When I went out to Sugarloaf Mountain a couple of weekends ago, I was loaded with gear to test out. So exciting! I didn’t have much luck with my old pack (as I mentioned in my previous post), but I finished the hike feeling pretty good about my other gear.
I put on an old pair of heavy Smartwool socks that hits below my knees. I haven’t worn them in ages, but my cousin Dan pointed out that compression socks can improve circulation in the extremities and could potentially help my poor toesies in the cold. I figured my heavy duty wool socks would suffice for this little experiment, and indeed they worked well. I then got on my hiking boots and pulled out my new trekking poles.
I’ve been holding out for a new pair of trekking poles since I errantly bought a pair that weighed over a pound a couple of months ago from Sierra Trading Post. Well, I finally found a pair of 9 ounce Black Diamond Z-poles off REI’s website a few weeks ago. They were on sale, and I also scored a discount coupon. When all was said and done, they cost $83 instead of $150. Still not pennies on the dollar, but I’ve decided a light pair of trekking poles is worth it to save my wrists, which are prone to strain (too much time clicking/typing away in my cubicle). Oh, also, each pole is fixed in size (instead of adjustable), and they tri-fold, meaning they pack really small.
To match the poles, I got a pair of “running gloves” at Costco a couple of months ago. Since, like in my toesies, I have circulation issues in my fingers, making sure I have heavy hand coverage is extremely important. Otherwise, my hands become rendered nearly useless, and it takes them hours to recover. In addition to the necessary insulation, this pair of gloves has little rubbery speckles all over the palms and fingers to help with gripping, and each thumb and pointer finger is made of a fabric that allows me to use the touchscreen of my smartphone. This was just about the highlight of my day. I was giddy as I scanned the weather forecast by lightly touching the screen with my gloves on. (Magic!)
As though that weren’t enough, I was also wearing a new Smartwool mid-weight long-sleeved shirt with a zip-up neck. Besides my socks, I’ve never been one much for wool, but the recommendations among long distance hikers has been adamant. So when I saw it on sale on REI’s website (over 50% off…about $40), I bought two.
Loaded up with my fun new toys, the hike was a raving success, if I do say so myself. There’s something about using trekking poles that forces me to remain upright, which is way better than my usual half-prone position. And as much as I’ve been hiking with a weighted pack for months now, hoofing along with a pair of trekking poles makes me feel like a serious hiker. In fact, I’m pretty sure I could’ve been hanging out in my living room all afternoon with the poles in hand, and I would’ve felt smug…either that, or I would’ve felt like when I was a kid swishing away on my dad’s Nordic Track. Do you remember those exercise machines? They were the best.
It really was the right choice for me to get the super light pair of poles. I didn’t even have to flick my wrist; they seemed to move in sync with the subtle motion of my arms. And the straps fit well, even with the gloves adding bulk to my wrists.
In addition to the amazing touchscreen fingers and the grippable finger pads, the gloves served their primary purpose of keeping my fingers warm in 40 degree temperatures. My hands got to the point of sweating, which – trust me – is way better than being painfully cold. Even so, I’m still planning on bringing a heavy duty pair of winter mittens with me for the first stretch of my hike. I know some of you might think that’s overkill and unnecessary weight, but you haven’t walked a mile (outside in the cold) with my hands.
As far as the Smartwool long-sleeved shirt, I don’t know why I didn’t try Smartwool tops before. At first, it kept me warm in the cool crisp air. Then when I began to heat up, the shirt absorbed my sweat and kept me cool. I’m prone to overheating, so I was glad that I didn’t constantly have to remove and replace the shirt. Further, I performed a very scientific sniff test on the shirt after the hike. I may have to re-address after wearing the shirt for a month, but so far so good.
Slowly but surely, my gear is coming together. Tent, sleeping bag, trekking poles, clothes. Next item on the list will be my pack, and then I’ll just about be in business.