Hikers love to talk about gear. At least, some hikers do, but those who do will talk about gear A LOT. In the planning stages, this makes sense. We’re trying to choose equipment and clothing that’s lightweight, sturdy, and will keep us alive for six months. There starts to be a charm of magical thinking around finding exactly the right hiking poles or rain jacket. If I can get the exact right balance of waterproofing and breathability and weight I will suddenly be capable of hiking 2600 miles!
Most consumer goods are largely aesthetic- this table suits our mid century modern living room, or this purse coordinates with these dresses. With gear, though, how something looks winds up being way, way down the list of priorities, which are more like this:
-Does it do the thing? Or even two things?
-will it last six months in the wilderness without breaking?
-is it light enough to carry on my back all day, every day?
If those criteria are met and it’s not a heinous shade of magenta, I consider it a win.
Most women’s hiking stuff comes in roughly five colors: hot pink, turquoise, pristine white, and black. Black is right out, for its heat- and mosquito-multiplying properties. White will just be brown and grey within hours and so that’s not the best bet, either. Hot pink is fine if you like it, but it’s never been my jam. Of course, it really doesn’t matter how you feel about color, because the next step is scouring online gear outlets for deals on last season’s leftovers, and inevitably the only color in your size is a violent shade of puce and it’s not like you can afford to worry that much about what you look like while hiking 20 miles a day, so you go for it.
Those obstacles aside, I wound up with what looks like a pretty snazzy adventure get-up:
That’s a super-lightweight ExOfficio button-down top, with nice mesh panels on the back for extra breathability, and tabs to roll up the sleeves for when it’s really hot. The pants are Marmot Lobo convertible pants- I can roll them up into capris or zip them off into shorts. Of course, I still have pre-hike anxiety about these choices in spite of the endless research I’ve done. Am I going to get sick of the billowing fabric of this long-sleeved blouse and wish I just had a synthetic work-out shirt on instead? Are those zippers going to get really annoying after the first hundred miles, or will I forget they’re there? I know I can change out my gear along the trail if I need to, but I wish I had some magical way of knowing these answers ahead of time.
Of course, I haven’t yet addressed the biggest issue I have with gear, which is that I’m married to someone who’s doing gear research alongside me, weighing options, and hashing things out with me until we inevitably come to similar conclusions about what kind of gear we want. And that’s how you end up with this:
We arrived at our clothing choices separately, ordered separately… and wound up looking like members of a terrifying yuppie cult. We’re still working on hashing out some good spooky initiation rituals; suggestions welcome!