Gear Up: 10 Essential Gear Pieces For Outdoor Active Seniors
Gear up and get outdoors. How? So much detail, so little time. Advice on outdoor equipment and apparel can get prolific and contentious. It often revolves around opinionated minutiae and nit-pickiness.
To cut to the chase, here’s a straightforward list of 10 items that belong in the gear stable of every outdoor senior. That means hiking, walking, wheel-chairing, guided ranger events, jumping in and out of the car when sightseeing….
What’s on the list?
The items made the list on the grounds of safety: what basics can you outfit yourself with so you can stay active for years or decades? Secondarily, the items address 3-season outdoor activities pretty much anywhere in the lower 48, the kinds of gear that will be helpful if you are visiting National Park Service facilities and enjoying the outdoors.
Gear up, then, and assemble these 10 to stay outside and exercised:
#1 Sturdy boots.
You’ll need boots with a real lug (Vibram is the de-facto standard), underfoot support to reinforce your legs and back, as well as enough stiffness at the ankle to keep you from twisting your ankle on uneven ground.
Coordinate your socks with your boots. Choose wool or a synthetic, not layered with “liners” unless you are mountaineering. When it comes to cushioning, they should match your boots and keep your soles, toes, and heels from blistering.
#3 Rain jacket.
“Waterproof breathable” is the only way to go here. Also, the jacket should have enough room to accommodate layers. Tight rain jackets feel clammy inside and can limit your movement.
#4 Base layer top.
A top made of a synthetic or wool will wick sweat from your body. This moves dampness off your skin, preventing you from getting overly cold in low temperatures and overly hot in the heat. Mid-weight is a starter top, but lightweight works for some people. Wickiness is the important feature. Heavy-weight is generally overkill for a base layer except for winter outings.
#5 Mid-layer top.
When cold enough, you’ll need a top over the base layer. This top can be almost any covering that is wool or synthetic: an old wool shirt, an ugly Christmas sweater, a light fleece…
More info? Layer Up: 5 Practical Midlayers For Outdoors.
#6 Cargo pants.
Nylon (or polyester/nylon) pant with a tight weave make a versatile bottom for outdoor activities. These pants are generally light and quick drying. Often, they are woven with a very tight weave, protects from sun damage and limits entry to bugs of all kinds, including mosquitoes and ticks. This will minimize the use of DEET, a not-exactly benign chemical.
Plus, many cargo pant designs have zippers on the legs. Others can be rolled up. Either of these features lets you adjust the pants to suit the ambient temperature.
Finally—a popular feature for the non twenty-somethings—nylon cargo pants tend to be high in the rise. If you’re a woman, they come above your hips! No more gapping at the butt! Moving without compromise! Hot diggety dog!
Extra details: Cover Your Butt: The Absolute Best Hiking Pants.
#7 Smallish pack
Muddy Boots generally recommends a pack of 20-35 liters, depending on the length and relative strenuousness of your outing.
For a one-hour walk on the rail trail, enough space for a light jacket, water, cell phone, emergency medication like an epi-pen (?) or heart stuff, and an energy bar is probably enough.
Any activity longer than one hour or in the wilderness requires a pack with enough room for your “essentials”, and extra everything (food, clothes, socks, water) in case you get held up. Muddy Boots carries a small something-or-other to sit on fastened to the outside of the pack.
# 8 Trekking poles.
Muddy Boots uses these even for shortish walks, like an hour on the rail trail. They facilitate balance and allow you to move more efficiently than going without. An outing that might be wobbly can be very sturdy. In winter, the poles can be re-purposed for winter snowshoeing.
Lots of info here: 7+ Things To Consider When Choosing Trekking Poles.
Sun and/or winter beanie. If you often wear a pack, try a sun hat on with the pack if you’d like a large brim all the way around! Why? The brim at the back of your head can bonk your pack: major annoying-ness.
Tip: Preferably, choose a sun hat with a dark under-brim. This will keep light from reflecting back into your eyes.
Muddy Boots always carries a wool or synthetic beanie hat. Temperatures can drop very quickly during the course of a day’s outing or when changing altitude. It can get windy, or you can chill down when eating lunch, waiting for a companion, or when stalled in an emergency. A hat will keep you substantially warmer than going bare-headed.
#10 Water container.
You can either go fancy or basic on water containers. It really won’t matter provided you drink enough. Muddy Boots uses a Camelbak even on short trips because it allows quick access to hydration.
Need to choose? Get Hosed: 1 Great Reason To Use A Camelbak.
Don’t feel you need to gear up by going “technical”. Often, you can corral make-do’s to make it happen. Need some ideas? Try Go Steady: How To Get Hiking Poles On A Budget and Layer Up: 5 Practical Midlayers For Outdoors. Raid your closets, hit up Goodwill, borrow your great grandkid’s book bag.
The only item on this list that can’t be improvised are the sturdy boots and socks to go with them. Go budget on these two can result in injury; that could hold you up forever. However, watch for sales, gather coupons, join rewards programs. A good pair of footwear will come your way.
Don’t let anything keep you from safely staying fit while you enjoy the great outdoors!
Photo credits for Gear Up: Featured image…Butterfly Identification in Southern Oregon: CC BY-SA 2.0 by Bureau of Land Management via Flickr. Top…Lone hiker at Zion West Rim Trail: CC BY 2.0 by Zion National Park via Flickr. Leaving the Big Tree Ridge trailhead today: CC BY 2.0 by Peter Stevens via Flickr. Butterfly Identification in Southern Oregon: CC BY-SA 2.0 by Bureau of Land Management via Flickr. Hikers with bear spray on Beaver Ponds Loop Trail, Yellowstone National Park: Public Domain. Admiring a Calypso Orchid: CC BY-SA 2.0 by J Brew via Flickr.