So, you’ve signed up for your first hike? Well done!
One concern you may have is the purchase of equipment. As with most pursuits, there is a temptation to go out and splurge on a whole raft of expensive items. It is better to delay major expenditures until you know you will enjoy the sport. To begin, you will only need some basic equipment: hiking boots and a backpack. Everything else you probably have already.
Hiking boots are critical in that they directly affect your comfort and safety. It is most desirable to purchase footwear specifically aimed at mountain hiking — not running shoes. Hiking boots offer the traction and support needed. They come in two main classes: synthetic uppers, and leather uppers. Most hikers will begin with the former which are lighter, much cheaper, and don’t require much ”breaking in”. Some will stick with them, but most will switch to heavier boots with leather uppers when they get serious. Leather boots offer superior foot support, less fatigue, may be water-proof, and last a lot longer.
If you buy from a store specializing in hiking, the personnel should be able to advise you on fit. You should wear thick hiking socks when trying on your boots. It is important that the fit is snug. Usually it will become looser with time; if your feet slide around inside the boot, you risk hammering your toenails on the descent (they will blacken and fall off!). Your footing will also be less secure in precipitous areas if your boot and foot do not move as one. When you have made your purchase, wear the boots as much as possible prior to the first hike to break them in.
The purchase of a day pack is not as critical. Just about anything that will hold your lunch, rain gear and some warm clothing will do fine on a beginner’s hike. So you see, only modest expenditures are required to get started. Once you have the bug of course, you may well embark on a lifelong quest for the perfect outfit!