The best hiking gear (2021): backpacks, boxers and more
There is a big one, beautiful world out there: don’t let the only wild landscape you see be the wallpaper on your phone lock screen. Hiking is one of the easiest and most accessible outdoor sports. You don’t need an expensive mountain bike or a big bundle of climbing gear to put on your shoes and walk around looking for birds or bask under the trees.
Even if you live in a big city, there are probably some woods within a few hours drive or train that are worth a visit. If you’ve never done it before, figuring out what to bring can seem like a daunting task, but it’s easier than you might think to stay dry, warm, hydrated, and safe. We have everything you need here. If you’re a little more experienced, you might want to check out our buying guides for the best tents, camping stoves, or portable coffee makers. Get out now and become the hiker you always wanted to be.
Shoes, socks and base layers
Let’s start with the obvious: You won’t have fun on a hike, regardless of its length, if you have bloody blisters on your feet or uncomfortable irritations under your armpits. It may take some time to experiment with the shoes you prefer. When it comes to clothing, wear diapers so you can put them on or take them off before you start to sweat. Check out our guides to the best trail running shoes and how to layer for more information.
- A good pair of shoes for $ 120: For moderate temperatures, we prefer low-profile, non-Gore-Tex mesh trail shoes, like the Salomon X Ultra 3 ($ 120) or the Merrell Moab Ventilator ($ 100). As winter approaches, the Lowa Renegade GTX boot ($ 240) is more stable and the leather prevents wet snow from entering your boots.
- Absorbent socks for $ 14: If your feet heat up like mine, you’ll love synthetic socks because they dry faster than wool. This pair of Wrightsock is synthetic and has two layers to prevent blisters. Darn Tough also makes merino wool socks in a wide range of thicknesses that will last forever.
- Boxer briefs ($ 18): Underwear is a thin layer that goes next to your skin. They can be made from a variety of materials, but they need to wick away sweat and keep you warm. For stockings, even in very cold weather, you will have no problem with short underwear.
- Absorbent underwear for $ 75 and more: This guide contains a few of our favorite base layer tops. I’ve listed some great lightweight, synthetic, wool, and blend options.
- An insulating layer for $ 129: Your midlayer sits between your underwear and your shell, although it’s usually too warm to wear on a hike. Most often, you will put it on during breaks and during camp chores. I’m a fan of fleece for the mid layers.
- A puffy jacket for $ 199: Puffy jackets can be worn as mid layers instead of fleece. They are very hot, but more fragile.
- A rain jacket: Water resistant jackets can be categorized into hard or soft shell. Softshells are more stretchy and more breathable, but not completely waterproof; hardshells are much less likely to soak up. I like Mountain Hardwear Exposure 2 Rain Jacket ($ 300); Check out the favorite rain jackets of Associate Critics Editor Adrienne So.
- Various hats: Depending on the weather, you may need a sun hat or beanie to protect your noggin. I love this Smartwool Merino 150 Beanie ($ 25) to protect your neck from sunburn; check out my colleagues’ guide to the best sun protection clothing and sunglasses for more suggestions.
- Fun extras: You probably won’t need gaiters, but if you walk in dusty environments, you’ll welcome them. They keep dirt from getting into the tops of your shoes in dusty environments. I like this fun Dirty Girl Gaiters ($ 20).
Bottles, bladders and snacks
One of the biggest mistakes beginners make is not bringing food or water, even on short hikes. Depending on the heat and your level of exertion, you might be thirstier than you think, and salty snacks help you retain the water you drink. For a short day of hiking, a one liter bottle should suffice. If you’re going all day or it’s particularly hot or dry, charge yourself.