From a well-fitting pack to sturdy hiking boots and moisture-wicking socks, gear that fits you well and provides support can transform a strenuous hike into a successful one. It also makes your preparation and effort all the more worthwhile because you’ll be able to enjoy the scenery and focus on the miles ahead. To help you figure out what gear best suits your needs, this comprehensive guide details basic gear necessities, as well as gear-related tricks and tips for your adventure.
Basic Gear Necessities
While most gear guides are organized from “best to okay” or “most important to least important,” our guide starts with expensive items you may already own and progresses to smaller, more affordable pieces you can tailor to fit your needs.
- Hiking boots
- Water-resistant jacket
- Insulating mid-layer
- 200-350 lumens headlamp
- Polarized sunglasses
- Comfortable bottoms
- First aid kit
- Emergency kit
- Moisture-wicking baselayer
- 2.5-liter hydration bladder
- 32-ounce packable water bottle
- Merino wool socks
- Waterproof or digital map
- Anti-chafing salve
- 50 SPF sunscreen
Tricks and Tips You’ll Be Glad You Knew
- Use Your Gear Before You Go: As you prep and train for your big hike, wear and use your gear beforehand. This break-in period ensures your gear has proper fit and the support you’ll need as you tackle long distances.
- Don’t Rely on Cell Service: When you’re trekking in the alpine, cell signal is limited so you shouldn’t rely on your phone to provide up-to-date maps or weather information. Instead bring a compass and map, download or take a screenshot of relevant maps, check the forecast, and tell someone where you’re going and when you plan to return.
- Avoid Cotton: As you trek through steep terrain, you’re going to sweat and once cotton becomes saturated with perspiration, it will immediately chill you to the core. This can be extremely dangerous, especially in alpine conditions where the weather can change rapidly. Also, a cold core will lower your body temperature and make you vulnerable to on-trail ailments like hypothermia. So, try a plush polyester blend instead. It wicks moisture away from the body and is quick drying so you stay comfortable throughout the hike.
- Knots and Lacing: There are four lacing systems you should be familiar with before you take to the trails: 1) The marathon lace 2) the overhand knot 3) the surgeon’s knot, and 4) the square knot. Any of these four suggestions will help alleviate pressure and lock your heel into place to prevent blisters.
- Packing Your Bag: When it comes time to pack, think in terms of layers. On the bottom you’ll store items you likely won’t need until the very end (or summit) of the hike. In the middle, store pieces like your insulated midlayer and keep necessities, such as food or a jacket, at the top. Your first aid kit, sunscreen, and headlamp ought to be kept in the accessory pockets.
- Food and Snacks: Make sure you pack food that’s equal parts filling, tasty, and comforting. Quick high-calorie snacks like granola bars can boost your energy level. Other options like baby carrots, apples, clementines, and Medjool dates are easy to pack, while nut mixes can be modified to your taste buds and eaten by the handful. Packing a lunch is a great way to take in the summit and fuel up for the hike back, so bring along a couple of your favorite sandwiches and enjoy the view at the top.
- Bring Plenty of Water: Before you leave the car and throughout your hike, drink water even when you’re not thirsty. Dehydration sets in quickly and is extremely dangerous. You’ll want to fill at least a 2.5-liter hydration bladder and 32-ounce water bottle for safe measure, and have a backup in the car for when you’re done. Hydration tablets or electrolyte mixes can help your body rebound as you tackle a fourteener, but regardless—make sure you drink enough water.
Tricks to Buying the Right Gear
- Daypack: A backpack with a 21-to 30-liter capacity will carry more than you need for a day hike, but keep in mind you’ll be carrying this pack up a steep mountain. Recommended features are as follows: hydration sleeve, adjustable suspension system to ensure a comfortable fit, and a hip belt to transfer the load from your shoulders. If you’re unsure where to start, try visiting your local gear shop and chat with an associate about daypacks, as well as pack fitting.
- Hiking Boots: Resist the temptation to hike in your sneakers—hiking boots provide the traction, support, and stability that are essential for hiking a mountain. Your feet will swell as you hike, so it’s important that your hiking boot comfortably accommodates the width of your foot. You’ll also want to look for footwear with a stiff midsole and rock plate to promote support and stability over long miles, while a rugged tread with multi-directional lugs ensures you proper traction on the trail. Some hikers prefer highs, mids, or lows—so the choice is yours, but keep in mind how much ankle support you’ll want as you uptick the miles.
Staff Favorite: Chameleon 7
Sunglasses: Alpine sun is extremely intense and can permanently damage your eyes. You’ll want polarized lenses that protect your eyes from the sun’s harmful UV rays and reduce glare to prevent eye fatigue.
- Jackets: Protect yourself from wind, rain, and cooler temperatures with the help of a lightweight, packable coat. Make sure whatever you bring has a durable water-resistant coating to safeguard you against unexpected weather.
Staff Favorite: Fallon Jacket 3.0
- Mid-Layer: Weather in the alpine can change at any time. And while a water-resistant jacket will help protect you against wet conditions, you’ll also want to keep your core warm with an insulated mid-layer. Synthetic and wool insulation is designed to keep warm even when wet, but a lightweight down-filled jacket will provide more warmth and fit into your backpack more easily.
Staff Favorite: Paradox Long-Sleeve Tech Tee
Your gear is built to make memories that last a lifetime. So at the end of the day, it’s not about having the latest and trendiest gear: it’s about having quality, lasting products that keep you comfortable, blister-free, and well protected against inclement elements and tough terrain as you hike your first fourteener.