Choosing Hiking Gear


Tusten Mtn TrailYou don’t have to spend a lot of money on top-of-the-line gear, but an investment in quality pieces will ensure that they last longer and give you a pleasant hike.

Morgan Outdoors, one of our partner organizations, is a great place to start–and check out our Before and After Hiking section to find more stores in Sullivan County.


Your hiking boots are the most important gear. Consider the height of the boot, the materials, and the weight.

Leather uppers are sturdier, heavier, and more water-resistant. But leather boots also have a longer break-in time than others, so you won’t want go for a long hike the very same day.

Synthetic materials are lighter, with a shorter break-in time, and often less expensive than leather. However, they may show wear faster. Tusten Mtn Trail

Waterproof or water-resistant boots reduce breathability, which can make your feet sweaty during the warmer months. Breathable, quick-drying hiking shoes may be better for the summer.

Boots should not be too tight or too loose–toes should not bump up against the front of the shoe when you walk. The heel should stay in place. Wear your hiking socks to try the boots on in the store.

In general, low-cut or mid-cut, light trail shoes or boots are great for day hikes or short backpacking trips. For longer trips, higher-cut mountaineering boots are designed to carry heavier loads and help to prevent rolling your ankle. If the trail has a lot of debris, choose mid- or high-cut boots.

Try on a few different pairs to make sure you have one that matches your foot shape and is comfortable, and walk around to get a feel for it.


Specific clothing for hiking is not always necessary. Be comfortable and warm enough–or cool enough–and dry.

Having a great time on a hike.Wear socks designed for hiking, generally made with synthetic materials or merino wool. Stay away from cotton socks, which trap moisture.

Layering is key. In the winter, choose a breathable inner layer that wicks sweat, an insulating layer such as wool or fleece to stay warm, and one or more outer layers to stay dry and block the wind.

In the summer, wear a layer that simultaneously wicks sweat away and protects you from the sun. Bring an outer layer in your backpack, even if you’re not wearing it. An outer layer should always be waterproof.

Wear long hiking pants year-round because they protect your legs, especially from ticks. Zip-off pants allow you to switch to shorts if it’s too hot.

Don’t forget sunglasses, a hat and gloves if needed.


Few accessories are needed for a great day on the trails—one of the best things about taking up hiking as a hobby. Most people bring a backpack, and some will also bring trekking poles for stability.


Choose a backpack that is sized appropriately to the amount of gear you need to carry. Don’t take a huge, heavy camping backpack on a day hike.

The shoulder straps on the backpack should be wide and padded. Choose a pack with firm straps across the hips and chest to take some of the weight off your back.

Look for a pack made with high-quality stitching and materials. External pockets can be helpful for carrying water bottles or items you might need to access  quickly.

Wearing your backpack, the weight should be evenly distributed, and not pulling anywhere or affecting your balance. Putting heavy items in the middle of the pack, just behind your back, helps to balance the weight load.


Trekking poles, also known as hiking poles or hiking staffs,  increase stability and help prevent falls on the trail or when crossing streams. They also help balance the weight of a backpack, absorb impact, and make walking uphill and downhill easier.

Hikers admiring the view

Carbon fiber or aluminum poles are light and durable. Aluminum is a big stronger and heavier, while carbon fiber is lighter but pricier.

Be sure the poles are comfortable with your height and that the grips correspond well to your hand size. Adjustable hiking poles are very versatile and can be made shorter or longer on different types of terrain.


Choose poles with steel or carbide tips if you need traction, but use rubber covers to protect the natural vegetation on the trail if you don’t need that extra grip.

Choose anti-shock poles if you have joint problems.