For years, dedicated hikers have set out to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail. This means they hike the entire trail, from Georgia to Maine (or vice versa), stopping along the way to camp and stay in hostel-style accommodations in trail towns. While a thru-hike can be remarkably rewarding, it also requires a lot of preparation and gear... and setting aside about 6 months of time! If you don't have endless time or money to spend on gear, taking a few day hikes, which only last from sunup to sundown, is a better way to experience the beauty of the Appalachian Trail.
While you won't need camping equipment or a huge food stash to complete a day hike, you still do need to be prepared. Here are five pieces of apparel you need for a day hike on the Appalachian Trail.
A Performance Shirt
There's a saying among hikers: "Cotton kills." Indeed, you may find yourself catching a serious chill if you decide to hike in a cotton shirt. It absorbs your sweat when you're at a warmer, lower elevation--and then when you ascend a peak where the temperatures are cool, the sweat cools off to the point that you'll be freezing. Performance materials, which are made to wick moisture away from your body, are a far safer choice. Look for a long-sleeve performance tee even if it is warm out. This will help keep the ticks and sunshine off your arms, giving you a greater level of protection. If you choose a lightweight, breathable performance material, the long sleeves won't make you too warm, even on a hot day.
You might see some hikers in shorts, but if you can bear to wear pants, it is a much safer choice. The pants will help keep ticks, which carry Lyme disease and other serious illnesses, off your legs. Plus, they'll give you some protection against brambles and twigs if you have to leave the trail to do your business. (And you will!)
Gone are the days when hikers worse big, clunky boots. On the Appalachian Trail, where parts of the trail can be slick and others are rocky, trail running shoes are a better choice. This style of shoe has plenty of grip on the sole, but it's also more flexible than a boot, making it easier to maneuver around obstacles like rocks. Plus, trail runners are lightweight, so you won't become so fatigued. This is important when you're on a day hike, since you'll want to keep a swift pace and see all you can see in that single day.
A Rain Slicker
Storms can blow in over the mountains in an instant, and getting soaked will ruin the rest of your hike. Make sure you pack a rain slicker or a poncho so that you can protect yourself if rain appears. Rest assured that these storms usually pass as quickly as they blow in. You should not be stuck in the rain for hours, in most cases.
Though there are some suitable socks made from synthetic performance materials, you really can't beat a pair of wool socks! They keep moisture from sticking to your feet, which will prevent blisters when you're on the trail. If it's cold, they will keep your feet warm. If it's hot, they will keep them cool. These days, there are plenty of wool blend socks that are less itchy than the wool socks you may remember from a few decades ago. Make sure yours are tall enough to tuck your pants into them when wandering through brush. This will protect you from ticks.
Acquiring the five things above should not be too costly. When you have them in your arsenal, you'll be properly dressed to tackle that day hike.