1. Make sure you have a decent pair of walking or hiking shoes. For short hikes a simple pair of Merrell or Vasque hiking shoes might be all you need. You’ve probably got a pair of tennis shoes that will work too, at least until you’ve gone a few times and figured out how far and how long your hikes will probably be. Some things to consider when it comes to footwear:
- What type of climate do you live in? Does it rain a lot? Are you likely to be crossing streams frequently? If so Gore-Tex shoes might be best since they will keep your feet drier than shoes without Gore-Tex. If you live in a hot, dry climate with lots of rocky and sandy areas (like the one picture above) then a shoe that allows for breathability might be better. Your feet won’t get sweaty and hot during hikes.
- How long do you plan to hike? If you are planning short hikes and you don’t plan to carry much more than water, snacks and a rain coat, you can probably choose a lighter hiking shoe. For longer hikes or backpacking you may want something with more durability and support like a hiking boot. You can talk to salespeople at your local outdoor stores and tell them what you’re goals are. They will be able to help you choose the right shoe.
2. Find a backpack. For dayhikes you will need just some basics: 2 liters of water, snacks, a raincoat or jacket (in case weather turns nasty), a map, phone and camera. You’ll still need a comfortable way to carry it all. You can see that we always have a backpack of some sort with us. We like Camelbak packs, but there are many other brands with similar features like a hydration bladder. These are great because they leave your hands free for holding trekking poles or scrambling over rocks.
3. Get a map! For our western travels we often use Latitude 40 maps, but your local outdoor retailer will probably have a selection of local ones available. Often they even have tables for you to spread out the maps and look them over before you purchase them. While you’re picking up a map you can also ask salespeople about their favorite local hikes. Of course trails and maps are available online as well but it’s always best to have a printed map with you, just in case.
4. If you can, find a hiking stick or get some trekking poles. You can even use an old ski pole if you want. Having something to help take the weight off of your knees on a steep downhill, or just to help you balance in a rock section, can do wonders for your hike! You can purchase poles from your local outdoor stores if you want.
4. Get out and go. The most important thing is just to get started. State and National Parks are great places to to begin exploring and those Free Parks days are awesome times to check out a park close to you. Because honestly, you never know where you might end up!