"Hiking and happiness go hand in hand (or foot in boot)," says trekker Diane Spicer. And science agrees — according to a study published in Frontiers in Psychology, people's cortisol levels drop significantly when they spend 20-30 minutes in nature. But one hurdle you must cross before an excursion is figuring out what accoutrements are required.
"The best hiking gear is tailored to you as a hiker with your unique preferences, desires and needs," says Spicer. While figuring out how to fit equipment to your body may take some time, you can begin by gathering the basics.
Keep reading for four essentials that are guaranteed to set you on the right trail.
You can't walk without footwear — but what exactly do you need? "Beginner hikers can start off with a supportive pair of shoes, the kind you'd wear for a workout or a brisk walk," says Spicer. Once you become more seasoned, you'll want to invest in cleats that are specific to both your feet and the terrain you will be covering. When you are ready for more customization, Spicer suggests "scouring women's hiking boot reviews" before investing.
As you select tops, consider whether they will feel comfortable with a daypack strapped to you. It's "a good idea to test out your backpack ahead of time for any scratching or rubbing in uncovered areas," says travel advisor Julia Jennings.
Ultimately, when purchasing the best shirt for the road, practicality is key. "You want something that will dry out quickly and resist sweat odors," advises Jennings. Whichever pullover you pick, Spicer recommends wearing a sports bra underneath.
When it comes to bottoms, you have lots of choices — from shorts to leggings to tights. Just remember that ultimately you will want something durable. Before you rush out and buy a pair, consider both the duration of your hike and the weather forecast.
"Your ultimate goal is to build a hiking clothing layering system that you will use through all four seasons on the trail," says Spicer, adding that this plan should consist of three layers — an "inner or base layer of clothing to trap or release warmth," a "mid layer(s) to insulate and modulate temperatures" and an "outer layer to protect against the elements and keep other layers dry and warm."
Food and Drink
You may need more — or less — food depending on the length of your outing. For a short jaunt, a water bottle will suffice. For a longer one, you will need to consider protein and high-carb snacks. World adventurer Kiki suggests bringing along a scoop of nut butter, oats, a tuna pouch with crackers, raw almonds or Larabars.
If you are trekking for longer than a mile or two, you're going to want to wear a backpack to house both nourishment and extras — like your camera or first-aid kit. Expert hiker Natasha Alden suggests finding a pack "that sits well on your back with good suspension." To find the perfect daypack, you will need to take into account where you're going and what sort of article your body can handle.
While this guide covers the basics, there are many other goods you might consider packing, such as trekking poles, hiking gaiters, chairs and hygiene kits, while Kiki suggests bringing a headlamp. Meanwhile, Alden says she likes to carry a mat with her, especially when hiking in the mountains. Why? Because it'll keep your derriere warm and dry when you pause to take a breather.