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What does a newbie hiker need?


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#1 slr1765

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Posted 13 August 2017 - 11:34 AM

A backpack for water and other essentials, right? The only hiking I've done is here in Florida where everything is flat and when the weather has been mild. As long as I had pants on for protection from anything that might be lurking in the brush, I was a happy hiker.

 

Now I'm expanding my horizons to the northern states where inclines will come into play. Does that make hiking shoes a must? What about a trekking stick? Actually a trekking stick wouldn't be a bad idea for my Florida hikes to help ward off any unwanted critters that might wander in my way.

 

So, I would appreciate any advice you more seasoned hikers have to offer. Thanks!



#2 Jen500

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Posted 13 August 2017 - 11:47 AM

I always wear hiking boots, but my kids just wear their sneakers.

Water

extra water

snacks, extra food

sunscreen

lightweight jacket

trail map

small first aid kit

tp

sunscreen

bug spray


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#3 regentrude

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Posted 13 August 2017 - 11:48 AM

Shoes depend on the terrain. I know people who hike in sneakers, and that is probably OK if you hike only on established trails with gentle surfaces and are not prone to twisting ankles. I personally do not find that tennis shoes provide good traction on rock, nor adequate stability in scree, boulders, or snow. I use light low cut hiking shoes for trails, and higher boots for scree and serious mountains.

 

Trecking poles can be helpful in steep terrain and when carrying heavy loads; they are unnecessary when it is flat or just gently sloped, and they become a hindrance as soon as you need your hands to scramble.


Edited by regentrude, 13 August 2017 - 11:52 AM.

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#4 regentrude

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Posted 13 August 2017 - 11:49 AM

Aside from shoes, THE most important thing to have is a map, and to know how to read it. A GPS can be helpful if hiking remotely or off trail; it is unnecessary on well marked trails in highly traveled locations such as your average state park.

 

We always carry for day hikes: water, food, extra sweater/rain coat depending on forecast, map/GPS, first aid kit.

For long hikes and difficult terrain, and whenever there is a chance to get caught by the dark, a flash light.

 

 

 


Edited by regentrude, 13 August 2017 - 11:51 AM.

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#5 Mama Geek

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Posted 13 August 2017 - 11:49 AM

If you are hiking in the north east make sure your bug spray has deet.  Ticks and lyme are a problem.


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#6 HomeAgain

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Posted 13 August 2017 - 12:04 PM

We have a hiking stick.  It never gets used.  If I'm doing day hikes I keep it pretty lowkey:

 

Compass (and preferably an orienteering class)

Extra food (I take Lara bars, trail mix, and oranges)

Water

A Life Straw for longer hikes.  I may not always find a clean water source and I only carry 3 liters.

Toilet paper.  Even if there are bathrooms available, they often don't have tp.

Sunscreen, bugspray, chapstick.

Backpack with a chest and waist strap.  I refuse to hike without one.


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#7 okbud

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Posted 13 August 2017 - 12:13 PM

A whistle, really good socks and a bandana. And first aid kit
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#8 CadenceSophia

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Posted 13 August 2017 - 12:19 PM

Good socks and an extra pair for the backpack. Google lists of the 10 essentials and think about which option for each item would be most useful where you are going.
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#9 Laurie4b

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Posted 13 August 2017 - 12:51 PM

I wear shoes made for running trails. I don't usually run trails, but the shoes have good traction and are structured  to support your foot given roots, rocks, and other things typical on a trail. I hike only maintained trails. I haven't felt the need for hiking boots yet, but I don't do advanced or technical trails. They work fine on moderate trails and most strenuous trails in the Appalacians. 

 

Ds has prepped and carries the whole survival kit. I'll have to get him to put one together for me when he goes to college. It's like Mary Poppin's bag. Anything  you need is in his bag. I know it contains a first aid kit, flashlight, knife, waterproof matches, and a lot more I've never seen. :) 


Edited by Laurie4b, 13 August 2017 - 12:52 PM.

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#10 Gr8lander

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Posted 13 August 2017 - 02:06 PM

Even in the northern states, conditions on hiking trails (and what people consider "hiking" can vary considerably. What you need really depends on the conditions on any given trail.

 

I hike almost daily here in Alaska, often up steep mountain trails. Sometimes I'm just wearing Keen sandals and carrying nothing. :-) But for some trails, you really need shoes with traction, like boots (esp if you require ankle support) or trail runners. I never use a hiking stick, but some people swear by them. I've been taking the Great Dane along frequently this summer, and bears have been particularly numerous, so dog poop bags, bear spray, and an air horn have been attached to my small pack. Honestly, I rarely carry water or snacks (water for the dog is typically plentiful in streams along trails here), but taking those is probably a good idea. A first aid kit is probably a good idea, but, again, I rarely have anything like that with me.

 

Editing to add that I do tend to have a jacket with me. I usually start out wearing it, and may tie it around my waist later. It's typically waterproof or resistant. If I am concerned about chill, I'll bring additional layers. Just depends.


Edited by Gr8lander, 13 August 2017 - 02:09 PM.

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#11 regentrude

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Posted 13 August 2017 - 02:11 PM

Honestly, I rarely carry water or snacks (water for the dog is typically plentiful in streams along trails here), 

 

Curious: do you carry a filter/lifestraw? Or do you drink the stream water unfiltered? Is that safe in Alaska? No Giardia?


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#12 Jane in NC

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Posted 13 August 2017 - 02:18 PM

Regarding trekking poles: I prefer to use two but some people like a single or a hiking staff. This seems to be a matter of personal preference, maybe knee condition? In my case I find two poles allow me to be a more efficient walker. My husband only uses poles on downward slopes though.
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#13 Rach

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Posted 13 August 2017 - 02:20 PM

I like trekking poles (2), look up how to use them properly on YouTube. Once I learned how to use the correctly, if made a huge difference in hiking a long distance.

I always carry at a minimum water, snacks, compass, and whistle. I generally have more than that with me though.

I have hiking boots and trail runners. I have found that except on muddy trails, I prefer the trail runners. This depends of course on the trail and the distance you are going.
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#14 Laura Corin

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Posted 13 August 2017 - 04:24 PM

I always carry a bivvy bag per person except on the shortest hikes where there is an actual track.  I went on a map reading course run by a mountain rescue volunteer.  Her first call out after training was to a couple who went on a moderate hike in the Highlands of Scotland, got lost, couldn't make contact and had to stay out all night.  They had only one bivvy bag, which the woman used.  She survived and he didn't.  


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#15 thessa516

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Posted 13 August 2017 - 05:58 PM

Really depends on where you are hiking, but I'd say everything Jen500 said, plus great socks and an extra pair in your bag. Also, I don't leave home without my rain jacket (it's super light and packs up easily).

 

I almost always hike with two poles. It makes a huge difference for me, especially on downhills, and it saves my knees.


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#16 Laurel-in-CA

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Posted 13 August 2017 - 06:05 PM

I would add: Sun hat and a bandana I can wet for my neck. Ace bandage or other kind of wrap.


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#17 gardenmom5

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Posted 13 August 2017 - 07:23 PM

how long of a hike?  a couple hours?  10 hours?

 

hiking boots depends upon the terrain.  if it's very rugged - they will be better than good athletic shoes.

good socks either way.  

 

if you're somewhere with changeable weather - a poncho, a fleece pull-over.  layers are better for temperature changes.

 

first aid kit

 

a map of the trails in the area you're hiking.

 

poles are nice - especially in rugged terrain.   - I'm about ready to go buy a pair.

 

wide brim hat

 

there are lists of "essentials" that you should always have with you for any hike.

https://www.rei.com/...essentials.html

 

 


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#18 CadenceSophia

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Posted 13 August 2017 - 07:49 PM

Curious: do you carry a filter/lifestraw? Or do you drink the stream water unfiltered? Is that safe in Alaska? No Giardia?


We do have giardia here.


Personally, on a short hike, I just carry water purification tablets my first aid kit as I don't expect to run out of water. If it is worth the weight (multi-day/multi-person/remote area) I have a katadyn filter.
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#19 Gr8lander

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Posted 13 August 2017 - 07:53 PM

Curious: do you carry a filter/lifestraw? Or do you drink the stream water unfiltered? Is that safe in Alaska? No Giardia?

 

I just don't drink a whole lot typically, so if I'm only going to be gone for a few hours, I don't carry either. For a longer hike with if-ier conditions, I'd carry water. I do know people who carry water filters in some form. The long distance mountain racers here who travel light may risk just drinking from a stream. There is giardia, though possibly less contamination than some other parts of the country, depending on location.



#20 myfunnybunch

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Posted 13 August 2017 - 08:41 PM

For a shorter hike when we'll be out for only 4-5 miles, I carry a water bottle and my phone. We sunscreen before we leave the car, and I keep snacks/picnic in a cooler in the car.

If it's longer than 5 miles or we're planning on stopping to swim/snack, I carry a light daypack with snacks and extra water or my life straw water bottle. I've always got bandaids and bee sting capsules in the bag. Mosquito repellent and sunscreen if I think we'll need them. I just take a pic of the map/hiking directions with my phone so I don't have to carry the map or book.

I have Keens hiking sandals for most day trips, and a light hiking shoe for overnights or longer hikes.

I often wear a swim tank and swim bottoms with a hiking skirt so if we decide to swim, I just take the skirt off, dry in the sun a bit, and put it back on for the hike out. Sun hat if I think of it, and I tie a light jacket around my waist.
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#21 regentrude

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Posted 13 August 2017 - 08:47 PM

We do have giardia here.

Personally, on a short hike, I just carry water purification tablets my first aid kit as I don't expect to run out of water. If it is worth the weight (multi-day/multi-person/remote area) I have a katadyn filter.

 

I do that too. For day hikes that are not in the desert, I carry water and have the tablets in the first aid kit for emergencies. But now I have one of the small filters, similar to life straw, and that always lives in the backpack.

 

For longer hikes where we anticipate drinking a lot more than we want to carry, and for backpacks, we pack a katadyn filter.

 

Giardia is evil. But I would drink from a stream if I were in danger of dying, and rather live and deal with treating the giardia when I am back in civilization. 



#22 KungFuPanda

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Posted 13 August 2017 - 08:55 PM

Just water and comfortable shoes for a while. I wouldn't buy more until I was sure this would be a regular pastime. If you get really into it and start doing longer hikes on tougher terrain, hiking boots and a water backpack with snacks would be nice. I wouldn't bother with first aid kits, extra socks, decent nutrition, and a buddy unless I was planning to be out all day.
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#23 regentrude

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Posted 13 August 2017 - 09:04 PM

Just water and comfortable shoes for a while. I wouldn't buy more until I was sure this would be a regular pastime. If you get really into it and start doing longer hikes on tougher terrain, hiking boots and a water backpack with snacks would be nice. I wouldn't bother with first aid kits, extra socks, decent nutrition, and a buddy unless I was planning to be out all day.

 

I agree on not bothering with extra socks (never carry any), buddy and decent nutrition - but a few bandaids, some neosporin and some painkillers take up very little space and can make a big difference even on a short hike.

 

I am an experienced hiker. I had very few accidents. But on a recent hike of only a few hours I slipped, instinctively tried to break the fall with my hands - and placed my right hand directly onto a yucca plant and cut several fingers. Oh, it was really nice to have bandaids.


Edited by regentrude, 13 August 2017 - 09:04 PM.

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#24 Dust

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Posted 13 August 2017 - 09:34 PM

And a whistle. 

 

I second the trekking poles and watch youtube videos to learn how to use them (makes a big difference).


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#25 Patty Joanna

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Posted 13 August 2017 - 09:49 PM

If I were just starting out I would look at the Boy Scouts 10 Essentials, have good ankle support boots (about $120 max and I paid a lot less by getting them on sale), and a ventilated lightweight backpack.  I hate getting all sweaty on my back.  The backpack holds the 10 essentials (minus a couple because I am totally a fair weather hiker), a lightweight jacket, my other lens for my DSLR and my water bottle.  Sometimes I slap a CamelBack in there.

 

Have a great time!

 


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#26 Amy in NH

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Posted 13 August 2017 - 09:53 PM

We keep backpacks stocked with minimal hiking supplies:
Compass
Whistle
Brightly coloured bandana
Plastic poncho
Small first aid kit
Flashlight
Dry instant oatmeal pack
Tissues or toilet paper
Water bottles
Waterproof matches and tinder

More advanced gear in lead pack:
Rope
Camp shovel
Larger first aid kit

We usually throw in a hat and fleece or wind breaker depending on where we're going. And we pack meals for whatever time we expect to be gone. The oatmeal is for emergency energy.

SO many people get lost or have an unexpected injury in the woods here in the White Mountains. There is practically a rescue every week, and most people rescued do not have basic hiking essentials with them. We read about them in the local newspaper all the time. One of my kids did a Hike Safe poster for 4-H, and we added 6 months worth of newspaper stories to it - crazy numbers.

Edited by Amy in NH, 13 August 2017 - 09:54 PM.

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#27 Homeschool Mom in AZ

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Posted 13 August 2017 - 11:56 PM

Good hiking shoes.  I prefer trail runners.  You get the flexibility and breatheability of an athletic shoe and the tread of hiking boots.


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#28 Carol in Cal.

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Posted 14 August 2017 - 02:44 AM

On the Pacific Crest Trail, most of the through hikers wear train runners--Brooks Cascadia have been the most popular ones for a while, specifically the non-waterproof ones so your feet don't get too hot.  Waiters are good to keepdirt out of your shoes and help with tick prevention.

 

I like to have a really good hat along, one with a wide brim that keeps the sun off my face.

 

A little tube of sunscreen is a must, although I try to always apply enough before embarking.

 

I used to have a crank flashlight that was wonderful if you got caught out in the dark or dusk, but don't have that anymore.  The new ones are bigger and heavier, with a solar power feature that I would prefer not to mess with.  I should probably carry a small LED flashlight with batteries until 'they' wise up and start making the crank flashlights again.

 

I carry water and on more extended hikes a Lifestraw.  I recently got a Sawyer miniature water purification pump that I am very excited about, but have not had a chance to use it yet.  It's extremely light and filters out protozoa as well as bacteria.  For a day hike I carry those Bonbel minicheeses in a plastic bag, and also some granola bars.  I usually carry a rain poncho as well.  I am very aware that I might get caught out all night, and in the months when the nights are cold I carry a space blanket and extra socks as well.  Also I carry a couple of plastic bags.  These come in handy for all kinds of things, but notably if your feet get wet and you're getting too cold, you can change into your dry socks, put plastic bags over them, and then put your shoes on.  That way the shoes don't get your socks wet.  In the cooler months I also carry light gloves.  I always wear layers,  at least one short sleeve and one long sleeve one.

 

I carry a pair of clear glasses if I wear sunglasses and vice versa. 

 

I do use trekking poles, mine fold into thirds and can fit into a daypack.


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#29 Alessandra

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Posted 14 August 2017 - 08:50 AM

Op, you specifically asked about shoes and poles. For us, it depends on terrain. Trail runners are great -- lightweight compared to boots, but more grippy than regular running shoes. A lot of our hiking is in northern NJ, where the trail are ALL small, trippable rocks, plus some steep, bouldery inclines. The younger people manage just fine without poles. But I need hiking poles for every step, lol, but especially for going downhill -- not just for balance, but also for saving knees. And I like boots for those trails, as I frequently almost twist an ankle. But, again, when I am picking my way over rocks, teenagers are running over them. So, the choice comes down to personal preference. Btw, I carry a ballpoint pen sized 4 head screwdriver in case hiking pole clamps get loose.

We like daypacks with padded waist straps with pockets. The waist straps will take the weight off your shoulders. I use one pocket for snacks, the other for hand wash, sunscreen, and insect repellent wipes. I also like pants with lots of pockets. Oh, and no jeans or cotton. A bandana tied to a front strap of pack is great for wiping away sweat. If you are hiking in steep areas, you might want to put cell phone in a padded case attached to front strap of pack -- if it's in your pocket and you trip, phone can smash. If you are in tick country, be careful. You may want to spray your clothes with Permethrin before starting out. Adding -- if you use your phone a lot, a $10 lipstick sized charger is nice.

We add, replace, update our gear every year. I would not buy these first thing, but we love having a hydration thing (wide mouth Platypus or equivalent), because I like to sip water, rather than have a cascade of cold water land in my stomach all at once. For filtration, Katadyn BeFree, only weighs a few ounces and easy to use. But for starting out, you won't need those, just bottles for water. A SmartWater or Gatorade bottle is fine. You might want to carry a packet of caffeine free energy drink to mix in your water. Hiking stores have better ones than supermarkets, imo.

One luxury for us is something to sit on. We started with a square of blue, closed cell foam. Now we use Thermarest's ZLite seat, very light, but so comfortable. There are so many fun things you can add from year to year. For example, in cold weather, a lightweight stove is wonderful for warm drinks.

We carry 10 essentials, first aid kits, and emergency kits. As Laura mentioned, a few ounces of gear can save you. We take quite a bit of stuff, but all lightweight -- we weigh everything. For example, a few yards of duct tape wrapped around a gift card is light. And, as Amy said, hikers in trouble often do not have emergency gear.

My only other advice is to read equipment reviews from Backpacker or other good magazines, look at you tube video reviews. There are a tremendous number of videos where people go over gear lists and equipment, along with tips for specific area, And pay attention to weight -- you want you pack to have everything you need, but still be as light as possible. It can be a plus to hike on a weekend when there are other people on the trails. A lot of our hikes are in bear country, so I am happy to know other humans are out there making noise and, I hope, scaring off the bears.

Edited by Alessandra, 14 August 2017 - 09:07 AM.

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#30 Alessandra

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Posted 14 August 2017 - 09:01 AM

SO many people get lost or have an unexpected injury in the woods here in the White Mountains. There is practically a rescue every week, and most people rescued do not have basic hiking essentials with them. We read about them in the local newspaper all the time. One of my kids did a Hike Safe poster for 4-H, and we added 6 months worth of newspaper stories to it - crazy numbers.


This whole post is great, but just quoting the last part. I agree that it is important to be prepared, so a small mishap can be fixed before it turns into a rescue situation.
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#31 Alessandra

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Posted 14 August 2017 - 10:23 AM

I always carry a bivvy bag per person except on the shortest hikes where there is an actual track. I went on a map reading course run by a mountain rescue volunteer. Her first call out after training was to a couple who went on a moderate hike in the Highlands of Scotland, got lost, couldn't make contact and had to stay out all night. They had only one bivvy bag, which the woman used. She survived and he didn't.

How awful!

There was a similar case, fairly well known, on the Appalachian Trail in Maine. A woman was hiking alone (her companion had had to go home). The woman left her GPS in her motel room, did not how to use a map or compass. She got lost. There was a gigantic search for her. She lasted about a month before she died, less than two miles from the trail. She had kept a diary.

https://www.nytimes....maine.html?_r=0

Boy Scouts has a pretty good book for the Wilderness Survival merit badge.

Edited by Alessandra, 14 August 2017 - 10:29 AM.

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#32 Spy Car

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Posted 14 August 2017 - 02:24 PM

Moleskin

 

If you are not used to hiking and your shoes/boots rub you can develop bad blisters rapidly that would ruin a hike.

 

But if you attend to your feet and apply a strip of moleskin at the first signs of a hot spot, you can save yourself a lot of pain.

 

Bill


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#33 Katy

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Posted 14 August 2017 - 02:38 PM

A whistle, 3+ ways to start a fire, a knife, a tarp, a working knowledge of survival in the area you will be, possibly a shovel (in fire country), possibly bottled water rather than a filter (in the desert where there isn't enough and in areas of the midwest where a filter will not work due to farm chemicals, feedlot runoff, and toxic algae blooms)

 

I hated hiking poles.  If you think you'd like to try them I suggest starting with the Walmart kind rather than the pricey kind.  They don't last super long, but you'll get a feel for how they work.


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#34 Alessandra

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Posted 14 August 2017 - 03:13 PM

A whistle, 3+ ways to start a fire, a knife, a tarp, a working knowledge of survival in the area you will be, possibly a shovel (in fire country), possibly bottled water rather than a filter (in the desert where there isn't enough and in areas of the midwest where a filter will not work due to farm chemicals, feedlot runoff, and toxic algae blooms)

I hated hiking poles. If you think you'd like to try them I suggest starting with the Walmart kind rather than the pricey kind. They don't last super long, but you'll get a feel for how they work.


Sensible advice. Our first poles were Mountainsmith, about $25/pair. Now our poles cost 4 x that. But I am doing a comparison of hiking pole cost vs orthopedist cost, lol. So much hiking stuff is very personal. I watch videos of ultralight backpackers (less than 10 lbs base weight). We do light (20 lbs). I would rather carry more and have a few creature comforts.
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#35 MommyLiberty5013

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Posted 14 August 2017 - 04:09 PM

A decent folding knife. Things to make a fire (at least two start methods such as waterproof matches and a lighter). First aid. Hat. A second layer like a coat or sweater. Poncho.

You need to plan to get stuck. Basically, what would you need if you broke your ankle and had to get by for awhile until help came?

People can die from exposure in even 40' if they get wet.
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#36 Pam in CT

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Posted 14 August 2017 - 04:43 PM

How much you need does depend on where you're going and for how long.  Good shoes, water, a snack, a basic safety kit and a good map/GPS is enough to get on with in most day hike trails on most good days in most moderate locations.

 

But

...
SO many people get lost or have an unexpected injury in the woods here in the White Mountains. There is practically a rescue every week, and most people rescued do not have basic hiking essentials with them. We read about them in the local newspaper all the time. One of my kids did a Hike Safe poster for 4-H, and we added 6 months worth of newspaper stories to it - crazy numbers.

 

 

... a day hike in the CT or MA state parks, for example, will likely be clearly marked, will not have crazy elevation, and will be well-enough traveled that so long as you stay on the marked trail someone will come along within an hour or two if you run into trouble.  Go over to the White Mountains and all that changes, and the weather notoriously changes within the hour, so you have both to be a lot more careful that you really know where you're going and also you'd best carry more stuff.


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#37 slr1765

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Posted 14 August 2017 - 04:58 PM

Wow, I received more advice than expected. :) My son took camp kids (teens) hiking this summer and those are the  trails he wants to hit again with me so at least he'll have some familiarity with where we are and where we are going. Plus he had to do a safety/emergency course before going so hopefully he'll have all the proper preparations for an emergency.  I'll double check though. As for the other stuff, I'm still feeling overwhelmed. The only reason I mentioned the trekking poles was he made a point of bring up how much harder it is to hike up there because of going up and down hill and I thought the poles would help. Actually I was only thinking of getting one but those of you with poles mentioned having a pair. So I'm still unsure about what to do about those. There are some on Amazon with good ratings that cost under $20.

 

My sneakers look to me like that would have good traction but what do I know. So again, I'm still unsure if I should invest in shoes yet or not. I might wait till I get up there and see how things go.

 

Thanks to all of you for taking the time to respond. You brought up things I hadn't even thought about. I would have delved into this completely naively and been under prepared. At least now I have a good chance of having a successful hike and a great time. Thanks!

 


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#38 Alessandra

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Posted 14 August 2017 - 07:35 PM

OP, did not want to make you feel the verwhelmed! One of my favorite places to hike is a local county park. It has some steep rocky trails and stunning views. One thing I like is that it us crowded on a weekend, which adds a measure of safety. Loads of people hike with ordinary sneakers, no backpack, just a bottle of water. Of course, they are mostly younger and fitter than I am, lol. I've hiked there with a minimum of gear. But, with similar terrain at an adjacent state forest with far fewer hikers, I carry more stuff.

Remember, if you are going uphill, you can lean over and sort of crawl up a boulder. Going down, you can half sit and edge yourself down. Or you can choose a place that is more level. And a place with cellphone access is reassuring.

We are very lucky where I am, because of an organization called the NY-NJ Trail Conference. They maintain many, many trails in our area, marking them super clearly and keeping the trails clear of fallen trees, etc.

You can always use a sick/branch you find on the ground as a pole. The cheap trekking poles should work fine if you don't mistreat them. If the poles sections screw together, make sure to keep the threads clean, and do on.

ETA
If there are any hiking groups in your area, going on a group hike can be a great way to get started.

https://www.nynjtc.org

Edited by Alessandra, 14 August 2017 - 07:37 PM.

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