is one of the most renowned providers of backpacks for outdoor adventures.
From technical mountaineering packs, ski packs, rolling duffel bags, and everything in between, Osprey is dedicated to the comfort and durability of its products. Its Anti-Gravity suspension system has helped redefine pack carrying in the outdoors.
Teton Sports: Teton Sports is an outdoor equipment company dedicated to providing high quality products at a more affordable price than competing brands.
Its line includes tents, sleeping bags, backpacks, and camp pads.
Venture Pal: Venture Pal is an affordable outdoor brand known for its backpacks and travel gear.
Although a newcomer to the industry, it makes some quality products that stand on their own in the backcountry.
MSR: Mountain Safety Research (MSR) is a technical outdoor equipment company best known for its production of cookware, tents, and water filtration products.
MSR was begun by one man dedicated to improving the safety of climbing equipment and now serves as one of the top names in the industry.
Therm-a-Rest: Therm-a-Rest is synonymous with backcountry sleeping equipment, primarily sleeping pads.
The company creates top-of-the-line mattresses, pillows, sleeping bags, and tents and is perhaps best known for its innovations in outdoor sleeping technology.
Frequently Asked Questions
What kind of gear do I need for hiking?
For day hikes you just need comfortable footwear, clothing, and a small backpack to carry water, extra layers, and sun protection. For longer hikes and backpacking, you’ll want to invest in a large backpack and sleeping gear.
What layers do I need for hiking?
A solid base layer and comfortable hiking pants are necessary in all conditions. Merino wool and synthetic fabrics are popular base layer options. It’s important to dress in layers for hiking — with a thermal layer around your core. Your core layer should be followed by a mid layer in cooler conditions. In rainy weather, you should have rain pants and a rain jacket on hand. Different season require different options as well so you will want . Check out our recent article on what to wear hiking in the fall to learn exactly what you will need to enjoy one of the best times to be hiking.
Am I fit enough to go hiking?
Everyone starts somewhere — and while a moderate level of physical fitness is required for strenuous trails and mountainous ascents, almost anyone can go on an easy day hike. The best way to determine what kind of hiking you’re fit enough for is to get out there and give it a try.
What supplies should I bring on a day hike?
For a day hike, you’ll need minimal supplies. Be sure to bring along enough water for you and your companions. Bring a rain jacket or a warmer layer if the temperature is going to drop or the forecast looks like rain. Pay attention to elevation changes: a higher elevation means colder temperatures. Bring snacks and a first aid kit if you plan on being out for a good portion of the day. If you’re just getting into hiking, it’s always recommended that you bring along blister bandaids and mole skin. Until your boots are broken in, your feet will be prone to hot spots and blisters, and the best solution is prevention. Since this is such a popular question we decided to dedicate a whole article to complete your day hike checklist.
When will I be ready for an overnight trip?
There’s no set rule on how many day hikes you should take before setting out on an overnighter. It all depends on your comfort level and how quickly you gain the necessary knowledge and proper equipment. You should overnight your first time with someone who has experience. Overnight trips require an advanced set of skills that can only be gained through practice.
What kind of hiking shoes or boots should I buy?
This depends on personal preference and what type of hiking you will be doing. For day hikes, trail runners and lightweight shoes or boots will suffice, whereas for longer hikes you’re going to want boots with more support and stability.
Are hiking poles necessary?
While not necessary for every hike or hiker, many people find hiking poles help you keep your balance and serve as essential tools for navigating the backcountry. They also help support your joints while ascending or descending hills. While they’re not the first piece of equipment you should buy, they can help enhance the hiking experience.
How do I stay safe while hiking?
Although hiking is a relatively safe activity, nature can be an unpredictable place and it’s best to always be prepared. A few tips for safe hiking: Pay attention to weather forecasts, take trail precautions seriously, and research what kind of wildlife live in the area through which you will be hiking. For example, if you’re hiking through a bear-infested area, it might be wise to invest in bear spray. Do some research on what to do when you come in contact with different types of wildlife. You could even consider joining a hiking group.
What are some popular trail snacks?
Trail mix, chocolate, and granola bars are popular hiking snacks. Some hikers often opt for jerky, cheese and crackers, or dried fruit. The best trail snacks are easy to carry, fit conveniently into a pack or pocket, and require no refrigeration.
Can I drink from streams or lakes?
If you’re going to drink from a natural water source, it’s highly recommended that you treat the water, unless a park ranger or reputable source states that it’s safe. There are a few ways to treat water. Boiling is the easiest and least costly method. There are also water purification tablets and pump filters that serve to clean or filter bacteria and protozoa from water sources. If you’re setting out on anything longer than a day, it’s recommended you bring a hiking water filtration method so you can refill your hydration reservoir as needed.
Hiking can be enjoyed by people of all ages, lifestyles, and backgrounds.
It’s a fabulous solo activity but also a great way to spend time with friends or family. Getting people that are close to you into hiking can make for a healthier lifestyle, shared hobby, and memories that will last a lifetime.
The important thing is to get out there and have a positive experience so that you want to come back and do it again.
Hiking is one of the best ways to encourage people to appreciate the beauty of nature and help protect our world’s remaining natural resources and having the right hiking gear completes the experience.
It’s time to get off the couch and get hiking...
The trails are calling!