Help outfit me for adventurous strolling/timid hiking

I am incredibly unfit and weak right now. Spending 2015 in or recovering from cancer treatment* reduced my muscle tone to “Jell-O” and my cardiovascular efficiency to “asthmatic sloth.”

I’ve slowly been trying to push my boundaries and regain some strength. One thing I love to do is walk on our local greenways - paved trails through the woods and parks. I’d like to go walking in any weather, barring sheets of ice or blizzard conditions.

So what clothes do I need? I was thinking lots of layers: wicking fabric for underthings, then leggings and shirt, optional polar fleece jacket for warmth (and maybe fleece-lined leggings for truly cold days?), and some sort of rain-proof shell. Plus maybe a hat? And of course gloves.

I’m not planning on backpacking in the wilderness or going out in a hurricane, so I feel like a lot of the REI-type stuff is overkill. Also this is NC - usually our days are at least in the 50s (this week is 60s and 70s).

Then there’s the wrinkle that I’m fat. So the clothes have to be available in size 22/2x. These hips don’t lie, and they don’t fit into a standard store’s XL. :smiley:
*Yes, I’m doing well - as far as anyone can tell I’m clear! But I have to go see a doctor quarterly just so they can check on me.

Avoid cotton - gets uncomfortable/cold when it gets damp from rain or sweat.

Invest in good quality hiking socks.

Socks and shoes / boots are key. Layered clothing is best, but you need some place to put shed layers. Like a simple knapsack.

Water. Sunglasses. Phone. A way to carry ID and keys without a whole bunch of attached stuff. First Aid. Snacks.

Unless you’re going to be out for multiple hours at a time, you really don’t need too much stuff. I agree that comfortable waterproof shoes/boots that fit are key, along with good wool socks. Try on the shoes with the socks you will be walking in, spend some time in the store walking around to make sure they’re comfortable. They don’t need to be hiking boots, or insulated since you’re not likely to need that.

For clothes, as long as the layer next to your skin is wicking the brands don’t matter. You can get stuff like Under Armour or Patagonia but I often pick up shirts and tights at TJMaxx or Marshalls. Same for fleece, its all made from the same materials. A good waterproof/windproof jacket with a hood is worth its weight in gold. If you want to spend more this is where to spend it. But a good jacket from Columbia or LLBean will serve you well for less money.

Start with what you have, add pieces along the way. You don’t need anything fancy to start. Good luck.

Gear that I consider, if not necessary then at least quite useful: headphones and either an mp3 player or an extra battery pack for my phone.

Total agreement. Start with the local park and just wander around a bit, somewhere non-challenging, possibly with a friend. Don’t discover your limits by going three miles out into the desert… (I’ve done that…)

I did invest in a good pair of boots. I carry a water bottle, wear a sun-hat, and I have a nice walking stick. (Coleman makes a nice collapsible one, plenty cheap.)

My sister taught me a cute trick for wearing a light jacket: if it gets warm, and you want to take off the jacket, and if the sleeves aren’t long enough to tie around your waist (some of us have large waists) tie a length of cord through the sleeves and tie the cord around your waist. This works very well for me.

If you want to be able to ignore the ice sheets, pick up a set of Kahtoola Microspikes. They are lightweight, comfortable, and with them you can walk just about anywhere. We do some serious hiking year-round, in snow country, and they are great for packed and frozen paths.

For wicking clothes I strongly suggest going for merino wool. Many of the new synthetic fabrics do a very good job at wicking moisture but they quickly develop a very unpleasant smell. Merino wool is more expensive than synthetic but it does not get stinky and can be worn many times between washings, even when worn during very sweaty activities – so you really only need to buy one. I basically only wash my merino shirts when I slop my lunch down the front; sometimes they go for a couple of months of daily sweaty hikes or bike rides between bike rides – and they do not smell.

In your weather conditions you may not even need any bottoms other than your regular pants, but lightweight merino wool base layer bottoms might be useful on very cold days. Cotton gets damp and stays damp during exercise, so synthetics are a better choice for pants.

With a wool base layer for moisture management, an outer layer depends on the current weather; cold, windy, rainy? If it’s cold, a fleece jacket, maybe hoody. If it’s windy, most any windbreaker will keep the chill out. I like the kind of wind jacket that folds up to fit into its own pocket. Buy the windbreaker big enough to fit over the fleece.

Down or other big puffy insulated jackets aren’t for moving around, they’re for when you’re stopped. Walking will keep you warm – you’re only cold for the first five or ten minutes.

Rain is a tougher situation – anything that will keep water out will also keep water in, so you end up getting wet from the inside. Don’t put much faith into the hype of breathable GoreTex advertising. The best solution for walking in the rain is an umbrella – if it’s is too windy, then maybe a poncho. If it’s howling wind and pouring rain and you are still determined, something like a Marmot PreCip Jacket (and maybe the pants, too).

A merino wool beanie for winter and a wide-brimmed hat for summer tops it all off.

A couple specific suggestions:

SmartWool NTS 250 Base Layer is my everyday shirt for cold days, the 150 weight for warmer days.

Prana Stretch Zion Pant – I wear these everywhere, all the time. They’re also available with zip-offs to turn them into shorts.

Oooh, thanks everyone. I’m excited to try a lot of these ideas!

I have a couple pairs of Smartwool socks, and I do really like them, so I’ll probably buy a couple more and use those for my walks - especially as I’m able to go for longer jaunts.

I also appreciate the advice about avoiding cotton - probably have to stick to synthetics to start, but merino sounds like something to explore when I’ve got spare cash.

I hadn’t even thought about a sun hat, walking stick, or a small bag to hold shed layers - thank you for those tips.

I went ahead and bought myself a Columbia jacket that will keep the wind and most of the rain out - they were having a good sale online. But yeah, especially since I’m walking on paved trails rather than in the woods, an umbrella is a simple and clever idea!

I second the synthetic underlayer. We recently discovered Under Armour, and you can’t beat it for staying warm and un-clammy when it’s worn under other garments in wet chilly weather. Cotton t-shirts just can’t compete.

It’s also good on its own for hot, humid weather. I bought my first Under Armour t-shirt in Hawaii last month because it was way, way cooler than the cotton t-shirts I had packed along.

I’m completely sold on Smartwool socks (see my location) I’ll be getting more for myself soon. I’m about ready to just ditch all of my cotton socks. And I’m a desk jockey.

Your ‘hiking’ buddy can also just be someone that you tell/text your plans. Where you’re going and that you will give them a simple text when you return.

-enipla (former Colorado Ground Search and Rescue member GSAR, part of the Civil Air Patrol)

I second UA as well. I live in a Mountain resort community with pretty much year round activities. From skiing to biking to just about anything you can do outdoors. Everyone is wearing this stuff. And damn if it’s not just plain comfy.

Don’t buy a bunch of socks of any one brand until it’s proven to work for you. There are plenty of athletic socks that bunch up and give me blisters.

It’s worth noting that your walking shoes/boots might do better if they’re half a size, or even a whole size, larger than your usual. Your foot sort of flattens and spreads when you go a long distance. I got that tip at a running shoe store, and it really solved my problems with foot pain.

I go in nothing more than a good pair of shoes, a sweater/jacket that I can take off and tie around my waist if I’m sweaty, and a small bag for my phone/keys/doggy bags.

You may want to make sure you’ve got water and tissues. Always helpful. Hat if it’s raining, gloves if it’s cold.

Don’t make it too overwhelming. Just get up and go. Start small. Start slow. Take your time.

I think walking, especially in nature/park settings is incredibly good for you and vert healing, both physically and mentally.

I’m about your size in clothes–I wear leggings or black sweat type pants in winter, shorts in summer.

Huh? I’d say the exact opposite. Don’t use an umbrella, especially if there’s low hanging branches on the trail. One’s arm will get tired if doing an extended walk with it raised.

I could probably outfit ½ of the posters in this thread with rain jackets (some running-specific, some cycling-specific, some work-colored specific, dedicated rain jackets & shells from 3-in-1s). For everyday use I use a good Columbia jacket with a hood; bonus is that both of my hands are free to carry whatever I’m holding & still open a door. It’s loose enough to breath but can be cinched down if necessary. I have rain jackets with pit-zips - zippers in the armpits; you can unzip & get air flow while still having that part covered from the wet in all but the worst rains.

If you’re going to be out for any length of time, think about carrying a water bottle of some type, from a single water bottle fanny pack to a 3L Camelback backpack if you’re going to be out for many hours. Also, once you work up to the longer times/distances, make sure to throw some food in the accompanying pocket to replenish your energy.

While not necessary, a GPS watch is a fun way to track were you’ve been / how far you’ve gone. Also let someone know where you’re going. Some of the trails around here have no cell phone coverage because of how they’re situated in a valley; yes, they are within the limits of a major city, too.

I agree with all of this except for the umbrella. The umbrellas small enough to fit in a bag don’t provide much cover and don’t tend to last, and larger ones have to be carried and end up being windsails. A lightweight rain jacket that folds into its own pocket or hood plus a folding waterproof hat is a better choice. I’ve become a Smartwool convert and while it is pricey you can find closeouts on sale (although XX sizes might be a challenging). The Zion pant is great but only goes to a 40" waist. It is hard to find athletic/outdoor clothing for tall and large sizes, so whatever the o.p. can find that is synthetic and/or waterproof will probably have to do. It is possible to make cotton blends somewhat water repellant by using beeswax or Greenland wax.

Water is a must, even if you aren’t going that far. Hydration is crucial for both healthy exercise and recovery afterward. Get a durable water bottle; Camelbak and other bladder hydration systems are great if you are running, climbing, or backpacking but are more difficult to clean and tend to wear out with moderate use, necessitating regular replacement. (I’ve had good luck with the MSR bladders but they are more expensive.) A 20 oz Klean Kanteen or HydroFlask, or a 1 liter Nalgene bottle will last a lifetime, are easy to keep clean, and don’t produce the waste or the expensive of plastic bottled water. Get a decent over-the-shoulder bag to carry the water, hat and jacket, sunscreen, phone and headphones, and a decent flashlight, plus a small blister kit and any other necessities (medication, reading material, notebook or sketchbook, et cetera).

While you definitely don’t want to get a boot or shoe that pinches, a whole size up is probably too large. You do want a shoe or boot to fit snugly to prevent blisters and provide decent traction, especially on slick surfaces. Sophisticated suspension is just a marketing trick; you want something that is a relatively flat and somewhat flexible sole for walking on flat ground, preferably water resistant (I have yet to meet a shoe or boot short of mountaineering boots that are actually waterproof), and excessive “arch support” can actually be detrimental. If you are having foot pain or problems you may just need to do some exercises to strengthen the feet, although if you have persistent pain or chronic plantar fasciitis you should consult with a podiatrist.


Get a small dog. He’ll keep you company as well as encourage you to keep up the walking, as they will let you know its time to go once they get into the habit. :smiley:

The ten essentials are a good idea. You may not need all of them for an hour long walk. But for a half day walk/stroll, you may want to have things like sun protection or light or first aid supplies at hand if you need them.

I’ll bet those who are dissing the hiking umbrella have never actually tried one. I’ve had my old GoLite (now out of business) Chrome Dome for years and it is always my first choice for rainy walks unless the wind is howling; I also use it to shade from hot sun.

The good news is that although GoLite is no longer in business, the same umbrella is available from a few other vendors under different brand names. Here’s one:

Liteflex Hiking Umbrella

There are also some other models on the market – search for “trekking umbrella” or “hiking umbrella” but this one serves the purpose just fine. I’ve seen people rig them up to attach to their backpack but I never bothered; the thing is very light, only 7.3 ounces – no tired arm.

I no longer do long, adventure hikes – at my age I’ve become more a walk-in-park guy, with an occasional backpacking trip of a few days – but the umbrella has been with me on multi-week trips on the Appalachian Trail and many western mountain and desert backpacking trails, as well as my walks in the park. It is a far better solution to rain than any rain jacket I have ever worn … and I’ve tried a lot of them.

And BTW, phooey on pit zips, too. Unless you’re riding a bike or climbing a mountain, if your arms are hanging down the pit zips are still closed. The only real reason they are on so many high-end rain jackets is because unknowing buyers tend to hesitate spending a lot of money for a jacket that “doesn’t even have pit zips.” Pit zips are one of those common sense things that turns out to be common nonsense.

Disagree completely. Pit zips are key for nearly any serious activity and they work really well. Hiking, skiing, biking; they all benefit from pit zips. I think it really depends on how much you sweat. For me, it’s not an option.

And while I think there are uses for hiking umbrellas, this really isn’t one. Walking is fine with a good raincoat, and an umbrella just complicates things unnecessarily. And ponchos are hideous in any wind, leave them at home.