I am outdoorsy in that I like to get drunk on patios.
April 13, 2014 9:46 PM   Subscribe

If a female personage were to be putting together gear for a "Nature Excursion" -- really something less than a day hike, more like just a couple three hours - what on earth does that look like?

My previous experience with being outdoorsy is all about horses. I know how to dress for horse-related activities, and I have all that. But for generalized hiking I'm totally lost.

I'm going on a getaway vacation to Portland soon, and we'll likely end up in Forest Park for a few hours one day, or we'll drive out to Eugene and do something similar, and then have dinner with friends. I have literally. no. idea. what kind of kit is reasonable for this kind of excursion. Shoes? Clueless. The whole thing. Tell me what I need. I am literally talking no more than 4 hours, probably never far from actual civilization or transit. Please assume all my "athletic" shoes are chucks, save the ONE pair of barefoot Merrells I use for rowing. Indoor rowing.

While cost is not really a problem, I wouldn't want to spend a huge amount of money on things I reasonably won't use again. I have workout tights that I use for . . working out . . sports bras and so on., I can do that. But for like, casual hiking around? I have no idea of what is normal or customary. Make fun all you want just give me some idea of how not to look like a fool and end up crippled by my footwear.
posted by Medieval Maven to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (19 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I am an extremely causal hiker: I go when friends need to fill a car or feel obligated to "enjoy the nice weather." I see hiking as an uphill walk that you have to drive to, with more chance for dirt.

I usually go with a small backpack, running shorts / tights, exercise shirt, running hat, and hiking boots. But hiking boots only because I have them -- if your hike is free from snow / water / mud and situations where you need good traction like crossing rivers or boulder fields, Chucks are probably fine. Wear socks that interact well with your shoes. Avoid cotton because it sticks to your body, and also doesn't look 'pro.'

Use a backpack that allows you to keep weight close to your body, and make sure your shirt protects your body from the straps of the backpack. Stuff in a very light rain jacket / shell, and add a bottle of water, sunscreen, a snack -- quantities depend on how strenuous the hike is and how hot the day is, but since it's short, running short can't be that bad. Maybe sunglasses if you expect it to be sunny?

Make sure someone knows where you're going, unless it's an extremely busy trail. Other than that, enjoy!
posted by batter_my_heart at 10:10 PM on April 13, 2014

Comfortable shoes with thick soles. For a couple of hours, you could easily wear regular sneakers. Most important thing is that they are well worn in so you don't get blisters. Wool socks are good - helps prevent chafing. Beyond that, comfortable lightweight clothes appropriate to the weather - a pair of shorts and a tshirt is normal for me. Bring water and a granola bar so you can keep up your energy. That's it. Enjoy the outdoors!
posted by gemmy at 10:11 PM on April 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

A lot depends on the trails and your foot health. I have definitely done four hour hikes on well maintained, flat trails in casual shoes, sort of like chucks. But, if the trails will be steep, or if you are prone to rolling ankles, or if it's muddy, then you might want something else. Running shoes could work (have done multi hour hikes in them), or shoes with some ankle support could be good. Boots with wool socks are my preference, but if this isnt something you'll make a hobby of, running shoes or chucks might be all you need.

For short hikes, you'll want a backpack or something to carry water bottles in, a snack, a small first aid kit, and throw in some matches, toilet paper and baggies to haul it out, a compass, maybe a knife. A whistle perhaps. A spare pair of socks. Sunscreen and mosquito repellant before you head in. That's about all I take on half days. Wear whatever but wear layers.

It gets more serious on full or multi days, but half day hikes are really long walks. Nothing to worry about, as long as you bring enough water and stay on the trail.
posted by umwhat at 10:12 PM on April 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

A lot of it depends on weather. I don't have any firsthand experience with the Pacific Northwest, but you can find historical weather data on the internet. A really good source is NOAA. They have a weather station near Eugene, but their historical data requests take 24-36 hours to process. Other places on the internet seem to think late spring and early summer are pretty friendly: neither cold nor warm, just a bit rainy.

I think for that kind of weather, for four hours on groomed trails, you don't need any specific kit. Just avoid cotton, because if you get rained on, it's actually possible to get hypothermia in warm (e.g., 50F) air while wearing wet cotton. Wear your Chucks, wear pants such that you won't mind sitting on a mossy log, and bring a sweater and sunscreen and a couple liters of water.

If I were really responsible and careful, I'd also bring two thousand calories (a few PB&J sandwiches and bar of baking chocolate), a bivy sack, a whistle, a first aid kit (including gauze, roller bandages, a few cravats, a plastic bag for a three-sided dressing, some tape, and a knife), some 550 cord, toilet paper, and maybe a cell phone if you know you'll have reception. But actually I've done day hikes in slacks and a sweater and none of the above.
posted by d. z. wang at 10:27 PM on April 13, 2014

It's never a bad idea to be familiar with the ten essentials.

footwear should be comfortable, give ankle support and you should take a change of socks.
layered clothing, with a rain protection layer and take a change for the ride home in case you get wet
posted by OHenryPacey at 10:28 PM on April 13, 2014

If you will really never ever wear a running shoe or a light hiking shoe, I wouldn't waste money on a new pair of shoes BUT I would guess your feet will get tired or sore if you're walking in Chucks on slightly uneven or rocky trails. I think the most important thing is just having some more cushion between you and the ground and having a somewhat rigid sole, so maybe you could even get away with a cheapy running type shoe from target or famous footwear.

Bottom line, though, you will survive 3-4 hours outdoors without acquiring anything new or special. But you may be happier/come away with a better impression of the experience if your feet have some protection.

If I were going out for 3-4 hours I would take:
lightweight backpack, snacks, full water bottle, chapstick, handkerchief (i've got allergies), sunglasses, hat, camera, a light layer like a flannel button up or hoodie or fleece.

I like to wear lightweight loose or stretchy pants when hiking around, workout tights would be fine. Again, you'll totally survive wearing jeans but maybe not be as comfy.
posted by dahliachewswell at 10:29 PM on April 13, 2014

Oh, another thing: your local wilderness group probably runs Wilderness First Aid classes. I do not think it is necessary for you to attend one in order to go for a three-hour walk in the woods, but it may set your mind at ease about preparedness. And it's probably a good thing for the world for that kind of information to be more widely disseminated.
posted by d. z. wang at 10:30 PM on April 13, 2014

Best answer: loaf of crusty, artisanal bread suitably sized for your party. hunk of aged, sharp cheddar. salami, bonus points for duck salami. a bottle of oregon pinot. something to open the bottle and something (sierra cups?) to drink it from. a knife suitable for cutting the food.
posted by bruce at 10:58 PM on April 13, 2014 [18 favorites]

For a few hours of casual walking you are fine in your Chucks and whatever clothes are comfortable. If you want to invest in equipment by a pair of Smart Wool socks. Bruce's food advice is excellent. Have fun.
posted by LarryC at 11:02 PM on April 13, 2014

If you're just clambering around in Forest Park for a few hours, hell, I do that with my three-year-old. I wear jeans, a shirt, other layers as appropriate, and my running shoes. I haul an infant, as many snack as possible, and more water than I think I'll need, but you would probably do fine with one water bottle and a few tasty treats. The parts of Forest Park I've been in have generally been busy on nice days, plus I've always had cell reception and been able to walk back to the city, so while I tend to have basic first aid stuff on hand, I'm not overly concerned with that stuff for a morning/afternoon ramble.

On preview, bruce has it. Pack a picnic, wear what's comfy and weather-appropriate.
posted by linettasky at 11:04 PM on April 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If it's likely to be raining as it often is where you're going, pack something waterproof to sit on. Even if it's as simple as a plastic garbage bag you'll find that being able sit down for a short break without getting a wet bum a small luxury.
posted by islander at 12:03 AM on April 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

For a 2-3 hour hike in a busy, urban park with well-maintained trails such as Forest Park, chucks with athletic socks, t-shirt, a hoodie or some such since it's still spring, and tights or jeans are fine.

A packable rain jacket would be good. In fact, if you don't have a lightweight packable rain jacket, *that* would be the one piece of kit I would recommend you spend money on, because it'd be a good thing to have for your entire trip and not just your 3-hour walk in the woods. It doesn't need to be fancy or technical or anything. $50 for whatever's on sale at your local Dick's will certainly get you what you need for these purposes.

A backpack to carry your rain jacket, water bottle, and a small snack.

(On the off chance that your horse-related footwear selection includes all-terrain barn/paddock boots like the Ariat Tioga, I'd recommend those over chucks. If you still do things horse-related and you want to invest in footwear other than chucks, the Tioga is what I would recommend.)
posted by drlith at 5:16 AM on April 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

I do light hiking like that on the weekends and until recently I was just wearing regular sneakers. You can just wear regular, comfortable clothes. I would bring water and snacks. A rain jacket is nice but if it rains that hard you'll probably cancel your hike.
posted by interplanetjanet at 5:43 AM on April 14, 2014

We do this kind of thing a lot.... Basically any casual/don't-mind-some-mud clothing is fine. Any shoes are OK as long as you can walk in them for that length of time (although--I love my trail runners. If you've been thinking about picking up some more stabilizing foot ware, they're a good intermediate between Chucks and hiking boots--just don't go in new shoes, break them in first!). My jeans are tight/fancy, so I wear my exercise tights with an optional loose, short skirt over them.

Carry a backpack, depending on the weather that day you may want to carry a light long-sleeved shirt or a light jacket so you can put that in the bag. A big water bottle (I never go through it all, except that one time we did and I was so glad we had it). Any kind of food. I've gone with leftover pizza, sandwiches, trail mix, brownies... Anything you can eat as a snack. A couple of sani-wipes and a few paper towels, 2-3 small zip-lock bags (can be used to organize stuff as you pack, and then carry trash later). A small first-aid assortment, mine is currently: Bandaids, blister pads, neosporin, benadryl, zyrtec. Get the trail map at the park entrance and toss that in your bag, too.

Make sure your phone is charged, and optionally turn it off before you start hiking.
posted by anaelith at 5:50 AM on April 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

something to open the bottle

I was going to jump in here to remind everyone about the exciting youtube method of opening a wine bottle by banging it against a tree with your shoe.

While I was googling to find it, instead I found this MrVino blog post where he says he tried it with "Crocs, Keens, dress shoes, cycling shoes, dish towels and, finally, straight-up, bottle against tree" and it never budged, not a millimeter.

Oh, here's another one where a girl tries it and gets nowhere, but her muscle-bound boyfriend is able to loosen it a bit so she can finish it off. Complete with mother laughing in the background. "Total knocks to dislodge cork... 157. Not 6 like Mr FamcyPants at the Bordeaux Bistro".

So, yeah, bring something to open the wine.
posted by CathyG at 7:08 AM on April 14, 2014

They don't call it the Pacific North-Wet for nothing. I always bring a light rain jacket in the pack, a fleece or sweater too, if the day could get a bit cool.

Don't wear cotton sweat socks. That's a one way trip to blister town.

On cooler days too, hot drinks are amazing. A flask of something warm, even if you leave it in car for afters, will make you friends.
posted by bonehead at 9:06 AM on April 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Last summer I hiked in Swedish/Norwegian mountains with my Merrell trail runners and loved it. Sturdy hiking boots are overrated. With light, flexible shoes you can hop around flexibly. They also dry out more quickly.

Cold hands suck. Pharmacy vinyl gloves are cheap and useful. You can put them on outside your normal gloves, or use only the vinyl gloves against wind & rain.

If you don't have any light rain gear, you might want to go to the mall and get a cheap rain poncho. They cover much of your body and weigh very little.
posted by mbrock at 10:19 AM on April 14, 2014

We go to Portland often, and often do light hiking while we're there, and I usually wear my North Face walking shoes. I don't know what kind of tread your Chucks have, but you'll want something that will give you a little traction, since you can count on walking in a bit of mud, damp leaves, moss, etc. If you don't hike/walk that much, definitely get some good socks--REI has some really nice non-wool walking socks (the ones they have for hiking are awfully thick and don't work in all shoes); I'm one of those people who always gets blisters, but those socks really make a huge difference in that department.

Definitely dress in light layers, and your outer layer should be one that's good in drizzle. It will probably be mild and damp, but the sun could come out and warm things up or it could rain a bit (as somebody said, they'll probably cancel if it REALLY rains, but you should always be ready for drizzle in Portland). I find a light fleece jacket works well for me when I'm there, but jackets specifically for rain are a bit too warm and clammy in that mild, humid climate.
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 1:48 PM on April 14, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks guys! I'm for sure getting a rain jacket (my only one currently is not practical for hiking or like, not being dressed for work really) and some light duty hiking shoes. The rest I think I'll be fine with what I own currently. And I am leaving packing food and carrying it to my companion . . because otherwise I'm mostly doing the planning. :)
posted by Medieval Maven at 6:50 AM on April 15, 2014

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