Thursday, September 16, 2010

This Colorado Girl's favorite hiking gear; Part 2

Josh on Mt. Elbert using his Leki Hiking Pole
I started writing about my favorite hiking gear in a previous post, and quickly realized that I would need more than one post to cover all of my favorite gear. 
In my last post, I listed my favorite hiking shoes, backpack, and hand warmers for those cold mornings or winter hiking.  In this post, I will discuss the pros and cons of hiking poles and my favorite outdoor clothing and accessories.  The gear you wear, and items you take with you on  your hike can very well save your life if something happens out in the wilderness.  

Hiking Poles:  I recently bought a pair of hiking poles for the first time last winter after hiking in Colorado for 7 years without using them.  I bought the poles because I started this blog and I was solo hiking very frequently in the winter in slippery conditions and after several falls that almost caused an injury; I decided to splurge and buy some poles.  Hiking poles aren't cheap, to say the least, and this was on reason Josh and I didn't have a set; they typically range for a set of good poles from $75 - $200.  
The criteria I had for my poles:
1.  Poles had to come in a set of 2 (some are just a single pole)
2.  Poles had to be adjustable enough so Josh who is 6'4" and myself who is 5'3" could both each use one pole and it would support our height and weight
3.  Poles had to have anti shock
4.  Poles needed to weigh very little and easy to lengthen and shorten
5.  I had a budget of $100
"Us" with Leki hiking poles, fleece vest, Mt. Elbert

I found an article on that discussed poles and how to use them properly; you can find it here, it was very helpful when I was doing research before buying a set.  Plus, I read dozens of reviews to ensure we were getting a good pair.
After all the research, I chose the Leki Jasper Anti shock Poles which meet all of my criteria except the 'easy to shorten or lengthen,' I think they are difficult to adjust but they stay put when adjusted and the grip handle is slightly uncomfortable for me, but overall I am happy with the purchase.    The benefit of using poles is to take stress off your knees when hiking a steep trail, they also offer more stability on rocky terrain and you can hike faster with them.  Plus, in winter conditions when trails are slippery they can save you from a fall and I feel much more in control hiking downhill when using the poles in any weather condition.  I don't think the poles are necessary; but if you can afford to purchase a set they will definitely be a permanent fixture in your hiking pack and your knees will thank you for them.  After much research, I bought my set from Moosejaw, which is one of my favorite places to purchase outdoor gear; they have great customer service, they are local to my home state of Michigan, and they have great products! 

Hiking Clothes; This is a huge category because you need different clothing for different seasons, altitude, wind, the summer heat and the cold in winter; this will just briefly outline a few of my favorite clothing items and I will expand on this topic in another post. 
I have three items of clothing that I am happy to endorse.  
 Eddie Bauer Goose Down vest; St. Marys Glacier
First, my very favorite item for hiking in Colorado is a vest.  Vests help to keep your core warm, but allows maximum movement for your arms and regulates your body temperature by allowing your armpits to have air.  This is important because when hiking in high altitude; you don't want to become overly sweaty which can cause you to become very cold when you stop to rest  (or if you fell and hurt yourself) and this can potentially lead to hypothermia.  There are several vests in my closet that I wear for different occasions; in the summer I usually add a fleece vest to my top layer of clothing when it's not too hot or when hiking in higher elevation.  In the winter, I have several down vests that I wear depending on how cold the hike will be; the warmest vest I own was a gift from my sister; and Eddie Bauer Goose Down vest.  This is the best for cold weather that I have found, it has several straps to adjust the fit, the vest zips up high and covers your neck, and it keeps me very, very warm.  
Briefly, two other items of clothing that I love are my hiking pants and hiking shorts.  It took several years to find both pants that fit me correctly without looking completely ridiculous like 'mom jeans' with a funny fit in the hips.  But I finally found a pair at REI which are wider in the ankle and have a more modern fit, low rise fit.  I looked for a link to my exact pair on the REI site, but they are several seasons old and I don't see them for sale anymore.  However, REI does have several great pairs of womens pants; and you can shop by style and rise to find the best fit for you.   
My REI hiking pants & hiking boots, descending Mt. Belford
The last item I want to discuss are my hiking shorts.  Again, I wanted to find some shorts that look cute on me, but still were conducive to long hikes on the trail with lots of pockets, UV protection and comfort.  The pair I finally bought and love are from Columbia's Titanium Collection, again the exact style I have is not available, but the current style is even cuter; and I might have to buy a pair if they go on sale this fall!

One piece of hiking gear that I haven't found yet that I really love; is a good fleece hiking sweatshirt with pockets.  I have had a few in the past, but they wore out quickly and had several faults in them.  I'd love to hear what you favorite shirt is, or any of your favorite hiking gear.  Please leave a comment. 

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