Some easy suggestions for making your hike more comfortable and enjoyable:
The "10 Essentials" are what's needed for an emergency, but what about day-to-day hiking? Having the right equipment will greatly increase your enjoyment on the trail. And hiking is not an expensive sport - investing in the right few items will take you a long way. Check out our Links section for more info on equipment.
Layered Clothing - By layering you are assured of having enough clothing but not too much. Choosing fabrics that are breathable and wicking will allow your body to shed excess heat and sweat while feeling dry (See 'Fabrics' below.)
Shoes - Comfortable walking shoes with a rubber sole will get you down the trail. But when walking on natural paths of dirt and rock, you may want more rugged shoes. Almost every brand of athletic shoes now has trail varieties. If you are day hiking rather than backpacking, look for the lighter weight varieties and those with some flexibility. Many boots are very stiff and should be used when carrying a heavy load, but are not pleasant to wear for a day hike.
Socks - Toss those cotton tube socks. They aren't for hiking. Your foot is not shaped like a tube, and cotton sets you up for blisters by holding sweat next to the skin. Head to the sock section of a sporting goods or outdoors store and get the right socks. Most common is the two-layer approach to socks, where the inner sock wicks moisture away from the feet, and the outer sock protects from rubbing. (See next point.)
Fabric - Look for socks made from CoolMax, polypropylene, or other wicking fabrics. They wick away the sweat to evaporate and help prevent blisters. Wicking fabrics for shirts also keep sweat off your skin and make you more comfortable. Quick-dry fabrics for pants and shorts will make coping with the aftermath of a creek crossing or sudden rainshower more comfortable. For cold weather, check out the thermal underwear in 'smart fabric' that knows whether to keep you warmer or cooler.
Hat - Don't let fear of hat hair make you go bare on top. In cool weather, a hat helps prevent loss of heat through the top of your head. It can make the critical difference between being a popsicle and being comfortable. In all weather, it shades your head and face from the sun.
Packs - If you have enough pockets, you may not need a pack, but a pack is a great way to carry the rest of your hiking essentials and non-essentials. A good pack distributes the weight load evenly across your body at the center of mass - your hips. Waistpacks and backpacks with belly straps are the best options for carrying more than a pound. Avoid purses or other options that put the load on just one shoulder, or you risk throwing off your body alignment and eventually developing problems and pain.
Water - Thou shalt drink - before, during, and after hiking. Thirst often doesn't catch up with our body's need for water. Your comfort and stamina depends on getting enough water while hiking. You need to drink every half hour if hiking at a moderate pace, more often if you are sweating. Use a non-leak bottle, or if you want to go upscale, a pack with a built-in water bladder.
Sun Protection - Your skin needs protection in order to prevent skin cancer, wrinkles, and burn. Your skin will be exposed to sun and wind while hiking, so protect it! There's nothing like a sunburn for putting the damper on an otherwise great day.
Trail Plan - On club trips, you may depend on the hike leader to carry trail map and compass, but knowing the path and following along on a map can make the trip even more interesting.