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Gear

By: Monika Szumski

It’s the end of weekend and you’re preparing yourself for the work week ahead. But your mind is running a mile a minute after having had lunch with Sam, who shared their incredible experience with you on their vacation up in the mountains. There was a certain glow to them, a weirdly infectious excitement as they moaned about the crazy elevation and laughed in the face of long mileage days, sharing their hilarious gear failures and an embarrassing moment that may or may not have involved a bear and pants around the ankles.

Now I know what you must be thinking right off the bat – this is fun?! Let’s be more specific. You could call this “type two fun” – which, according to REI Co-Op’s blogger Kelly Cordes, is “miserable while it’s happening, but fun in retrospect. It usually begins with the best intentions, and then things get carried away.”  That’s how the outdoors hook you in. You go for a short, local day hike with friends and next thing you know? You’re sitting with a pile of maps in the corner of a darkly lit room, laughing maniacally to yourself while sticking pushpins into the topography to mark your 27.5 mile backpacking route.

But… back up. How do we get there? Where do we start? We hear about these wicked adventures and jump to Uncle Google, seeking answers …only to be met with “about 317,000,000 results (0.63 seconds)”. Great.

I present… Exhibit A.
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Fear not! We’re going to go on this journey together and hit on the ten essentials of hiking plus some key items that will take you anywhere from the local parks to some of those big and beautiful mountains out in the world that you’ve been eyeing while buzzing through Instagram, Facebook, and the like.

Feet First

We are diving in feet first! Why? Because at the end of the day, you could have the most lightweight, amazing, multi-functional gear known to the 21st century but if your feet ain’t happy, you certainly won’t be.

So what are we looking for in our footwear?

  • Space for your toes
    • Your feet will swell as the day wears on.
      Your little piggies will thank you for the extra space.
  • Heel secure and locked into place
    • Constant rubbing in the back of the heel is a blister’s best friend! Blisters are not our friends (sorry, not sorry).
  • Comfortable fit and cushion as needed
    • Happy feet = happy hiker.

Bare bones, these three points are the key to finding the right hiker for you. Other questions will arise, such as –
“Waterproof or non-waterproof? Mid-ankle coverage or low, sneaker-like coverage? Hiker or trail runner?”
These answers will depend on the adventure ahead and what your needs are personally. Remember, everyone is different. Hike your own hike.

More and more, companies are creating versatile options that can fit a few needs into one great product. Great options for the budget AND for indecision when being asked to sacrifice one thing for another.
Enter stage left, the Zion.
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Built on a trail running platform for a sneaker fit, this hiker has a ballistic mesh & durable leather upper, and Vibram® Megagrip® outsole for aggressive grip on every terrain.

In simpler terms? A lot of tech with multiple uses. The rigidity of this hiker provides support to the feet for longer trips involving a heavier pack but is also lightweight enough to be a great addition to your day hiking escapades. The sticky rubber will keep you rockin’ and rollin’ on wet and dry rocks, the cushion will make you reminisce about your kicks back home, and with a durable upper material, you can be sure to get great longevity out of these.

The 10 Essentials

You’ll hear this thrown around a lot in the hiking community. “Make sure to bring your 10 essentials!”

At the end of the day, being in the woods does pose a small risk. It is important to be prepared in the face of a stressful scenario but there is no need to carry a small village on your back to do so. Without further adieu,

      1. Map
        • Technology has really gone above and beyond. That being said. It CAN fail. And it’s better to be prepared that it WILL fail.
          Be sure to bring a paper map with you, in addition to any hiking apps you may be using. You never know when your phone will decide to bump from 77% to 5% battery life in the span of a second.
      2. Compass
        • Sometimes maps can be confusing. And then you realize about 2 hours in that you can’t figure out where you are in between all the squiggles, dots and squeegees. But knowing which direction the parking lot is in is a game changer. On top of having one of these bad boys in your pack, please consider taking an orienting class at a local retailer or online. Confidence and familiarity of gear of any size will only make the experience more enjoyable.
      3. Sunglasses and sunscreen
        • This applies for folks other than vampires, believe it or not. It’s nice not to go blind on a sunny day or become a living hot tamale from sun exposure.
      4. Headlamp or flashlight and extra batteries
        • You never know when you’ll come across a cave while on trail! But you certainly can bet that at one point in your hiking career you’ll find yourself in the woods, looking up to see the colors of sunset paint the skies. Having something to illuminate your way other than your phone will be a godsend – headlamps and flashlights are designed to cover more distance and tend to have a much stronger beam to illuminate the way. Just keep this in your pack all the time – never take it out.
      5. First-aid supplies
        • You don’t need to go full EMT while out in the woods. Having the basic essentials for a first aid kit is incredibly valuable, for your sake of mind and others. Think – band-aids, antibacterial ointment, gauze, antiseptic wipes, ibuprofen, moleskin/medical tape/duct tape for blisters, antihistamines for allergic reactions and tweezers. You can create your own or purchase a pre-made kit – there are endless opportunities.
      6. Firestarter
        • Warmth is key. Fire is warmth. Be sure to have something stored away that won’t get wet in case you need to hunker down somewhere and start a fire to bring your body temperature up, cook, dry out clothes, or all of the above and more.
      7. Matches and/or stove
        • See #6.
      8. Knife
        • Do you need to create a shelter? Spear some fish? Cut an apple? A knife would do well in all of these situations. What’s even handier? Getting one of those Swiss Army knife tools. With all of those options, you could even end up creating your own village, rather than feeling like you need to carry it in.
      9. Extra food/sufficient water
        • Having energy on trail is vital. It’s better to carry a little extra rather than not enough. This could be the difference between being comfortable on the last 2 miles of a trail compared to having a difficult time making decisions as exhaustion presses down on your depleted resources.
      10. Extra clothing
        • Mother Nature is beautiful. Mother Nature also can have quite the fickle mind. One moment you’re in 78-degree weather with sunny skies, and the next, the sky has turned an ominous gray and the wind is threatening to launch you up into that 80-foot pine tree nearby while pelting you with rain droplets the size of a fist. Clothing is a close second to footwear. Being able to maintain your body temperature in a sustainable range will be what keeps you going for many more days to come.

Clothing/Accessories

Clothing deserves a little more focus, being second and all.

Carrying a pack to fit all your items in will give you free arm space to wave them around like they just don’t care when a bear or good friend appears on the trail. When going on day hikes, it’s safe to say that you can plan on using a bag that is 22L large at most and this Crested 16L Daypack is the perfect in-between for your shorter day adventures. This guy will fit your trekking poles, a 3L bladder, rain cover and more! Friendly note – as you increase mileage, you’ll want to consider increasing the size of the pack.

Now, what to actually wear? Remember that comfort comes first. And comfort often comes in the form of tech. Any old t-shirt won’t cut it.
Layers layers layers! Channel your inner party dip!

      • Shirt
        • This is your base layer. It should ALWAYS be moisture wicking. Remember the saying – cotton kills. Cotton will absorb your sweat and stay wet so be sure to stick to polyester blends or wool that dry out much faster and don’t feel as wet, even if they are.
        • Suggestion: Merrell’s Tencel Short Sleeve Tee with drirelease fabric is a polyester blend, moisture wicking, and anti-odor with a UPF of 30 – Women’s and Men’s.
      • Midlayer
        • We’re leveling up like in Super Mario! Cooler temperatures, here we come. The midlayer’s purpose is warmth and insulation.
        • Suggestion: Merrell’s Flux Lightweight Hybrid 1/4 Zip Fleece is a super-soft polyester brushed fleece with abrasion resistant fabric on the shoulders and stretch binding at the hem and cuffs for a comfortable fit – Women’s and Men’s.
      • Jacket and/or Wind/Rainshell
        • This is the final upper layer, the piece de resistance. A jacket focuses on warmth while your wind/rainshell keeps you protected from the elements. A shell will not always have insulation so keep this in mind when perusing through product. Sometimes it’s nice to have two separate items so if you start hiking too hot or cold, you can add/remove the jacket but still keep the shell in place.
        • Jacket Suggestion: Merrell’s Ridgevent Thermo Jacket is one of the most insulated, breathable jackets with back baffles, a water repellant finish, and a mixture of responsibly sourced goose feathers and Primaloft synthetic fibers – Women’s and Men’s.
        • Shell Suggestion: Merrell’s Fallon 4.0 Jacket is made of 100% nylon ripstop and is waterproof, fully seam sealed, has underarm zip ventilation and two point hood adjustment – Women’s and Men’s.
          *This jacket comes in an insulated version as well!
      • Bottoms
        • Everyone appreciates pants, particularly pants that are durable and can handle the scratching, bumping and bruising that comes with venturing into various terrains.
        • Suggestion: Merrell’s Entrada II Woven Pants are abrasion-resistant, Teflon coated for wind, water and soil resistance, with open hand and back pockets for stashing those snacks! – Women’s and Men’s.
      • Socks
        • With great cushion, comes great responsibility. It’s important to find a pair of moisture wicking socks (remember, no cotton!) that will keep your feet dry and happy (and be sure to pack an extra pair to swap out for a sigh of relief while on a long and/or wet day).
        • Suggestion: You can find a wide selection of sock types on Merrell’s website ranging from lightweight, no-show trail runners all the way down to your heavier crew socks for those fabulous Zion hiking boots.
          Women’s and Men’s.

And that’s a wrap! Be free, beautiful cherubs, and go enjoy the beauty that is nature! May you find everything you are looking for (and maybe things you aren’t as well). Explore those off-the-beaten-path trails!
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Anything else you like to include in your pack that wasn’t covered here? Have a favorite Merrell product you’d recommend? We want to hear from you – drop a comment below!

Monika Szumski
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