This weekend, June 6th and 7th, is Trails Weekend, meaning there are over 200 events statewide to explore, clean up, and celebrate our local hiking trails. Connecticut has 139 state parks and forests, offering endless opportunities for new terrain no matter where you live. Events range from group hikes to volunteer trail maintenance meetups, and there are many events happening right here in Fairfield County. Check out the Norwalk River Valley Trail, built in sections around Wilton and Norwalk, projected to connect from Calf Pasture Beach to Rodgers Park in Danbury. Click here to learn more and find an event for your family to attend. Be prepared for these trail events with gear to keep you safe and comfortable on the trail!
We've learned a lot from our fellow staff member Kate, who has taught us that even the biggest trails might not be as hard as you think. Kate shares her experience walking 2,185 miles and completing the Appalachian Trail, a journey that most people only imagine! Proper gear makes all the difference, even on the shortest hikes. Her journey began at Springer Mountain in Georgia on April 1st and continued until she reached Mount Katahdin in Maine the following September. When she set off on the trail it was snowy and cold, but the weather soon turned to a rainy spring and finally a beautiful summer. She hiked around 15 miles per day, and her pack was an average weight of around 25 pounds. Surprisingly, she told us that hiking in the woods for six months straight is not the least bit lonely. "There are lot of other people hiking and camping; you're never really alone. I met so many amazing people on my trip," Kate remembered. We asked Kate if there was ever a point at which she felt like quitting. "I never felt like quitting," she said, "but every day until I reached Connecticut, I didn't know if I was going to make it. Once I was in New England, my home region, I realized how far I had come and knew that I could make it to Maine." We asked Kate what advice she would give to anyone hiking the trail now, and with a big smile she said, "Be strong! And have self-confidence!"
Being adequately prepared is just as important for a weekend of hiking and camping as it is for a multi-month trip. Since most of us don't have six months to spare, we can still learn from the trials and tribulations Kate endured. She shares with us the items that were the most significant to her comfort and safety on the AT. We recommend getting comfortable with your gear before embarking on your hike; for example, give yourself some time to break in your boots, and practice walking around wearing your pack with weight. Here are the top five items on the trail you can't live without:
A Comfortable Pair of Boots
Salomon X Ultra Mid 2
The boot is probably the most important piece of gear out on the trail; your feet are at the core of your hike, and you need to keep them happy! Kate recommends Salomon X Ultra Mid 2 for summer hikes because it's lightweight enough for summer hiking, but at the same time sturdy enough to protect your foot from injury. It has a mid-cut ankle to give you the support you need without being too bulky and hot. It is made with GORETEX so you won't have to worry about getting wet on the trail. The gusseted tongue keeps debris from entering the shoe, and an abrasion-resistant lining offers breathability and allows the shoe to dry quickly. When choosing your hiking boot, it is important to try different boots to see which is the best fit for your unique foot. We have a pedorthist here on staff to help you find the best boot for your hike!
A Well Organized Backpack
Osprey Aura/Atmos AG 50
For a full weekend of hiking, we recommend using a 50-liter pack. It can easily fit your sleeping bag, pad, tent, extra layers, and everything else you will need for your trip. We love the new Aura and Atmos AG packs from Osprey. "AG" stands for anti-gravity, which means that this pack has a seamless structure that automatically contours to the body, offering the most comfortable fit and unrestricted movement. The suspension, back panel, harness and hipbelt are all considered to be "anti-gravity." The Fit on the Fly™ hipbelt allows you to adjust the hipbelt to make sure that there is comfortable padding encircling your hips, rather than a harsh strap. According to Kate, "Osprey has thought their packs through very well, putting much consideration into where pockets should be, how it fits your hips, and how comfortably it carries weight."
A Warm Sleeping Bag
Western Mountaineering Summerlite
When hiking in the spring, temperatures may drop quickly; in Kate's experience, it snowed quite unexpectedly in Georgia! Grabbing gear that is versatile is important, and the Summerlite from Western Mountaineering is the perfect bag for this time of year. A temperature rating of 32 degrees, means you will be warm on chilly nights. It is the lightest bag that Western Mountaineering makes in a continuous baffle construction, weighing in at just 1 pound 3 ounces. It has a full-length zipper, insulated draft protection, and down fill. Our favorite thing about Western Mountaineering is that their bags are made right here in the USA!
A Dependable Headlamp
Black Diamond Storm
If you are going to be in the woods for any period of time, you don't want to be stuck without a headlamp! This 160-lumen lamp is waterproof up to 1 meter for 30 minutes, and is truly meant for all conditions. It features finger tap technology, which allows you to adjust the brightness with just a tap of your finger on the side of the touch-sensitive housing. It has five different light modes, and a lock mode that will keep it from turning on in your pack or pocket. One of its most innovative features is a three-level power meter that shows the remaining battery life for 3 seconds after switching it on. It is very light; with batteries it weighs only 3.9 ounces.
A Lightweight Camp Stove
Olicamp Ion Micro Titanium Stove
If you want to have a picnic on the trail or are hiking overnight, there are endless meal opportunities with this little stove. The Ion Micro Titanium Stove is the smallest, most compact, camp stove out there. It weighs only 1.5 ounces or 45 grams and is incredibly simple to use, fitting any universal screw-on canisters of butane/propane mixtures. One canister is more than enough for a weekend hiking trip. This stove is a must-have for any camping or hiking trip, especially because its tiny size meaning you won't even know it's in your pack!