Although one of the appealing aspects of hiking is that the activity itself costs nothing – natural landscapes are freely accessible to all – there are some items in which it may be wise to invest.
The first and most obvious is, of course, footwear. The main impact hiking has on your body – relatively limited though it may be – is on your feet. Given the amount of walking you will be doing, it’s very important that you wear shoes that are not only comfortable but also appropriate to any terrain that you will be tackling
Dry summer hikes on unchallenging terrain (along clear, well-defined paths, for example) can be carried out in trainers or walking shoes, but for wetter conditions, more uneven surfaces or steeper ascents/descents, you would be better suited by a more robust, proper pair of hiking boots.
Forget aesthetics; what you’re looking for here is a strong, protective toecap, a rugged grip on the sole to prevent slippage, and good ankle support and heel moulding. These take care of the safety aspects that will protect your feet from injury, and then – for comfort – you’ll want to ensure they’re made from a waterproof, breathable material.
But remember – you’ll need to wear them in first, so don’t go on any big walks straight away! Hiking boots are particularly hardy so will take a bit longer to wear in than your normal shoes; you may get a few blisters in the process, so it’s never a bad idea to have Compeed on hand.
So ends the list of essential hiking gear, but depending on what conditions you plan to be walking in, you’ll always want to make sure you’re dressed appropriately – ideally in layers that you can shed as and when you need to. You may want to look into getting a warm, waterproof, breathable coat and some thermal base layers; water and wind-resistant trousers might be a good idea too.
Some hikers – particularly those with occasional knee or ankle problems – may also benefit from using walking poles to spread the impact on their joints, or simply to help maintain balance on slopes or uneven surfaces.