Congratulations! You’ve survived the sweltering summer heat, and arguably the most beautiful season of the year is just around the corner. Soon, pumpkin spice will be in the air and frost will be on the ground. Best of all, the leaves will once again be ready to peep. But are you?
If you haven’t gone hiking in a while, there’s a good chance your gear is past its prime. It’s time to get yours up to date so you can make the most of the foliage fireworks. Here are four hiking essentials for fall treks both short and long.
1. Warm, Durable Clothing
While the start of fall isn’t yet freezing, it will certainly be cooler. You won’t be able to fully enjoy the season if you’re shivering the whole way through. So don’t head to the hills or wind through the woods without the proper trekwear.
Besides being warm, you also want your clothes to be sturdy. Look for pieces whose weave and fabric can handle contact with sticks and stones. Patagonia, The North Face, and Columbia Sportswear offer plenty of rugged jackets, pants, shirts, and socks for the season. For those in temperate climates, a lightweight down jacket will prove a useful layer for three-quarters of the year.
Admittedly, some of these companies’ offerings can be a bit pricey. So purchase high-quality secondhand pieces from REI or other co-ops to save on gear. Alternatively, consider buying some Carhartt factory seconds. These are rugged new garments that, because of minor aesthetic flaws, come at a great discount. The warmer and sturdier your clothes are, the more comfortably you can catch the perfect light at dusk and dawn.
2. Sturdy, Comfortable Footwear
Don’t put your feet last just because they’re at the bottom. Remember, they’re doing the heavy lifting! Foot pain is an unfortunately common cause of adventures that get cut short. Invest in a solid pair of sturdy boots so you can go the distance.
When you choose footwear for your treks, look for fit, comfort, and support. Shoes and boots should feel comfortably snug, not tight, and accommodate moderate toe wiggling. Take a stroll around the store before you lock them in and take note of any rubbing or slippage. Invest in ankle support if you know you’ll go on more challenging hikes. Merrell, Salomon, and Keen are known for selling some of the most comfortable and reliable hiking boots on the market.
Your choice of footwear can easily make or break the enjoyment of your hikes. So treat your feet so you can feast your eyes on all the fall colors. You’ll thank yourself for your investment when you realize you’re not thinking about blisters with every step.
3. A High-Quality Camera
While human beings come with two built-in cameras — namely, the eyes — most people’s memories aren’t photographic. Details can fade with time, leaving little more than an impressionistic wash of color behind. Capture those colors for posterity with a digital camera so you can refresh your memories and share them with your loved ones.
When it comes to a hike-worthy camera, you’re looking for portability and durability in addition to photo quality. The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III, Fujifilm X-S20, and Panasonic Lumix FZ2500 are three of the best on the market right now. Each has a different blend of the aforementioned desirables, adjusted to cater to slightly different needs.
If you haven’t upgraded your phone in a while, now might be the perfect time. Honestly, the cameras included with the newest smartphones rival some of the best DSLRs both in quality and price. Compare your phone of choice with the leading point-and-clicks to see which makes more sense for you. To enjoy your treks for years to come, invest in a high-quality, easily portable, and durable camera.
4. Backup Power
With all this talk of trail tech, you’re going to need a way to keep it up and running. There aren’t many — if any — places to recharge your devices in the great outdoors, after all. You don’t want to whip out your camera to capture a vista, only to see the screen go black. Even worse, if your phone dies while you’re out shooting, you risk following suit. Remember that the great outdoors, while wonderful, poses legitimate dangers, especially if you’re not prepared.
A portable power bank is a simple solution to keep your devices up and humming well beyond their built-in capacity. If you’re going on a trek lasting multiple days, however, even one of those won’t go the distance. To stay prepared, take it one step further and invest in a portable solar charger.
Like a power pack, solar-powered chargers are portable, but they come with foldable solar cells so they can refuel during your downtime. While they are weather-dependent, solar chargers have the potential to keep your tech juiced for days on end. This way you’ll be better able to reach someone in case the worst does happen. And you’ll keep that camera charged so you can capture memories of your trip from start to finish.
Leave Only Footprints
As you load up your backpack, don’t forget to add a few trash bags. You don’t want to sully your beautiful surroundings by leaving plastic, glass, or other non-degradable waste behind. If less considerate hikers have left refuse on the trail, be a mensch and pick it up. That simple act will make the brilliant fall fireworks enjoyable for everyone.