Also available in: French
The right shoes and the proper backpack are an excellent basis for preparing a hike. But, gearing up with essentials that will increase your momentum and guide you well are even better! Let’s dive in and take a look at some hiking accessories that’ll make your time out on the trails more enjoyable, both in summer and winter.
Check out our Hiking Guide to discover more tips about this popular activity that can be done both in summer and winter.
You’ve already chosen between hiking boots and hiking shoes and selected the hiking backpack of your dreams? You’ll need more than just that to create the most comfortable and safest hike possible. Follow along as we guide you through some key items.
1. Hiking poles
No matter your skill level, hiking poles can be a very useful accessory for both ascents as well as downhills.
Tips to pick the right ones:
- If the trails you’ll be walking along are fairly flat and you’ll be carrying a lighter load on your back, one hiking pole should suffice.
- On the other hand, if you’ll be hiking rocky, rugged ground, and you’ll be carrying more weight on your back, give yourself the luxury of more stability with two hiking poles.
- When it comes to length, it’s important that your elbows are at a 90-degree angle when you hold the poles in your hands, and that they point straight to the ground.
- If you think you’ll need more flexibility, opt for an adjustable, telescoping, or foldable model.
- Pay attention to the tip; certain ones are designed for Nordic walking, whereas others are all-terrain.
2. Cleats or crampons
Depending on the type of terrain you plan to walk, or the season during which you do your hiking – winter, or a transition season like spring or fall – you’ll absolutely benefit from acquiring some crampons for increased stability on rocks or on slippery surfaces, and to avoid slipping on wet snow or an ice patch. These must-haves are practical for both ascents and downhills, so don’t forget to toss them into your bag before heading out.
Most crampons are offered in various sizes and attach onto your hiking boots or shoes. Favour metal crampons if you will be walking on rocky ground; they’ll offer more durability.
When trying them on in store, read the description carefully and bring your hiking boots or shoes with you to test them out. Don’t hesitate to ask all your questions to a SAIL team member, who can help guide you to the right choice.
Contrary to popular belief, gaiters aren’t solely for winter use. They’re an all-season accessory that protects your boots and hiking shoes in addition to repelling rain and dreaded pebbles that somehow always manage to find a way into your shoes.
Many models go all the way up to the knee while others are shorter and better-suited to trail running; allowing for freedom of movement for the legs and feet. If you use gaiters in the summertime, make sure they are waterproof enough, but also breathable so you don’t get too hot. Finally, check to see if the gaiters have a hook that allows you to attach them to your laces. You won’t have to replace them constantly since they’ll stay in place securely.
It isn’t only your hiking boots or your hiking shoes that should keep you comfortable. Your socks should, too!
This is where selecting them with care comes in. Simple cotton socks aren’t the right choice for high-intensity sports. They absorb humidity without wicking it to the outside. The result? Your feet will be damp and won’t dry quickly, so your skin will rub against your socks and shoes and create blisters.
Tips for selecting them and maintaining your socks:
- Opt for socks made from breathable materials and that wick moisture, such as socks made from merino wool, wool, or polyester.
- Pick the right sock height. You certainly want a sock that reaches your tibia or knee if you’ll be wearing large hiking boots, so that you don’t irritate your leg. A sock that reaches up higher than your ankle is sufficient for hiking shoes.
- Check to see if your socks have extra cushioning in the toes, bottom of the foot, and the heel. The thicker they are, the more comfortable they will likely be over longer hikes – and also warmer!
- Once washed, avoid putting them in the dryer, and favour laying them flat to dry at room temperature.
5. GPS and compass
Though these accessories will not offer you more comfort or performance during your hike, they’ll be super practical when it comes to your safety.
A compass will point you north, and possibly help you find your way if you are lost. A GPS device will allow you to consult maps without needing to be connected to the internet, and even sometimes communicate with friends and family, or emergency services via satellite if you find yourself out of cell phone service reach.
Also available in: French