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.