Lately I have been hiking a lot. This has been great, but it’s also made me stop and think pretty seriously about my gear. If I were to ever recommend 5 important things for YOU (baby stuff aside for the moment) to think about when getting out there, here’s what I would say:

1. Don’t skimp on your shoes. It’s not worth it. Good shoes can make all the difference in whether you want to hike regularly or not. I have two pairs of Montrails I alternate between. One is more of a light weight trail runner, the other is a hardcore, knobby, slog through mud low top.

So far these have served me pretty well, however after a long hike to Silver Falls, I realized it’s time for some high tops. Mason is growing bigger by the minute and carrying him is now having impact on my ankles.

When picking out shoes do a little research online in places like Backcountry.com, REI.com and Zappos. See what people are saying about them. I have made the mistake before of just buying a brand because I thought it was a good brand and didn’t really try them out well in the store. They were heavy shoes and for the next year I found I often threw on my runners over my hiking boots because they were just too hardcore.

Pick the level of shoe you need for the type of hiking you do!

2. Hiking poles are critical as baby grows. Mason was such a little light thing for so long, but now carrying him feels like I might as well be packing a sack of charcoal on my back. And my knees and ankles haven’t been so happy after a solid hike.

Gear That Matters (1)

The other day a Hike it Baby dad (Aaron Stroud) loaned me some Cascade poles and I was pretty happy I had them for all of the ups and downs. Not only were they lightweight, but they saved my back and ankle, which has been troubling me a bit on longer hikes. My ankle still hurt after the hike, but I can only imagine what it would have been like otherwise.

Two places to look for cheap poles are Backountry.com and GearTrade.com. Also I found the exact poles I used on the Cascade website.

3. A lightweight backpack is key. If you are front carrying baby, you can carry it on back. If your partner is with you, a light pack will allow you to carry all of the snacks and necessary baby gear if you aren’t carrying the baby.

Look for one with a pocket for a bladder! I really like Go Lite, Osprey and some of the Camelbaks. Go-Lite wins for lightest I think.

4. Invest in a super lightweight rain jacket that can be used as a 3, and possibly 4, season coat. I have a Patagonia jacket that did cost me a fair bit, BUT this is the only jacket I need for rainy weather and it has a lifetime guarantee on it. It’s super lightweight, Gore-Tex and minimal whistles and bells. Just super functional. It compacts down small and I can layer for cold weather because I got it a little roomy. Look for Patagonia 50% off annual sales by subscribing to their newsletter. Also, REI should have a knock off similar jacket for cheap. And check Backcountry.com.

Find the jacket you want and try it on in a store first. THEN look for it cheaper online if you have the time to wait and search.

Having a lightweight wind/rain jacket is awesome; look for something in cortex that’s super super easy to bundle up in your pack. You can find deals like this at the end of season and look for REI deals and the light deals also steep and cheap.

Gear That Matters (2)Zip Up Tops – Whether half zip or full zip, a very thin zip up top is a great idea if you are still nursing. This will allow you to quickly access the boob, should need arise. I have a few tops I am pretty partial too. The first is a Columbia top that zips just far enough down that it’s easy to nurse while hiking. The second is a lightweight Patagonia R1 top that is a full zip. When I couple these two tops with a light rain jacket I am ready to hike in almost any kind of weather: rain, a cold wind, a quick hail storm. You never know about summers in Oregon and I am just about to head up to Alaska where it’s even more unpredictable.

6. Water Bottles are awesome.Having a good water bottle is important on every hike because the better your water bottle and the easier it is to drink from, the more water you drink. I like Liberty bottles because they are a PDX brand and are metal but I also have always been a fan of Camelback bottles with the spout. Bladders are awesome too, but sometimes that’s just a little too much cleaning and dealing for me with baby in my life. A good old bottle is great for every scenario and baby can drink out of my bottle too.

Ready to get at it this summer now that the rain is drying up? Baby wants to get out there, so take the first step and come and join an upcoming hike. Or if you’ve been on a few hikes with us, maybe it’s time to lead one.

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