Hiking Gear 101: the mountains are calling, but what should I bring?
It’s been definitely winter for a few weeks now. Snowy, white, cold and simply beautiful; in short: no better time than the present to think of the upcoming season. I’m a mountain girl, always have been, always will be. My earliest memories are those of me climbing over rocks, scrambling up mountain sides in Wales and Scotland, running across the camp site in search of the nearest hiking trail.
To be honest, as a child I didn’t much care for equipment. Give me a pair of comfy shoes, shorts and a shirt and mini-me was off exploring. If you were to open my wardrobe now, you’d clearly see that my opinion has changed quite a lot: no suits, no high heels, no pretty dresses, but sports clothes and camping gear in abundance (hey, where else would you store your tent and camping stove if not at the bottom of your wardrobe?).
The biggest question of all is always what to buy, which brands to trust, what to spend your money on because, to be honest, good stuff has its price. There is no real answer to that as every person is different as are your expectations and needs in terms of equipment, depending on your level of fitness, goal and body.
My back for example is simply not made for Deuter backpacks, but I know loads of people who love them. I prefer Osprey, awesome brand, water-proof, ultralight and perfectly fitting my needs and slightly picky shoulders.
If it comes to hiking poles, it gets easier though: Leki! Always and without the shadow of a doubt, go for Leki. I got some for hiking in summer months, I got some for hiking in winter months. I got ultralight ones, my mom’s got the trekking version made for Sherpa-guided hikes in the Himalayas. Speaking of the Himalayas, it’s my dream to one day reach the Anapurna and Mount Everest basecamps on foot. I know I can do it, my bank account only needs to agree with that 😉
Ok, back to the matter at hand or feet: shoes! Again, it depends on your feet and also where and when you want to wear them. I used to buy leather boots for hiking since they were said to be everlasting. Well, I successfully managed to destroy my last pair by walking through a glacier river in the Alps… After that, I switched to GoreTex by Scarpa: 100% water-proof (tested in the same river, this time my feet came out toasty and dry), ideal for 35+ degrees Celsius in the summer and also -10 or more during the winter if combined with the right socks. You only have one pair of feet to last you a lifetime, so please splurge on the right shoes and socks.
In all honesty, I’m still looking for THE socks. In the meantime, I highly advocate for hiking socks by Falke. They come in different sizes for men and women, perfectly formed to match your lower ends.
From your lower to your top end, go for whichever hat suits you, just make sure you like the way you look on a photo, it’s selfie-time after all and you want to let all your friends know about your winter endeavours!
Scarves & Jackets
Speaking about winter, I never go anywhere without a scarf. You’ll see me wearing sports scarves even in summer and temperatures well above melting for the simple reason that they protect my throat and vocal cords. I’m a huge fan of loops by Buff: no getting stuck in your zipper, no being carried off in a gust of wind, no losing them when you wrestle with a rather stubborn tree that needs to be circumnavigated after a storm. A storm that tried to soak you to the bone as happened to me in Norway last year. I admit my jacket was not water-proof and I’m afraid there are no jackets that brace torrents and downpours.
However, Icewear/Norwear is a fantastic brand that provides you with gorgeous almost 100% water-proof jackets for the spring and fall. I mostly welcome a shower for free in the summer months. If you’re of a different mindset, you might want to search for CMP. They definitely protect you from water and wind, on both sides unfortunately though.
T-shirts & Sweaters
Not only should your jacket be robust, your tee and sweater should be as well. My favorite winter wear is produced by Ziener, awesome sweaters (and jackets) for skiing and hiking through the cold season. As soon as it gets warmer, I switch to sweaters by CMP. I don’t have a specific brand for shirts I favor; simple workout tanks by Nike or Adidas are great, as are the sports bras also by Adidas.
Right, let’s come full circle and concentrate on the last missing item: pants. Please do not wear jeans when hiking. They’re uncomfortable, they’re too tight and you’ll ruin them effectively as soon as you sit down in a patch of grass to enjoy a snack for lunch. I got an amazing pair by Vaude, 100% green materials, another one by McKinley which is also great, and a third and padded one for colder temps by Meru. Those are also the brands I would recommend. The light pants are ideal from late spring to early fall; they’ll keep you protected from the sun and insects because those tiny buggers live in abundance in exactly the same habitat you want to explore and will try to let you know exactly whose home you’re stamping through…
A home so utterly beautiful, it’d be a shame not to cherish, protect and discover it. A home as unique as each and every one of you. A home that has been, is and will hopefully be ours for a long while as well.
Go outside. Explore. Be a girl. And let the world know exactly what you stand for: WANDERLUST in every sense of the word!
By Explore like a Girl Contributor Anna K. Feige