Gear choices for a 25k hike
July 19, 2017 8:13 AM   Subscribe

I am participating the in the KTA Trail Challenge 25k hike in September. This is my first hike over 10 miles, so I have a few questions about shoe and clothing choices.

The KTA Trail Challenge is an organized event, with food and aid stations, that includes "25k of steep hills, rugged terrain, and wet stream crossings in unpredictable weather conditions." I'm in good shape and do plenty of hiking and trail running in our nearby national park, but have not been on an excursion of this length, so I'm wondering what to wear to stay comfortable.

Shoes vs. boots: I have a good pair of lightweight, non-waterproof trail running shoes, and a good pair of all-weather, waterproof hiking boots. I was thinking that the shoes would be better for fatigue, but the boots would be better suited for any wet conditions. What would be best?

Socks: I have some synthetic wicking running socks, as well as calf-length SmartWool socks. Not sure which would be better without roasting my feet.

Pants vs. shorts: I'm expecting it to be hot, so shorts would seem the obvious choice, but pants might be better for the bugs and shiggy. Are convertible zip-off hiking pants worth the investment?

Day pack: I have a small backpack that I am planning to use for carrying a poncho, sun screen and bug repellant, small first aid kit, snacks and water. Anything else I should consider packing?
posted by slogger to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I've done multi day backpacking trips and trail runs up to 50k.

If you aren't carrying a large pack, the trail shoes should be sufficient. I would look into some Smartwool running socks to wear with them. I find lightweight wool socks just work better on muddy trails.

In your pack, you might consider adding a spare pair of socks and enough duct tape to wrap an ankle if necessary. You need to be able to make it to the next aid station.

Shorts and bug spray should be fine. Gaiters are useful when it's really muddy. They come in different lengths.
posted by TORunner at 8:34 AM on July 19, 2017

25k is surely nothing to sneeze at, but it basically amounts to spending a day hiking. I'd recommend the waterproof boots, but the lighter weight shoes would probably also be fine. The Smartwool/Merrino wool socks are your friends. Shorts should do you fine.
posted by fignewton at 8:37 AM on July 19, 2017

I'm not familiar with East Coast hiking, but my understanding is that there is a tick/Lyme disease problem that keeps getting worse. If that's true, I'd spring for the zip off pants to keep the ticks at bay. They also help with poison oak/ivy/sumac. If you have a semi-athletic build, the Columbia Silver Ridge pants are super lightweight, affordable and not enormously oversized.

I'd go with the shoes unless you know you're going to be in water or mud a lot. But I'm also really not a fan of heavy hiking boots.
posted by cnc at 9:10 AM on July 19, 2017

I'm leaving in like 10 minutes to do a 7 day backpacking trip.

Shoes vs. boots is entirely personal. I prefer heavier boots/shoes, but many backpackers are in running shoes. I'd really recommend ankle gaiters if you wear shoes - just to keep the dirt and crap out.

I love my convertible pants. It might start out at 38 degrees and then warm up to 80 before cooling off as the sun goes down, and not having to be locked into one or the other is super convenient. Plus, its better bug/sun protection than chemical solutions. Get a lightweight long sleeve shirt for the same reasons. A wide brim hat and sunglasses as well.

You could pack a water filter. Then, instead of carrying water, you can camel up at a stream. These have been really popular - lightweight and effective enough. I have this one, which is probably overkill for you, but I like the higher throughput and it tastes better.

Good hiking poles. Stream crossings and steep climbs/descents are much easier with poles, especially as you get tired.

Pack a small first aid kit, and some duct tape.

And go have a lot of fun!
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 9:10 AM on July 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

I would totally go for the lightweight shoes and just bring extra socks - if you're going to be stepping in water above 4 inches deep or so, you're probably going to get your socks wet anyway. If it's mostly mud then the boots might help, but that's unusual in September.

I prefer lightweight roll-up pants to shorts or the zip-off pants.

Don't bother bringing the poncho if the weather is going to be clear that day. Pack an extra shirt/windbreaker if it looks like it might be cold.

All in all, I would err on the side of underpacking since it's a supported hike and it's only the one day.
posted by mskyle at 9:21 AM on July 19, 2017

TORunner, Pogo, please elaborate on why to use duct tape for an ankle, rather than an elastic bandage?
posted by JimN2TAW at 9:28 AM on July 19, 2017

When I'm day-hiking in the mountains with a full (40+lb) camera kit, I take along a pair of river sandals (tevas) for crossings. The rest of the time it's mid-height hikers with wool hiking socks.

Your feet are gonna be hot no matter what.

Unfortunately, they discontinued the Band-Aid brand blister stick. It was amazing. I'd smear it on the sides of each toe, around the ball of my foot, and the perimeter of my heel. There may be a cycling equivalent you can use.

Also take some athlete's foot powder (shake, not spray). Shake a couple tablespoons into your hand and drop it down your ass-crack. Take another couple tablespoons and powder each side of your inner thighs to protect the frank and beans from chafing. Shake a couple shakes into your shoes before you put them on your feet - literally on the insole to keep your socks from chafing against the insole. Keep the powder with you and refresh as needed.

Alternate between straight water and Propel water.
posted by notsnot at 10:09 AM on July 19, 2017

Hiking poles for stream crossing!

Shoes vs. boots are personal- I twist my ankles easily, so even though running shoes are lighter, I always end up with hiking boots.

I go with hiking pants, as you can always roll them up if you need too, but honestly they're mostly light enough to not really be an issue.

Bring an extra set of smartwool (or other wool) socks, and dry and switch at the midpoint regardless of if you think you need too; this alone should be enough to prevent any blisters. Wool is better in my opinion, you can always fold down the calf length socks. (you're hiking, not winning style points!)

As it's supported, you won't need a much gear on you; I'd aim to carry the bare minimum of stuff you can get away with; and you might be able to avoid even carrying a pack (socks in a ziplock bag, a few bandaids, some ducttape wrapped around my hiking pole, a knife, energy bar, a thermal/light weight soft shell around my waist and a waterbottle or two)
posted by larthegreat at 10:11 AM on July 19, 2017

I'm somewhat fit and a somewhat experienced hiker. If the weather was looking clear (and that this hike is supported), I would bring pretty much nothing. I'd be in light hikers/trail runners, cargo hiking shorts, merino underwear, merino socks, a coolmax shirt, and a baseball hat. I would have a small camelback/hydration bladder (2 liter), a spare set of socks in one cargo pocket and a spare protein bar in the other. Possibly sunglasses too.

I believe that fast and light will make for a better hike.
posted by TomFoolery at 10:31 AM on July 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

Oh! One other thing - make sure there's plenty of room in the toe box of whatever shoes you decide on. Downhills suck if your toes hit the front of the shoe.
posted by notsnot at 11:07 AM on July 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'd definitely be concerned about ticks and Lyme disease. We've had special warnings this year based on temperature and precipitation for all of Ontario. As always, check ahead with the organizers and/or your state people.

You can otherwise hike comfortably in almost every level of equipment. Poles are fine if you're on marked trails, but they're a real nuisance in boulder scrambles and I don't trust them on scree (loose rock) slopes. Just be sure to bring enough water and food. Have an extra shirt and socks (or sandals) for the car so you're not in cold wet clothing on the drive home.

I usually have a 2" tensor bandage in the bag for sprains and moleskin for blisters. Don't wear new shoes what ever you do.
posted by bonehead at 11:42 AM on July 19, 2017

You might bring a warm layer in the pack, and an emergency whistle in case you get lost. I would personally for long pants or convertible pants over shorts. Lyme is rumored to be especially bad this summer in the NE.
posted by Cranialtorque at 11:44 AM on July 19, 2017

One thing that's super nice on a hot day is to bring a change of socks for the afternoon. Nothing worse that getting going again in wet socks. And it helps control blisters.
posted by bonehead at 11:47 AM on July 19, 2017

A lot of this is down to taste & style and you won't know what's best for you until you've done this kind of thing.


You want the wool socks, which will remain usable even if you get soaked. I would go with the boots but this is a comfort question. The trail is apparently rocky, so you probably want a shoe with some protection in the sole.

I would go with shorts but you should check the weather day-of. Personally I think avoiding tick exposure is a mug's game. You can't hermetically seal yourself while doing a warm-weather outdoor activity. You'll just have to check yourself carefully when you're done.

If there is a risk of getting lost (especially if you may be out after dark), you probably want to bring a light and maybe some kind of emergency shelter (garbage bag?).

For high elevations, as well as possible emergencies, you might like to pack a warm wool top.
posted by grobstein at 12:59 PM on July 19, 2017

I might consider investing in a third pair of shoes, as long as you have time to wear them before the Challenge: a hiking shoe that's a bit more substantial than a running shoe but still not a heavy boot. You might consider something waterproof. I'd also suggest packing some moleskin if you'll be doing significantly more mileage than you've done at one time before. Plus wet socks can be chafing.

Do you have any low-cut SmartWools? They're a great compromise between your hiking socks and wicking low cut running socks.

Also, are you familiar with MountainSmith lumbar packs? They're basically high-end, well-made fanny packs. I love them when I have to carry a bit more weight and stuff but don't want to carry a backpack (which can get sweaty and uncomfortable). I'm sure other companies make something similar, but MountainSmith is the brand I know.

I'd also suggest sunglasses (for sun) and a hat (for rain and sun). And your phone.

Have fun!
posted by bluedaisy at 6:58 PM on July 19, 2017

Use Glide. Everywhere. Because it doesn't matter how fit you are, after 25km something unexpected is going to rub on something else unexpected and you're going to wish you were dead.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 7:29 PM on July 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

I wanted to pop back in and say that I wore trail shoes on a very hot 7mile/12km hike for the first time in a while on Saturday, and it's 4 days later and my ankle tendons/stabilizer muscles are still awful pain . (I run regularly on flatish ground on them; I've actually haven't been able to run since)

Stick with whatever shoes you're used too. Don't switch without working up to it, especially over uneven terrain.
posted by larthegreat at 8:46 AM on August 2, 2017

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