You Don’t Need to Buy the Most Important Pieces of Hiking Gear

Spend your money on the actual hike

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Hiking Footwear

Footwear is the most important piece of hiking gear for being comfortable and staying safe. On a hike, your feet are your transportation. If your feet are uncomfortable you will be too. In the event you get into trouble (run out of water, hit bad weather, get hurt, etc.) your feet are what can carry you to safety.

Hiking Shoes and/or Boots

Good hiking shoes need to be comfortable, durable, and supportive. They don’t need to be expensive and you may not need to buy a new pair. You can hike in anything from running shoes to steel-toe boots (I’ve used both). Some even prefer to hike in supportive sandals, like Chacos (not me).

Hiking Socks

Good socks can be as important as good shoes. Don’t wear cotton socks (you’re going to see a pattern with cotton throughout this article). Cotton absorbs water. If your feet sweat (mine do) or get wet, all that moisture is going to collect until your sock becomes soggy. If you keep sweating it’s not going to dry out.


Once you have a good pair of hiking shoes and socks, pants should be next on your list. It’s no fun to hike with pants that chafe, make you sweat, snag easily, are fragile, and/or dry slowly.

Upper Body Layer(s)

Selecting a hiking shirt and other layers for your upper body is similar to selecting pants. You want something durable that will wick moisture. Even for cold weather clothing, it’s important to get moisture-wicking layers. On a cold day when you want a puffy, you’re going to start sweating pretty quickly once you start hiking and you want that puffy to move moisture away from your body as quickly as possible so you don’t get chilled.

Rain Jacket

In many hiking environments, you’ll want to have some form of rain protection. I almost always carry some form of rain gear, even when there’s no rain in the forecast. Many alpine areas receive rain every day, even when it’s not forecasted. If you get stuck on a hike and can’t get out that extra layer may help you stay warm at night.


You need a backpack to carry your rain jacket because you won’t be using it 99% of the time. To start, any backpack will do. It doesn’t have to be hiking specific. I’ve hiked many miles wearing the same backpack I wore to class in high school and college. It worked fine. I’ve also hiked a lot of miles in a cheap, hiking specific backpack which probably performed worse than the one I used for school.

Sun Protection

You don’t want to get skin cancer so make sure you have sun protection. Sunblock is great but I’d recommend wearing a hat and sunglasses also. Any hat and shades will do to start.


Most of the gear you need to go hiking you already have. The moral of this article is to spend your time and money on experiences and adventures before you spend it on gear. When you’re looking to get new gear to improve your comfort or burn some extra cash, this guide will help you get the most bang-for-your-buck for your hiking safety and comfort. I stick by my first two suggestions of footwear and pant as the most important pieces of gear to buy/upgrade. After that, I think there’s a little more leeway to adjust to your specific circumstances.

Husband, father, outdoorsman, scientist.

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