You now know what to do. Or not!
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You now know what to do. Or not!
When hiking I usually look for items that will handle the environment and be lightweight so that I’m not carrying more than I have to. As you will often experience different temperature changes due to weather and physical exertion one of the most important things you can do to maintain your comfort is to consider base layers. What is a “base layer”? It’s the layer of clothing you wear closest to your skin. It has two main objectives, temperature control and moisture control. You can buy tops or bottoms, although most people buy tops and settle for thicker pants in colder weather.
Base layers can be either wool or synthetic. Some people find wool too itchy and most people will go the synthetic route. However, recently Merino wool products have made wool a great alternative to synthetics. As mentioned keeping your temperature and moisture under control is what a good base layer does. It will wick away the sweat but still keep you warm. Wearing cotton after sweating a lot is like having a wet towel around your body. It will feel uncomfortable and the moisture in it will cool rapidly if you take a break, which will make you cold and more susceptible to illness. Another advantage to base layers is their ability to block sunlight, and some even have basic insect repellent capabilities.
Expect to pay $20-$50 for a good base layer. They last for years if you wear them underneath you outer clothing. If the temperature is below 60 °F I rarely hike without a base layer.
I will write some more articles on other layers, but if you want more information here’s some good links on layering and base layers
REI – Layering Basics
I want one of these!
Now we’ve looked at shoes, let’s talk about the closest thing to your feet which are your socks. Choosing the wrong socks is a good way to get blisters and very smelly feet. Choosing the right socks or combination of socks will keep you comfortable on the trail all day. Hiking socks come in various levels of thickness. One trick I learned fairly early on was to wear a thin pair of sockliners and then put on a pair of thicker hicking socks over them. This was especially good in winter hikes to keep your feet extra warm and also is a good way of preventing blisters on those long hikes. Recently though I’ve started to use socks made of merino wool. I find they are just the right thickness and provide good support for my feet in all the right places.
When it comes to hiking gear, it’s probably best to start from the bottom and work up, so this first post is about choosing the right footwear. As usual, everything written here is pure opinion and always starts with “It depends”.
It’s your feet that will have the most contact with the environment so choosing good footwear is important. I have seen people hike in tennis shoes, dress shoes, trail shoes, boots, crocs, flip flops, toe shoes, river shoes, sandals, and even bare feet (a certain member of my family). You can choose whatever you want but for most of the hikes in the Atlantahikes.com range, trail shoes are probably your best bet. They will provide you with the following:
- Sturdiness – so your feet don’t feel every rock and root and your toes don’t break when you trip over something.
- Durability – most other shoes will fall victim to tough terrains fairly soon.
- Good traction – it won’t completely stop you from sliding on moss, wet rocks, or mud but it will sure help.
- Water resistance – a thick sole will keep the upper parts of the shoe above the average puddle and provide some measure of waterproofing,
- Arch support – you’ll need it, trust me.
- Ankle support – if you purchase the high top style.
- Breathability – useful for hiking long miles or in hot weather.
Purchasing your Shoes:
I recommend that you buy them retail rather than online, as getting comfortable and good fitting shoes are critical. When you go to try them on, make sure you wear the type of socks that you would wear while hiking. Socks to hike in can vary greatly in thickness so having the right socks on will make the fitting more accurate. Try on both shoes, not just one. Check the comfort level especially on the toes, ankles, arches and upper part of feet. Make sure the laces are strong and will allow you to tighten or loosen the shoes easily. Try bending your feet at different angles. Step up and down on a bench. REI has a small sloping platform which has rock features on it. This is great for feeling how the shoes work going up and down hills or walking on rocks.
You can spend anywhere from $30-150 on trail shoes. If you buy from REI, they have a good return policy. I returned a pair after I had worn them for 3 months.
Final note: if you plan on doing a lot of backpacking, I would recommend a pair of hiking boots for the ankle support.
I must admit that I do LIKE REI. Ok this is a shameless plug for you to support this site by clicking on the banner link below.
I like the fact that all their products are good quality. They are not cheap but there are times it’s worth paying for quality. When you are out on the trail, you want items that will do the task and not break on you when you need it most, so pay the extra money and get a quality item. Whether it’s clothing, utensils, equipment, maps, or books, REI has it all.
One big benefit is that if you are a member, which I highly recommend, then you get dividends which let you buy more REI stuff. The other big benefit of shopping at REI is their return policy. They take it back, no questions asked if you feel it didn’t perform the way you thought it would or it just didn’t fit right or heck, even if the color wasn’t cool. I don’t take advantage of them. I don’t return a product I have used for over a year on a regular basis but, even then, I’ve occasionally had a REI associate ask if I wanted to return it. My latest return was a pair of hiking shoes that caught my ankle as I climbed hills. It was ok on the flat but the hills caused my feet pain, let alone chest pain. So after 4 months I returned them and got another pair that more suited my needs. So shop REI for a worry free experience and know that what you depend on in the wilderness will work for you.
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