7 Hiking Essentials for Beginners


By: , SparkPeople Blogger
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About six months ago, I moved from downtown Cincinnati to the rural mountains of Western North Carolina. I went from going out my front door and hitting the hot new restaurants to going out my front door and hitting the hiking trails. I've always liked hiking, but with so many trails, mountains, and places to explore surrounding my new home, I'm using the great outdoors as my personal grown-up playground far more often.

My hikes have all been a half day or shorter, so I haven't needed too much specialized equipment. However, I have accumulated a few items that have made hiking much more enjoyable for me. Today I'm sharing some of my favorites with you.


Water backpacks are a great way to haul your food and supplies on a hike while staying hydrated. This 50-ounce size is great for longer hikes, and there's a pocket to hold energy bars and your keys.

ExOfficio Women's Nomad Roll-Up Pant

Even if the day starts off sunny, you likely will need an extra layer or more coverage when you start your return trip. Roll-up pants are convenient and versatile--and more practical than the kind that zip off. (Who wants to risk losing a pants leg in the woods?)

Dakine Hip Pack

For shorter hikes, opt for a lumbar pack to stash a water bottle and all your necessities. These from Dakine are fashionable as well as functional.


Hiking burns major calories, especially if you're hauling gear or climbing hills, so be sure to take along some fuel. Larabars are calorically dense (about 200 calories each) with a clean ingredient list--no weird chemicals or flavorings. They come in dozens of flavors, so you can pick your favorite.

Hiking Poles

To ease the uphills and gain traction on steep downhills, use hiking poles. This one comes with a built-in compass and thermometer to help keep you safe and sound.

Mountain Hardwear Epic Rain Jacket

Weather forecasts aren't always the most accurate when you're in the middle of the woods or on the side of a mountain. It's important to always have an extra layer--especially if rain is possible. This lightweight, perfectly waterproof jacket is small enough to stash in a backpack, with "pit" zippers if you get too hot and a rollaway hood.

Smartwool Socks

Is there anything worse than cold, soggy socks? Cotton socks hold on to moisture, but wool wicks it away while insulating. Smartwool socks have arch support and plenty of cushioning, which will help keep your feet comfortable and free of blisters.

What is your "must-have" item for hiking?

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