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  • Dr. Allison Andre, DPT

Trek Further and Explore More with These Hiking Essentials

Step into a world where the scent of pine trees mingles with the crisp mountain air, where each step unveils breathtaking vistas, and where your spirit finds solace in the embrace of nature. Welcome to the realm of hiking, a thrilling journey that not only invigorates the body but also nourishes the soul.

As a physical therapist and a passionate hiker, I have discovered that the right hiking accessories can make all the difference in transforming a mere hike into an unforgettable adventure. These essential companions enhance your comfort, boost your safety, and enable you to fully immerse yourself in the beauty of the great outdoors.

Join me as we delve into the realm of hiking accessories that have become an integral part of my own lifelong adventure. From innovative gear to simple yet indispensable tools, I'll unveil my top recommendations to elevate your hiking experience to new heights. Whether you're a seasoned trailblazer or embarking on your very first hike, these carefully selected accessories are bound to become your trusted companions on the path less traveled.

a group of hikers with a mountain view

So lace up your boots, grab your backpack, and let's embark on an exploration of the must-have hiking accessories that will enrich your journey, provide support when you need it the most, and accompany you on the thrilling path to wellness and discovery.




1. Trekking Poles for Hiking

two women backpackers in the North Rim of the Grand Canyon

I love my Leki trekking poles! They are indispensable companions for any hiker seeking stability, balance, and reduced strain on their joints.

These lightweight and adjustable poles offer a range of benefits that can significantly enhance your hiking experience. By distributing the weight from your legs to your arms, trekking poles help alleviate pressure on your knees and ankles, making steep ascents and descents more manageable.

They also provide extra stability on uneven terrain, reducing the risk of slips and falls. Additionally, trekking poles can enhance your upper body workout, engaging your arm and shoulder muscles as you trek through nature's wonders.

I hike with these poles from LEKI (Leki Khumbu Lite Trekking Poles). My favorite feature of this particular trekking pole is the grip! It is ergonomically designed with an 8° positive angle of the grip, keeping wrists in a neutral position for a more efficient pole plant.

Leki Trekking Poles
Leki Khumbu Lite Trekking Poles

Trekking Pole Features

With the abundance of trekking poles available on the market, the sheer number of options can be overwhelming. However, when embarking on your shopping journey, it's essential to consider several key features that will guide your decision. Here are some important features to look out for:

  1. Adjustable Length: Opt for trekking poles with adjustable length options. This allows you to customize the poles to your height and the terrain you'll be hiking on. Look for poles that offer easy-to-use locking mechanisms to secure the desired length.

  2. Lightweight and Durable Materials: Seek trekking poles made from lightweight yet robust materials like aluminum or carbon fiber. Lightweight poles will minimize fatigue during long hikes, while durable materials ensure they can withstand the rigors of the trail.

  3. Comfortable Grips: Look for trekking poles with ergonomic and comfortable grips. Cork, foam, or rubberized grips are popular choices. Try different types of grips to find the one that feels most comfortable in your hand and offers good moisture-wicking properties.

  4. Wrist Straps: Consider trekking poles with adjustable and padded wrist straps (depending on personal preference. Mine are not padded. My boyfriend enjoys his padded straps). These straps provide added support and help distribute the weight of the poles more evenly, reducing strain on your hands and wrists.

  5. Shock Absorption: Some trekking poles come with built-in shock absorption systems, often using springs or elastomers. These systems help reduce the impact on your joints while walking on uneven or rocky terrain.

  6. Tip Options: Look for trekking poles that offer interchangeable tips to accommodate different trail conditions. Rubber tips provide traction on hard surfaces, while carbide or steel tips offer grip on rugged terrain. Some poles also come with mud baskets and snow baskets for specific environments.

  7. Collapsible and Compact Design: Consider collapsible trekking poles that can be easily folded down into a compact size. This feature is beneficial for transportation and storage when the poles are not in use.

  8. Weight Capacity: Check the weight capacity of the trekking poles to ensure they can support your body weight and any additional pressure exerted during hikes.

  9. Brand Reputation and Reviews: Research reputable brands known for producing high-quality trekking poles. Read reviews from other hikers to gauge the durability, reliability, and overall performance of the poles you are considering.


2. Hiking Shoes

It may go without saying, but having a good quality shoe for hiking is paramount for a multitude of reasons. I am a little shoe obsessed and have multiple different shoes depending on where I am going. A well-designed hiking shoe offers ample cushioning and support, minimizing discomfort and fatigue during extended hikes. It also helps to prevent common foot issues such as blisters, hot spots, and foot fatigue, ensuring a more enjoyable and pain-free experience on the trail. Ultimately, the right hiking shoe becomes a reliable companion, empowering you to conquer challenging trails with confidence and allowing you to fully immerse yourself in the wonders of nature.

My favorite pair of hiking shoes are the Altra Lone Peak Trail-Running Shoes. If I am going out for a trail run, I usually strap on my Hoka Speedgoat trail shoes. When I rock climb, I hike in LaSportiva TX-4 Approach Shoes to the base of the climb. This may seem a bit extra, but there are features I like in all the shoes! The Altra's have an amazing toe box allowing for space when feet tend to swell during a long hike, and that is one of the main reasons I gravitate towards that shoe for longer hikes. The great thing about approach shoes is the VERY GRIPPY sole which is super helpful when wearing a heavy pack and hiking over rocky terrain.

I have my go-to hiking shoes for different activities, and they each bring something special to the table. When it comes to hitting the trails, my absolute favorites are the Altra Lone Peak Trail-Running Shoes. They have this incredible toe box that gives my feet all the space they need, especially when they decide to swell up during those long hikes. It's a game-changer for me, and that's why I find myself gravitating towards them for those epic adventures.

Now, when I'm in the mood for a trail run, I slip into my trusty Hoka Speedgoat trail shoes. These babies are designed specifically for running on uneven terrain, and boy, do they deliver! They provide me with the right amount of support and cushioning, making my trail runs a breeze.

Let's talk about my LaSportiva TX-4 Approach Shoes. These bad boys are my go-to when it's time to rock climb. They have a seriously grippy sole that comes in handy when I'm lugging around a heavy pack and navigating rocky paths to get to the base of the climb. Trust me, that extra grip can be a lifesaver in those situations.

So, yeah, it might seem a bit excessive to have different shoes for different activities, but each pair has its own unique features that I absolutely adore. It's all about finding the right tool for the job, and in this case, the right shoes for the adventure.

Stickered up water bottle with trees and mountains in the background

Hiking Shoe Features

When buying a pair of shoes for hiking, there are several important features to consider. Here are some key features to look out for:

  1. Fit: Proper fit is crucial for hiking shoes. Look for shoes that provide ample toe room while ensuring a secure fit around the heel. Consider trying on shoes with the socks you plan to wear during hikes to ensure a comfortable fit.

  2. Traction: Opt for shoes with a sturdy outsole featuring deep lugs and a durable rubber compound. This provides reliable traction on various terrains, including slippery rocks, muddy paths, and loose gravel.

  3. Ankle Support: Depending on the type of hiking you'll be doing, consider the level of ankle support you need. Low-cut shoes offer more freedom of movement, while mid-cut or high-cut shoes provide increased ankle support and stability on rugged terrain.

  4. Waterproofing and Breathability: Consider the climate and weather conditions you'll be hiking in. Waterproof shoes, often made with materials like Gore-Tex, keep your feet dry in wet environments. Additionally, look for shoes with breathable mesh panels or ventilation to enhance airflow and prevent excessive sweating.

  5. Cushioning and Comfort: Look for shoes with adequate cushioning to provide comfort during long hikes. Features like EVA or foam midsoles and padded insoles can help absorb shock and reduce fatigue.

  6. Weight: Consider the weight of the shoes, especially if you're planning long-distance hikes or have a preference for lightweight gear. Lighter shoes can reduce fatigue and enhance agility, while still providing necessary support and protection.

  7. Brand Reputation and Reviews: Research reputable brands known for producing high-quality hiking shoes. Reading reviews from other hikers can provide valuable insights into the performance and durability of the shoes you are considering.


3. Hiking Backpacks

When it comes to hiking, a well-designed backpack is an absolute game-changer. It's not just about carrying your essentials; it's about doing so with comfort and efficiency. A thoughtfully crafted backpack can make a world of difference in your hiking experience, allowing you to focus on the trail ahead while keeping your gear organized, easily accessible, and secure.

Personally, I haven't found the perfect backpack for my needs just yet, but I've come across several that come close. As someone with a short torso and broad shoulders, finding a pack that fits my specific build can be a bit challenging at times. However, I've had great success with my Gregory pack for backpacking trips. It ticks off many of the boxes for me, from its well-designed compartments and convenient opening style to its exceptional comfort and a host of other impressive features.

row of backpacks on a rocky ledge

Backpack Features

When buying a pack for hiking, there are several important features to consider. Here are some key features to look out for:

  1. Capacity: Determine the appropriate pack size based on the length of your hikes and the amount of gear you typically carry. Packs are usually measured in liters, with smaller packs (around 20-30 liters) suitable for day hikes and larger packs (40 liters or more) for multi-day hikes or backpacking trips.

  2. Fit: Ensure the pack fits your body comfortably. Look for packs with adjustable shoulder straps, a padded waist belt, and a sternum strap, torso sizing. A proper fit ensures weight distribution and prevents discomfort and strain during long hikes.

  3. Suspension System: Consider the pack's suspension system, which includes the frame, back panel, and hip belt. Look for a supportive and well-ventilated back panel that allows airflow to reduce sweating. Frames made of lightweight and durable materials, such as aluminum or carbon fiber, offer stability and help transfer weight to your hips.

  4. Compartments and Pockets: Look for a pack with multiple compartments and pockets to keep your gear organized and easily accessible. Features like a main compartment, front pockets, side pockets, and hip belt pockets offer convenient storage options for items like water bottles, snacks, maps, and small essentials.

  5. Compression Straps: Compression straps help secure your load, prevent items from shifting, and maintain balance. They also allow you to adjust the pack's volume based on the amount of gear you're carrying.

  6. Hydration Compatibility: Check if the pack has a hydration reservoir sleeve or dedicated hydration bladder compartment, along with an opening or ports for the drinking tube. Staying properly hydrated on the trail is crucial, and having a pack that accommodates a hydration system can make it more convenient.

  7. Weight: Consider the weight of the pack itself, especially if you prefer lightweight gear or are planning long-distance hikes. Lighter packs can reduce fatigue and allow for more agile movement on the trail.

Remember to try on different packs and adjust the fit to find the one that feels most comfortable and suits your specific hiking needs. A well-designed pack that fits properly and meets your requirements will enhance your hiking experience, ensuring that your gear is well-organized, easily accessible, and comfortably carried throughout your adventures.


Stickered up water bottle with trees and mountains in the background

4. Water Bottles and Bladders

Having a reliable hydration solution is of utmost importance when embarking on a hiking adventure. Whether you opt for a water bladder or a water bottle, staying hydrated on the trail is crucial for your overall well-being and performance.

With a water bladder, you have the advantage of carrying a larger volume of water, typically ranging from 1.5 to 3 liters, conveniently stored inside your backpack. The hydration tube allows for easy sipping while on the move, ensuring a steady intake of water without having to pause or disrupt your pace.

On the other hand, water bottles offer their own set of benefits. They are often lightweight and easily accessible, allowing you to monitor your water intake more effectively. Plus, they provide the flexibility to carry different fluids or electrolyte mixes to suit your specific hydration needs.

For longer hiking days, I often prefer to carry both a water bladder and my trusty Nalgene Water Bottle, with the added benefit of electrolytes. Whether you choose a water bladder or a water bottle, the key is to have a hydration system that works seamlessly for you. By keeping your body properly hydrated during a hike, you not only enhance your endurance and performance but also reduce the risk of dehydration, muscle cramps, and fatigue. So, before you hit the trails, make sure you have water bladder or water bottle by your side to quench your thirst and keep you going strong throughout your hiking journey.


A compass with trees and mountains in the background

5. Navigation Tools

When it comes to hiking, having a plan and reliable navigation tools is absolutely crucial. The wilderness can be unpredictable, and even the most experienced hikers can find themselves in unfamiliar territory. Navigation tools serve as your compass, guiding you through the trails, ensuring you stay on course, and helping you navigate safely to your destination. They are your key to confidence, allowing you to explore with peace of mind and reducing the risk of getting lost or disoriented in the great outdoors.

A variety of navigation tools are available to assist hikers in finding their way. Traditional paper maps provide a bird's-eye view of the terrain, marked trails, landmarks, and topographical details. They are reliable and do not rely on technology but require map-reading skills.

GPS devices and hiking apps have become increasingly popular for navigation. GPS devices use satellite signals to pinpoint your location on a digital map, providing real-time tracking and accurate positioning. Hiking apps, installed on smartphones, offer similar functionalities, utilizing GPS technology along with additional features like offline maps, trail information, and even community-sourced tips and reviews.

When it comes to reliable navigation tools, reputable brands like Garmin, Suunto, and Magellan offer a range of GPS devices specifically designed for outdoor activities. These devices are known for their accuracy, durability, and user-friendly interfaces. I use a Garmin Fenix watch and love their GPS feature!

For hikers who prefer smartphone apps, popular options include AllTrails, Gaia GPS, and ViewRanger. These apps provide comprehensive trail maps, route planning, real-time tracking, and helpful features like distance tracking, elevation profiles, and waypoints. They often offer both free and premium versions with additional functionalities, like downloadable maps for when you may not have cell service.

woman with hiking backpack overlooking mountains

I hope you gained some insight and inspiration on hiking accessories to enhance your journey. Hiking is not merely an exhilarating physical activity but a profound connection to the natural world, where the soul finds solace amidst towering trees and awe-inspiring vistas. Embrace the call of the wilderness, and let these indispensable tools be your trusted companions on this thrilling path to wellness and discovery. With the right gear by your side, you are ready to embark on an adventure that will invigorate your body, nourish your soul, and create lasting memories in the realm of hiking's endless possibilities. So, embrace the journey, seize the opportunity, and let your lifelong adventure begin.


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