Hiker Gear Basics: 5 Pieces to Start Your Outdoor Wardrobe
So you want to start hiking. YAY! Before starting to buy outdoor gear specifically for hiking you should consider two factors:
Great outdoor gear can be pricey
You can find great deals online and outdoor shops have fantastic sales, but on the whole great quality gear doesn't come cheap. A whole outdoor wardrobe can seem like a big investment for a new hobby, so it makes sense to buy key pieces one at a time, in an order that gradually increases your gear game as you get more into hiking. Hence I'm writing this unbelievably amazing blog post! *thundering applause*
Great quality gear lasts
...so you'll have it for years! Make sure you choose a good fit and you'll be good to go for ages, so each of these purchases should have you covered for a good few hiking seasons. Until of course you start buying more gear, and end up writing blogs about it, like me.
So let's get started with my list of the first 5 hiking clothing items to buy!
Your feet are doing most of the work when you're hiking, and there is no easier way to ruin a day outdoors than a blister or sore feet. And although you might think shoes are the first place to start when you're building a hiking outfit, I actually recommend to start with a pair of great hiking socks! They're cheaper than hiking shoes and when worn in sneakers or running shoes will make you a lot more comfortable than cotton socks. Also note, many thru hikers actually hike in running shoes, so you're pretty much one of the cool crowd now. You're welcome.
What you're looking for here is moisture-wicking material that will keep your feet dry when you sweat, and medium cushioning works year-round for me. I can't recommend merino wool socks enough. They'll last you years, stay clean over multi-day hikes (as opposed to synthetic material which will stink to high heavens) and are the coziest things ever. I also like to go for a loop knit, which means the wool on the inside of the sock is knitted in little loops, which gives you extra cushioning. Boom.
You probably saw this one coming! When buying your first pair of hiking shoes there are a couple of things to look out for. Firstly, you want them to be lightweight. The weight you carry on your feet will make your hike exponentially harder than say weight carried on your back. Another factor to consider is so-called "out of the box" wear-ability. This means that you're looking for a show that doesn't need to be worn in and that you can start hiking in right away, without killing your feet for the first 50 miles.
Therefore, I recommend lightweight trail running shoes OR lightweight hiking boots, and to TRY THEM ON before you buy. This means going to your local outdoors shop, finding an experienced shoe sales person, and asking them to bring you 10 (not kidding) of their finest lightweight hiking shoes for you to try on. Wear your hiking socks of choice (see point 1), and make sure to stand on a slant when you're wearing the shoes and make you your toes don't touch the front. Then, calling upon the goodly spirit of Sir Chris Townsend himself, select and purchase your shoes, and forever be courageous, wise and lightweight. Read more about the glory of lightweight hiking shoes here.
3. A raincoat
It's raining, it's pouring, the old man is snoring, and you're in the middle of a field. One of the most important pieces of your hiking kit is a rain and wind-protective jacket, that will protect you from the elements when they (inevitably) come hurtling down on you. When purchasing a rain coat you want to make sure it's lightweight so it's easy to pack in your bag when you don't need it; water repellent so rain rolls off it; breathable so don't feel like you're in a sweat box; and big enough that you can wear an insulating layer underneath.
This can be a trickier purchase because rain coats can have a chunky price tag the better quality you go, especially when you're looking at hitting the holy trinity of light, water repellent and breathable. But getting a great rain coat is so worth it as it will dramatically change how comfortable you are walking, and it will actually be the only coat you need year round (keep reading). Keep an eye out for end-of-season sales, and look around for items on sale online too.
4. Fleece sweater
So by now you're walking blister-free and you're dry in the rain. It's a miracle! To extend your hiking happiness into the colder months now all you need is a snuggly mid-layer to keep you warm under all the rain-coat goodness. I got a fleece sweater when I started out hiking, and OH MY what joy! Fleece materials are lightweight (you can tell there's a theme going on here), super warm and you get to look like an extra from the Last Christmas video, achieving hitherto unknown levels of hiking comfort. Go on. Get a fleece.
You're *literally* covered in hiking gear. But what's this? Your old yoga pants are begging for retirement back to indoor pursuits, and you're ready for the big boys. The hum dingers. THE ZIPPER TROUSERS.
Now, what's great about zipper trousers is that they're loose enough to let you move around freely, which is integral when climbing up and down field gates all day. Secondly, they're ideally a synthetic material which dries quickly, or is even water resistant (note, this is a step below repellent, which is a-ok for trousers for me). Thirdly, SHORTS! I'm a huge fan of layers up top and pins out below, which you may find you can totally replicate with the above 5 statement pieces you have now purchased. Did anybody say CUUUUTE!
Please note there are also great long trousers for hiking purposes, as well as running of hiking shorts, and one garment need not necessarily fulfill both functions. But if you're going for one pair of trousers to start you off and aren't afraid of becoming a style icon, then zippers are for you my friend.
If this post was any help at all to you please leave me a comment below or subscribe for more mind-boggling hiking knowledge on the weekly!