Gear Information and What to Bring

Basic Dayhike Gear List


(See Further Below for More Detailed Information Plus Winter Specific Gear Tips)


1. (All seasons) Water
Bring water for every hike. You are responsible for your own water! CamelBaks or other brands of water "bladders" are a very worthwhile investment. During cold weather, you can keep the tube and mouthpiece from freezing by using an insulated tube.

2. (All seasons) Food and/or snacks
For you to eat while hiking on the trail depending on hike length. For hikes over 4 miles, bring something to snack on along the trail for energy. Suggested snacks are in the detailed section below.

3. (All seasons) Hiking Boots/Trail Shoes
Sneakers are great for our easy and easy-moderate hikes but hiking boots (Trail Shoes are fine for experienced hikers) are highly recommended, unless otherwise noted for anything beyond a moderate hike. REI has a great page on how to find the right trail shoe or hiking boot for you!

4. (All seasons) Daypacks (With or Without Bladder)
Click Here for Daypack suggestions that use bladders. A daypack is optional for shorter hikes, but a must for hikes over 4 miles. You simply MUST have a way transport water and, and if the hike is over 4 miles, snax. You cannot possibly carry enough food and water for a hike of 7 or more miles without a pack. In the winter, your pack is also used for "shedding" as you get warm and require less clothing i.e. your fleece or other outerwear - so you store it in your pack instead of trying to carry it. See the detailed gear section for more details on daypacks. Note : You do NOT have to have a Camelbak pack to use a hydration bladder. Here is a winter bladder that fits in almost any brand of daypack or backpack. I only switch to the insulated bladder and tube combo when temps drop below 25 or so. Otherwise, I just use a regular bladder, but switch out the tube with the insulated tube which takes less than a second.

5. Rain/Wind Gear
(Required for longer and all mountain hikes in the winter due to wind chill) but is optional for other seasons or shorter hikes) Click Here for Waterproof Rain Jackets can be nice- just in case - Personally, I enjoy getting wet in the warmer months and leave rain gear at home, so it is a personal choice to whether to use it in the warmer months. However, in the winter - Click Here to see Waterproof Rain Pants which are absolutely required, preferably Goretex to prevent getting hot, to hike with our group for safety reasons! Trust me that you do NOT want to hike in cold wet pants - especially jeans which can quickly cause your body temperature to drop to dangerous levels and force us to turn around! Further down on this page is more information than you could possibly want about what rain gear is and where to buy it etc. along with recommendations. There is a BIG difference between water resistant and water proof and you get what you pay for. Cheap rain gear equals a very hot hike due to lack of ventilation. I HIGHLY recommend investing in Goretex!

6. (All seasons) Hat
In summer a baseball cap will do) and, in the winter, consider a warmer hat, ear warmers or go all out with a Balaclava and, don't forget Gloves! These are the most confortable and warm gloves I have found yet.

7. (All Seasons) Sunscreen all 4 seasons and except for winter, bug spray.
If you forget sunscreen or bug spray, please ask your hike leader as we have extra but please don't take advantage. It is there in case you forget. There is no reason to ever go without these when hiking with our group!

8. (All Seasons) Eyewear
In the warmer months any sunglasses are fine. In the winter, it's nice to pair them with a balaclava and rap around sunglasses or if hiking high summits, goggles, in case of cold wind. Please save your eyes and wear sunglasses when hiking in the snow!

Detailed Information and Tips for ALL Seasons


Hiking Boots or Trail Shoes

Click Here for a fantastic guide
for finding the perfect trail shoe or hiking boot for you! Proper fit is the most important feature of a good hiking boot. Shop for them using the socks you intend to wear them with (see sock section below). Shop late in the day as people's feet swell naturally as the day wears on. The purpose is to make sure that your toes don't hit the front of the boot (ouch!) when walking downhill by trying them out on a ramp provided by the store or on a ramp in front of the store - very important! Finding a salesperson with real experience fitting hiking boots can be a real advantage such as those at REI, L.L. Bean, and Eastern Mountain Sports.

Breathability and waterproofness are both important. Membranes are designed into better hiking boots that keep your feet dry when walking in water (or snow) while allowing your feet to breath. The most famous fabric that accomplishes this is called Gore-Tex. This author highly recommends boots with a Gore-Tex membrane. A good pair of hiking boots should last much longer than an average pair of shoes or sneakers and this should (hopefully) justify the price of better boots.

Why not Wear Sneakers for Hiking?
Many people are happy in sneakers on hikes over easy terrain and paved paths. However, if you walk over anything but easy terrain and you will quickly realize the advantages of "real" hiking boots or trail shoes. The advantages include better support, comfort and stability when walking over anything but flat terrain (i.e. rocky and rooty terrain such as where our group hikes), protection from odd shaped rocks and roots on the trail bed and increased safety from injury. Once people experience the advantages of hiking boots, they are very glad they have bought them.

Water Bottles and Bladders
These come in many shapes and sizes. Some people prefer to buy a new bottle of bottled water every time they go hiking, some re-use an old bottle, but most people use a pack with a bladder such as a CamelBak which has a long plastic drinking straw and a bite valve, still others use a bottle that is meant to be used over and over again as a water bottle (i.e. a Nalgene bottle), and still others buy a bottle of their favorite beverage (avoid glass bottles!). NOTE: Keep in mind that unless your pack is specifically designed for it, you will have to take your pack off to get to your water, or have someone else get it for you unless you use a CamelBak type drinking system which is what I prefer. Water bladders have the advantage of convenience as the straw is always hanging near your mouth and you can drink without interrupting your hike or asking someone else to get in your pack and hand it to you. Many people tell me that they find they drink more frequently since it is so readily available.

Socks
The type of socks you wear with your hiking boots is critical to your comfort. Traditionally a thin liner sock made of polypropylene is worn next to your skin. A wool sock (various thickness for various seasons) is worn over this. Wearing two pairs of socks allows them to rub against each other and not your foot when your foot moves within the boot. Wear both of these (late in the day since feet swell as the day goes on) when you shop for hiking boots. In a pinch, you can wear a pair of "dress pant" socks under your wool or cotton sock and it will do the same thing and people won't see it-grin *A more expensive but great option is purchasing Smartwool products which are thinner and eliminate the need for a liner sock as it is an all in one solution.

Why these two socks? Your foot has more sweat pores per square inch than any other part of your body. Thin polypropylene based sock liners wick this moisture away from your skin and do not absorb moisture while doing this. The air pockets in a thick rag wool sock allow the moisture to evaporate. Rag wool socks cushion your foot against the laces and tongue of your boot as well as other parts of the boot and provides insulation in the winter AND summer heat. Wool also maintains its insulating properties while wet.

Daypack and Daypack Features
People carry all sorts of packs for dayhiking. In this section I will discuss some features I think are worth having or at least worth considering when purchasing a daypack. Most people carry packs for dayhiking that are between 1500 and 2500 cubic inches in volume. The most informative and and other great stuff comes from REI. Click here for this fantastic and most informative page.

A pack's hip belt serves a few important purposes. They include preventing the pack from swaying from side to side and away from your back when you are in other than a normal upright position. A good hip belt also allows you to carry part (or almost all) of the weight of the pack on your hips instead of your shoulders. The distribution of weight between you hips and shoulders can easily be varied by pulling or loosening the shoulder straps. Generally this allows the pack to hang off your back with only a small section resting against your hip area. It also allows air to circulate between the pack and your back which is much more comfortable as sweat then has a much better chance to evaporate if the pack is not leaning against your back all the time.

Trekking Poles (Optional)
There are generally two reasons that hikers use trekking poles, to "save" their knees by reducing the stress on them and for extra help in balancing.

Features to look for in trekking poles include an anti-shock system where the poles are spring loaded to reduce the harshness of their impact on your hand when the poles hit the ground as you walk, the ability to collapse (they usually have telescoping sections, either two or three) to a manageable size, and a positive angle grip (a 15-degree forward leaning grip which is thought to be ergonomically superior to a straight/upright grip). Other features to consider are lighter weight poles.

Food and Water
While no two people are the same, everyone needs to keep well hydrated (see hydration below to learn one way to tell if you are dehydrated) and filled with an appropriate amount of proteins, carbohydrates and fats in order to function normally. There are a multiple of factors (including temperature, humidity, terrain, body mass, pack weight, and fitness level) which figure into how much food and water you will need in order to avoid becoming less hydrated and energetic than when you start your hike. One rule of thumb (and it is only that!) is that in temperate climates with modest loads and on average terrain, that most people use 100 calories per mile and 100 calories per thousand feet gained. To allow a safety margin, the author recommends always carrying more food and water than you expect to use.

There are many choices of food to bring on a hike. Many times we see hikers eating carrots and other fine vegetables on hikes. While these vegetables may be quite healthy, they contain far too few calories to fuel a hiker on a long hike. One factor to consider is if the food you wish to bring will spoil in the weather you are hiking in. Common foods brought on a day hike include various "power" bars, bagels, "gorp", peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, fruit, and chocolate chip cookies.

How to Layer


Layering
What is this? - Dress like an onion! In colder weather months and in inclement weather more than a simple cotton T-shirt is necessary and cotton kills! The conventional wisdom is to have a non-cotton base layer against your skin. Above this, according to temperature, needs to be insulating materials. The better ones are made of fleece and wool. Both do a great job of insulating. The final layer is called a "shell" and may be a combination of wind resistant and/or wind proof and/or water resistant and/or water proof. The concept is pretty simple, if you get too warm you shed some layers and if you get too cold you put them back on. As you take layers on and off they store in your pack. I prefer hiking in the winter since I can control my comfort level so much easier then when it is hot.

Better shells are breathable so that you do not soak in your own sweat. The best known breathable and wind and water proof shells are made with Gore-Tex membranes. Non-Cotton fabrics (think Under Armour) can save your life in winter and can greatly increase your comfort in warmer weather. They generally absorb very, very little moisture. In colder weather, a cotton T-shirt, when wet from moisture or rain, will lose all insulating properties and cause you to shiver. Cotton clothing also takes a long time to dry. During warmer weather months, these garments are more comfortable because they will absorb much less perspiration than cotton.

Non-cotton base layers can cost much more than plain cotton based garments but they generally last a very long time as they are generally much stronger than cotton and again the motto for cold weather hiking is that cotton kills. Non-cotton base layers are also lighter in weight than equivalent legacy fabric garments. These garments are generally most effective when worn somewhat tightly against your skin as in most cases it is their movement against your skin that helps them wick moisture away from it.

Winter Hiking Additions


For winter hiking, I like to wear a layer of long underwear (no cotton of course!) and I prefer to wear the heavy expedition weight on my lower body since my legs get cold so easy and over that I only wear waterproof Gortex pants and that takes care of my lower body except in case of extreme cold I pack a pair of fleece pants just in case. For my upper body, a soft shell or a fleece depending on the weather. I always take a waterproof waterproof Gortex jacket in my pack in case of foul weather. Always wear thick, winter-weight (non cotton) socks and sock liners if not using SmartWool or other blend. I always wear SmartWool socks so I don't have to worry about blisters or double socking. Your toes are the first place you’ll feel cold. Also, it is a good idea to have and an extra pair of socks in your pack if for some reason they get wet. It’s also a good idea to have two layers of gloves or mittens, one for insulation and one for waterproofing. An outfit like this will keep you dry in case of precipitation and warm when you reach an exposed area. Lastly, a pair of gaiters (for snow) and hiking boots! In case we run across a slippery area, in the winter, I ALWAYS have a pair of Katoola MICOspikes for traction, in my pack (and car glovebox). Traction gear is required for winter hiking in the mountains or if otherwise posted where ice may be encountered. As for hydration, the only change I make is when it drops to below freezing, I swap out my regular hydration tube with an insolated tube to keep water from freezing in the tube. You can also blow the water back into the bladder, but I tend to forget and firmly believe the insolated tube is a good investment since it also keeps my water cool during the dog days of summer.

STABILicers Originals or other type of traction gear for traction on icy or snowy trails, waterproof pants and jacket, waterproof boots, an insulated jacket, a lightweight backpack, hiking poles/stick (this can be a stick you find on the trail but helps you balance on rough terrain, snow or ice), hats/gloves, and for windy cold condition you want to have a balaclava and wrap-around sunglasses. While it’s tempting to take the cheap route and get sub-par gear, I recommend looking for end-of-season sales and coupons instead. Look at www.llbean.com or www.backcountryoutlet.com for closeout items. It can be expensive when you’re getting started, but most of the gear you pick up can be useful in the summer season as well.

* (Winter Hiking) Traction Gear
So we can enjoy hiking all four seasons, it is important to have traction gear for when and if we encounter ice on the trail. A couple of brands I personally highly recommend are Stabilicers Originals and Kahtoola MICROspikes (but I highly discourage traction gear that uses springs on the bottom) Traction gear is mandatory for winter hiking in case we hit slippery spots for everyone's safety. Ever try walking up or down even a small elevation on ice? These fix that problem and will keep the entire group from having to turn around in case we come across ice. [bThese are also useful for walking the dog, walks, getting the mail, etc. when it is icy so you can use them for many different activities as well as hiking as an added bonus.

* (Cold weather only) Non-cotton base layer
Polypropylene or the equivalent (the phrase "cotton kills" applies in cold weather). For shorter hikes jeans are fine, but, you can even find very inexpensive fleece pants. Please consider purchasing a non-cotton set of long underwear. They come in light/silkweight (silkweight is for wicking but does not provide much warmth, midweight for warmth, and expedition weight for much warmth if you get cold easily like I do (I would not hike in the winter if it were not for expedition weight poly long underwear! All of these will wick away sweat to your outer layers. Sweat can kill on the trail if we have to stop for some reason as your sweat will get cold quickly and drop your body temperature. It can even freeze.

* (Deep Snow Hikes Only)
You must have a pair of Gaiters,or the like, to hike in deep snow to prevent snow from entering your boots and causing frostbite. Information regarding gaiters can be found in the detailed gear section on this page.

Table of Contents

Page title Most recent update Last edited by
Leave No Trace Hiking November 22, 2014 1:30 PM Kellie C.
Hiking and Trail Etiquette July 2, 2013 1:17 PM Kellie C.
Gear Information and What to Bring July 2, 2013 1:14 PM Kellie C.
Fees and Refunds Information October 9, 2014 5:37 AM Kellie C.
About Mid-Atlantic Hiking Group September 10, 2014 12:53 PM Kellie C.

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