Speed hiking is booming. Not only is it a great way to train, but it’s also a lot of fun. But, what all do you need for this increasingly popular outdoor sport? Do beginners have to spend a lot of money on super-expensive gear to get the most out of the sport? Or will something basic be enough to get you started?
What’s the best equipment to hike with? What should I pack and what can I leave at home? Well, if you keep on reading, we’ll try to answer all your burning questions and more!
Hiking is easiest when you go light
Let’s get one thing out of the way first: you don’t have to spend all your savings on expensive speed hiking gear in order to get started.
Sure, to maximise the fun and minimise your risk of injury on the trails, you need quality equipment. But don’t fret. Even though high quality and high prices often go hand in hand, there are plenty of affordable options out there as well. Besides, all you need to zoom over the trails is good clothing, good shoes, a small backpack and sturdy walking poles.
In other words, you don’t need to deck yourselves out with an array of new gear and relegate your old stuff to storage. Instead, invest your hard-earned money in the essentials.
Speed hiking gear is subjected to high stress and a lot of wear and tear, so it has to be able to withstand quite a bit. But, most important of all: your kit should be light. After all, nothing is more taxing than carrying around extra weight! Having to carry too heavy a load will slow you down, deplete your energy stores, damage your joints and could even lead to permanent problems. That being said, light and durable are paramount. If you’d like to find some super-lightweight shoes, backpacks and functional clothing, you can have a look at the ultra-light products in our shop!
The core of any speed hiking kit: the poles
Now to the nucleus, the MVP, the key player or the core of a speed hiking kit: the speed hiking poles! Poles not only help to provide stability in technical terrain but also support your arm muscles to propel you uphill and take the strain off your joints by distributing the weight on the downhills. The more intense the route, the higher the stress on the poles. As with your other pieces of kit, your poles should be as lightweight as possible. The best option here are carbon poles, which are incredibly strong, yet lightweight. In fact, it doesn’t get much lighter than carbon-reinforced plastic. Plus, they give some joint-friendly shock absorption as well.
And what about the kind of poles? Your best option would be Nordic walking or trail running poles. Ordinary walking poles won’t do because of their lack of wrist straps. The straps on walking or trekking poles have been specifically designed so that you can slip your hands out quickly. Speed hikers, however need specially shaped straps that fit well around their wrists to promote the proper walking technique and rhythm. That’s why you’ll find that many manufacturers are now making speed hiking poles that have been specifically designed to meet the needs of speed hikers.
Clothing and backpacks for speed hiking
In addition to speed hiking poles, you need speed hiking clothing. The clothing you choose should be light and allow for enough freedom of movement. In other words, you can use anything you’ve used for outdoor activities in the past. The only thing is, it should be comfortable and functional.
Because speed hiking is such a physically demanding sport, the last point is of utmost importance. Breathable clothing, preferably with ventilation options, prevents your body from overheating and makes it possible to maintain a certain level of performance. Some popular brands even have their own speed hiking range, like Salewa with their Pedroc series.
Your choice of clothing also plays a crucial role in how much weight you save. Depending on the route and weather conditions, you could strip it down to the bare essentials so that you don’t have to lug around any unnecessary weight whatsoever. If you’re planning on going on a multi-day hike, a layering system is the way to go. All the stuff you don’t need at any given moment, like your waterproof, can be stuffed in your backpack. Of course, this won’t make the weight disappear David Copperfield style, but at least you don’t have to wear it. The trick is that it does indeed make your movements quicker.
Speaking of backpacks, what kind of features should it have? As you’ve probably already guessed, your backpack should weigh as little as possible. So, try to find a compact and lightweight backpack with comfortable, ergonomic shoulder straps. Your speed hiking pack should fit snugly against the back and not wobble when you make quick movements.
Another important thing to consider is ventilation. The back should be ventilated so that there’s no build up of heat or excess sweat. Running or trail running packs are a great option, provided that they have enough storage. Once you’ve found the right backpack, pack it carefully. Make sure you have a walking map, first-aid kit, GPS device and of course enough water. But, remember: every extra gram on your shoulders weighs twice or even three times as much when you’re speed hiking.
A fast foot needs some quality footwear – what are some good speed hiking shoes?
And now for the part of your kit that your speed-hiking self quite literally rests on: your shoes and socks! First, let’s talk shoes. Your choice of shoes depends on the trip and speed. But, you still need to keep weight in mind.
Your shoes shouldn’t be too heavy but durable enough to be able to withstand the wear and tear that comes with the trails. If you’re a fast speed hiker and rarely veer off hiking trails, low-top trainers (like sturdy trail running shoes) are an excellent choice. They will give you the traction and surefootedness you need for the trails whilst ensuring that your ankles remain mobile.
If you’re venturing into more difficult terrain, you may want to opt for shoes with more ankle support to prevent rolling it and getting injured. Regardless of which shoes you choose, be sure to break them in thoroughly beforehand to prevent blisters and hot spots!
In terms of socks, you just need to make sure you are comfortable. Socks should not be too loose, but fit snugly. Otherwise, they will have a negative impact on the shoe’s fit and cause chafing, which can lead to some painful blisters. Some speed hikers also swear by compression socks. These are thought to prevent swelling in your legs as well as over-acidification in the calf muscles by improving blood flow, leading to improvements in your performance.
As you can see, the investment you have to make to get started isn’t all that big! So, what are you waiting for? Start speed hiking!