Gear is just an Enabler…its true benefit lies in the way it allows you to experience your hike…
For those with a passion for hiking, gear plays a big part in your overall enjoyment of the outdoors. With the exception of a physical injury, nothing can ruin a hike faster than gear failure. Quality and dependable gear allows you to experience all nature has to offer, safely and comfortably. But at the end of the day, it’s just an enabler — the true benefit lies in the way it allows you to experience your hike.
Selecting the proper gear can be overwhelming at times. You must understand your likes, dis-likes, preferences and limitations. While this may sound obvious, it is not always easy. The time spent on research, reading reviews and watching YouTube videos is an important part of the process. But ultimately, successful gear selection is based on experience. It is a process of trial and error, an evolution of sorts, to find what works best for you. Many times you don’t know where to start. And that’s OK. Even the most seasoned thru hiker started out as a beginner.
The outdoor gear industry has seen a rapid evolution over the last decade. There are more choices available today that ever before. Ultralight has become the new normal and counting grams is common, even for weekend warriors. Entrepreneurial outdoor enthusiasts have recognized a void in the market and started making their own gear to fill it. They have come to be know as ‘Cottage manufacturers’ and they are quickly changing the landscape of gear options. Their gear is generally ultralight and hand-made in the USA from the best materials available. In my experience, the quality and workmanship are second to none. You would be doing yourself a huge disservice if you did not include the Cottage industry in your research.
I offer the prompts below as food for thought with one simple goal: to help you choose a setup that is a bit more dialed in than if you just started buying with no direction at all. After going through the gear selection process many times myself, I firmly believe that buying the best quality gear you can afford the first time will save you money in the long run. When it comes to outdoor gear, you really do get what you pay for. It will be tempting to go for the low-cost options initially, but try to resist that urge unless you are still deciding if hiking and backpacking is the right activity for you. Take your time, enjoy the process and remember that your gear is just the enabler to get the maximum experience from your adventures.
There are three key elements that you must understand in order to select gear that best suits your needs:
Begin by spending some time exploring why you want to hike. There may not be a single reason for your desire to get on the Trail. That is normal. Humans are a product of our environment and past experiences and your reasons to hike may be a combination of many desires, some of which you may have yet to discover. But taking the time to understand your motivation is beneficial to the process. It will help narrow the field of choices and ensure you are buying the gear that is right for you.
Here are a few prompts to get you started:
2. Your preferences
Once you have a better idea of why you want to hike, it’s time to explore your preferences. Things you like, dislike and can’t leave behind when you are on the trail. Having a firm understanding of yourself and your preferences goes a long way to knowing what type of gear is best for you. Again, take some time and think about the prompts below. Maybe even write them down, especially if you are just beginning this journey into hiking. It is always fun to come back and look at your responses after you have some experience to see where you began.
Consider the following prompts:
3. Your goals
If you are still reading this, you probably already have some hiking goals in mind. Regardless if it is for fitness, hiking a particular trail, or challenging yourself to learn something new, setting goals is a way to stay motivated. Remember that lots of small goals add up to big goals. Keep them manageable and before you know it, your adventures will be a source of great happiness and satisfaction.
Here are a few final prompts to consider:
It’s an investment in YOURSELF
Once you have a clear understanding of your motivations, preferences and goals, you should have a better idea of the types of gear that best fits your needs. Take your answers with you to your favorite gear shop or online retailer and let the fun begin!
If hiking is your passion, gear is much more that just stuff. It is an investment in yourself. Quality gear allows you to pursue your passion with confidence. It lets you focus more on creating the experiences and memories that enrich your life. Having dependable gear you trust allows you to go places, experience conditions and become part of environments that most people will never see. In those situations, your awareness is enhanced and you become more mindful by living fully in the present moment. Being more present helps build better relationships with those around you. But most importantly, it builds a better relationship with yourself.
Take the time needed to research your gear well and make the best choice for your individual needs. Trust your decisions. It’s now time to reap the rewards of your time and investment. Get out there and enjoy the trail!