When my family relocated to Vermont in the Spring of 2017, we suddenly found ourselves with a ton of free time. Being about 400 miles from our closest friends and family; our weekends were no longer jam packed with birthday parties, engagement parties, baby showers, and family dinners. One of the things we couldn’t wait to do, with all of this new found free-time, was hike. And with the Appalachian Trail, Long Trail, and other vast trail systems right in our backyard, there was nothing holding us back.

5 Hiking essentials that are worth your money by Julie McNulty for Hike it Baby

Photo by Jessica Human.

However, with our ample time for hobbies and easy access to trails, I was still reluctant to go out and splurge on all of the hiking gear. Maybe it was my practical side or maybe it was the fact that I’d picked up “hobbies” before, bought ALL of the things, and then cast it aside just as quickly. Either way, when my mom offered me her never-before-worn, brand name, in my size (or at least the size I typically claim to be) hiking boots, I snatched them up faster than my 4-year-old can say, ”I’m a Hike it Kid!”

That weekend we set off, on a relatively ambitious hike (for beginners) with our 3-year-old and 4-year-old on our heels. My feet started to hurt almost immediately but I was insistent that I would not complain. Instead, I clenched my teeth and powered through. About 1.5 hours in, I could no longer take it. I said we had to turn back. I could tell my husband was disappointed and thought I was being dramatic.

When we got back to the car (mostly hobbling, wincing and whining from me), I hopped up on the tailgate and removed the boots. There was blood. So much blood. My socks were completely soaked through. My husband’s jaw dropped. I had made a rookie mistake. Believe me when I say: quality gear is worth it.

I’ve since invested in a pair for quality hiking boots. Having quality boots was such a turning point for me in my hiking journey. Trying on multiple pairs and buying them in my size (which happens to be a wide) has made such a difference. I’ve now completed that very same hike, multiple times, with no complaints or issues. A splurge feels more like a good investment if the gear is high quality!

Quality hiking gear can make a big difference toward your experience on the trail, and it can last many years. Here are a few items worth spending a bit extra on for quality.

1. Hiking boots, shoes, sandals

I’ve already said it but I feel like it is important enough to reiterate. You NEED good hiking boots that fit your foot properly. Hiking boots are the number one thing that I am willing to hand over the big money for. Your feet are your mode of transportation while hiking. If your feet are uncomfortable, you will be uncomfortable. Ill-fitting footwear can make for an extremely unpleasant hike.

Luckily, both REI and Backpacker Magazine have great guides for footwear fit. Here is Backpacker’s guide to choosing the right pair of hiking boots. They cover style, fit and fixing problems. This guide from REI goes into types of options, components and fit.

5 Hiking essentials that are worth your money by Julie McNulty for Hike it Baby

Photo by Alhy Berry.

2. Rain Gear

It is also terribly unpleasant to hike in wet, chafing clothes. Many of us outfit our kiddos in full OAKI rain suits, but neglect to properly protect ourselves. That is why good rain gear is worth the splurge. The top three things you’ll want to spend the big bucks on are a waterproof jacket (or poncho), waterproof pants, and a waterproof rain pack cover. The key word here is WATERPROOF, not water resistant.

You can check out REI’s guide for finding the best rain gear. They discuss the big difference between waterproof and water resistant and discuss the latest in waterproof/breathable technologies. Man, that just sounds expensive … but totally worth it!

You can also check out our very own Hike it Baby Raincoat Reviews!

5 Hiking essentials that are worth your money by Julie McNulty for Hike it BabyPhoto by Deanna Curry.

3. Pack/carrier

Whatever you’re wearing on your back, whether a pack or a carrier, it is so important that it is comfortable for YOU. This might mean splurging a bit for quality. There are different backpacks for different body types. The trick is to find the pack or carrier that fits you comfortably and keeps the weight over your hips. It is important to try on different packs at the store. Make sure they are weighted to get a realistic idea of what it will feel like loaded with your gear.

Backcountry has a great article on choosing the right backpack. Two things to keep in mind that will make your splurge worth it are shoulder and hip padding and ventilation.

REI also offers a great sizing and fit guide!

5 Hiking essentials that are worth your money by Julie McNulty for Hike it Baby

Photo by Arika Bauer.

4. Trekking Poles

Another hiking essential splurge that is totally worth it: trekking poles. Trekking poles are essential because they provide added balance and stability, especially when wearing your little ones.

Better trekking poles will be more durable and last longer. Outdoor Gear Lab gives us a top ten list of reasons to use trekking poles and also a list of the best poles of 2018. These poles are definitely worth their price!

5 Hiking essentials that are worth your money by Julie McNulty for Hike it Baby

Photo by Jessica Human.

5. BIG SPLURGE: Personal Locator Beacon

While a Personal Locator Beacon is definitely a BIG splurge for most, the peace of mind it offers moms hiking solo with kids, is priceless. They are high powered and can send out a personalized emergency distress signal. Most are simple enough for a child to use if trained to in an emergency.

Find out all you need to know about PBL’s here, and decide if this splurge is worth it for your family.

I’d love to know, what was the best piece of hiking gear you’ve splurged on?

Read more:

5 Hiking essentials that are worth your money by Julie McNulty for Hike it Baby


One thought on “5 Hiking essentials that are worth your money

  • alextebow
    Alex Wong

    I learned the hard way when it came to trekking poles. I started out with $30 poles from Costco and they were falling apart within the first summer. They were great to help me figure out just how much I would use them, but after I duct taped them back together, they are exclusively poles for the kids now.


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