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How to Choose the Right Hiking Gear

If it fits, it'll make you happy


Like it or not, gear plays an important role in your every hiking adventure. That's not to say you have to wear a special hiking outfit every time you step outside, but having quality gear that fits well and meets your on-the-trail needs does a lot to make your hiking experiences fun (and safe). Here's how to make sure essential pieces of hiking gear or clothing fit; click the titles for more information and a briefing about each type of equipment's key characteristics.

Choosing the Right Hiking Boots Means...

  • Having an idea of what you need from your footwear. Is waterproofing a priority? How about support? Ventilation? Superior traction?
  • Visiting a store to try on several pairs of footwear that meet those needs. Wear the same socks and pants you intend to wear on the trail.
  • Putting on the shoes and tromping around for a while to see how they feel on your feet. Walk uphill and downhill if you can. Look out for hot spots -- points of irritation -- and anywhere the shoe pinches, rubs, or otherwise impinges on your feet. Your feet shouldn't shift around inside the shoes or boots as you move. Read more...

Choosing a Good Hiking Jacket Means...

  • Looking for something that's waterproof and windproof, or at least water- and wind-resistant. Remember, when you're out hiking, your jacket acts as a mobile shelter.
  • Try to get a jacket that's breathable, too. This'll keep your more comfortable -- and more dry -- because it lets condensation escape through the jacket, instead of holding it against your skin.
  • Try the jacket on and put the hood up (if it has one). Swing your arms around, reach forward and back, and look to the sides and up and down. If at any point you can't move freely, or the jacket obscures your vision, it's not the right piece of gear for you. Read more...

Finding the Right Hiking Pants Means...

  • Trying them on. If you expect to wear layers underneath said pants, bring those layers with you to the store.
  • Pretending you're out hiking. Sure, it might look a little silly, but that's why they invented dressing rooms. Go uphill and downhill, squat, sit, stuff things in the pockets, and generally put those hiking pants through any paces you might need from them on the trail. If at any point they bind up on you, chafe annoyingly, or sag out of place, they're not the pants for you. Read more...

Finding Good Hiking Poles Means...

Trekking poles aren't an absolute necessity -- I carry them only rarely when I hike -- but they can be very helpful in some situations, especially if you have impaired balance. Getting the right length is as simple as doing a few tests in the store (nobody will even notice). Read more...

  1. About.com
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  4. The Gear Guide
  5. How to Choose Hiking Gear That Fits

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