I recently started going on more strenuous hikes & at first, I was extremely intimidated. I follow several experienced hikers that make it look so easy. When it got down to me planning my first hike in Seattle, I did NOT know where to begin. So I put together a guide for those who want to hike but haven’t gone further than a spin around the block.
First, get yourself a hydration backpack- otherwise known as a Camelbak. I personally wanted a pack that could hold more than just water, so I bought this Patagonia pack in the 18L size small. I found for me, the 18L has plenty of storage & ample capacity for water to remain hydrated. *Note on this pack- it does NOT come with a water reservoir (better known as a bladder, but that description is cringe), I purchased this Osprey reservoir separately from REI. I like it because it comes with a magnetic strap that connects to the front of your shoulder strap so you don’t have to go searching for the bite valve when you want a drink. I also picked up these hydration tablets for humid days so I am sure to stay hydrated on longer hikes. I put it right in my reservoir, although they are all flavored so it can give my water tube a little extra flavor beyond the hike. Otherwise, I keep a hydro flask in my side pocket for extra water just in case. These energy chews are also delicious and easy to throw in your pack.
From here I would get a pair of hiking boots. I have the Danner Mountain Lite boots & I absolutely love them! They’re comfortable for long hikes, have great support & I love the style of them. What I’ve learned that is equally important as your boots, are what socks you wear. I love the Wigwam Merino Lite hikers because they are cushioned on the top of your foot & the bottom for added comfort. The merino wool keeps your feet cool & dry versus if you wear cotton, your foot will sweat & stay wet the entire hike & that is how you get blisters. Another tip to support your feet- buying trekking poles. There is a stigma that only “old people” use trekking poles. I don’t care what anyone says! When I’m climbing over 2,000 feet they help support the entire way. Think of it as, you’re climbing up a rock & a friend gives you their hand to help you up, that’s what poles feel like. On the descend, they stabilize any drops to protect your knees. I always, always bring my Leki Legacy Lite trekking poles & I usually just use one & give the other to a friend in my group. I like these particular ones because the cork grips mold to your hand over time.
But what do you wear?!?! That was a big one for me because I wanted to look good at the top of my hikes haha (just being honest!) Some of the hikes I’ve done start very early in the morning with 30-40 degree temperatures. Initially I thought layer, layer layer. However, once you hit that first incline & your heart rate goes up, you’ll be ripping off layers. I would suggest starting with a dri fit base layer, because again, you don’t want to wear cotton. It will get sweaty & stay wet for the entire hike & essentially becomes useless. Then add a sweatshirt or flannel & top it a jacket, I wear the Patagonia Nano Puff. It is extremely warm & it folds up very small to fit nicely into your backpack as its probably the first layer you’ll get rid of. I would also suggest bringing gloves, as I’ve gotten to the peak of a hike (primarily in Washington) where the summit was significantly colder than the climb & my hands were too cold to photos for very long.
Lastly, some random tips I learned along the way are to ditch all your rings. My fingers get extremely swollen when gaining elevation & it can become painful if I’m wearing rings. General rules of every hike are leave it how you found it- aka DO NOT LITTER. There is nothing more frustrating than seeing someone hang their disposable face mask on a tree or their trail mix wrapper on the ground instead of their pack. Do not feed any wildlife, they are wild. If you have to use the bathroom, step off the trail & out of sight. Nature calls, we get it, but we shouldn’t see you answering. If you’re coming down, you yield to the hiker climbing up. If they want to rest, they will stop & wave you to pass. Lastly, please, oh please, do not bring your speaker & blast your music for all to hear. Most people hike to disconnect & actually listen to Mother Nature. Do not disturb the peace by playing Taylor Swift’s new album (that just dropped the day I wrote this haha)
Have fun, be safe, stay hydrated & never, ever stop exploring. Cheers!