Bold Betties recommends that you purchase your own hiking shoes or boots rather than renting them. You will want to ensure you have the perfect fit and also will want to use or break them in before your trip.
Purchasing a new pair of shoes or boots may not be necessary, however, depending on the nature of your trip. The Inca Trail, for example, could be hiked in regular sneakers if you do not anticipate encountering rain. We were grateful for our hiking shoes on the rainy days however because the rocks can get slick.
Shoes vs. Boots?
The decision to buy hiking shoes or hiking boots should be based on how much ankle support you think you will need. If you have weak ankles, don’t mind the extra weight on your feet or in your luggage, and anticipate that your trip will include hiking on lots of uneven surfaces, you may want to get the taller boot variety. Otherwise, the hiking shoes will do just fine. We love the Merrell Moab Ventilator.
This is what we used on the Inca Trail and it was lightweight but also performed well on surfaces slickened by rain. It comes in a mid-height and a boot height as well as many different color schemes.
Finally, you will be thankful to have a bag to store your shoes in whenever they are going back in your luggage rather than on your feet. You can take any old plastic bag for this purpose, however we like to use a shoe bag, like this Sea to Summit version, specifically designated for this purpose for easier packing and organization.
What you wear or don’t wear on your bottom is a personal choice. We can tell you from experience though that dirty underwear is pretty gross when you haven’t showered in days. You will definitely want to have a stuff sack for your dirty laundry to put inside your duffel bag or luggage. You can get a smaller one for things like socks and underwear that are particularly gross and a larger one for all other clothing or you can put them all in the large one together.
If the idea of carrying around your dirty underwear grosses you out, we recommend that you pack old underwear that you are ready to throw away. Then, each morning, instead of putting your dirty underwear into your laundry stuff sack, you can throw it in the garbage at camp. This will either be carried out by the Sherpas or porters with all the other camp trash or in some cases may be disposed of in trash bins at designated camp sites with facilities.
The key to dressing for the backcountry? Layering, layering, layering! Even when just doing a day hike, you can encounter a variety of weather. All-day and all-night comfort is not likely possible in a single outfit. For this reason, layering is your best bet. For more info, stay tuned for our upcoming blog post on layering systems.
Outdoor clothing has come a long way in recent years! It is actually possible to look stylish and cute while getting your outdoor recreation or adventure travel on! Gone are the days of having no choice but to dress like Jane Goodall in safari shirts and khaki cargo pants. We think brighter colors and a more flattering, feminine fit look better on just about anyone!
Base layers are key to keeping you dry. They come in varying weights and sleeve lengths and are available for your upper and lower body. Proper materials can serve to keep you warm or cool. They also protect against sun, brush, and bugs. We recommend base layers made from non-absorbent fibers such as merino wool, nylon and polyester or a blended version. You might want to pack or own different base layers designed for warm conditions (to keep you cool and dry your sweat) versus cooler conditions (to keep you warm and dry). These are not your Grandma's long johns!
Insulation layers are necessary to add warmth in cooler conditions. Even if you warm up a great deal when being active, you will want the insulation layers for when you take rest breaks or when you camp and you don’t have the body heat to help you out. Fleece, wool and down are all great fabrics for your insulation layer.
Outer Layers (aka Shell)
These are essential to protect you from wind and/or rain. It is hard to find a jacket that is affordable and does a good job at doing both. Do not forget about your lower body! Many outdoors pants look like they might be waterproof but do not confuse water resistant with waterproof! We learned this lesson the hard way but you don't have to. The waterproof pants are light and pack up very easily, so always keep a pair in your pack just in case.
Gloves or Mittens
Depending on what you are doing and what kind of climate you are in, you may want a waterproof, fleece or well-insulated pair. In the early morning or at nights, and as you gain altitude, the temperatures can be quite cool and the wind can be fierce (especially at altitude). Keep a pair or two in your pack and don't lose them on the trail when stopping for a photo opp. We also learned that lesson the hard way.
We have yet to find the perfect hat that performs well under all conditions. You will want a hat that provides adequate sun and rain protection and is lightweight enough that it doesn't bother you or cause your head to heat up. But as you gain altitude, or at night, the temperatures can drop significantly and that hat just won't do. For these instances, pack a fleece or wool hat in your pack.
Sunglasses are great for protection - nobody wants damaged retinas or crow's feet! They also will cover up the fact that you are wearing less makeup than usual and you will look put together in your photos. We recommend wearing polarized sunglasses, especially at altitude where the sun is stronger. So if you are on that Rocky Mountain getaway, or fulfilling your dream of hiking the Inca Trail or climbing Kilimanjaro, don't neglect to consider the altitude in your sunglasses and sunscreen application frequency.