The Real Cost of Time Spent in the Outdoors
By Charissa Hipp, Girls Who Hike Maryland Ambassador
One of the things that initially attracted me to hiking was the fact that it was an inexpensive way to get outside, live a more active lifestyle, immerse my family in the outdoors and relieve stress. I’m fortunate to live near a multitude of hiking trails in Maryland, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Virginia. Many of the trails have free access or a nominal park entrance fee, so hiking definitely appealed to me as a great hobby to do on a shoestring budget.
All I really needed at the start of my journey was decent shoes and water. It wasn’t long before the hiking bug really hit me and I started pushing myself for longer distances, more challenging climbs, and hiking in various kinds of weather. Plus, most of my time hiking was with my infant. The next thing I knew my “inexpensive” new hobby had a wishlist that kept growing and growing, and all my time and miles on the trail were causing me to blow through my trail runners in just a few short months.
My first real hiking purchase was a big one. After hiking around Catoctin Mountain Park for 5+ miles with my kids, a soft-sided carrier didn’t seem comfortable or supportive enough for my growing infant daughter. I purchased a frame backpack-style baby carrier and a set of basic hiking poles for peace of mind when hiking on uneven terrain with a child on my back. The carrier came with room for a hydration bladder and fortunately I had an old one that was still in good shape and it fit perfectly.
I was good to go with just these supplies for quite some time, other than replacing shoes, except for needing to purchase a headlamp for a sunrise hike. As winter approached I found myself pushing past being a fair weather hiker and needing proper clothing for colder days. I also needed waterproof shoes, which my trail runners definitely were not! I had some decent hiking boots but they were older and definitely not the right size for me. My wish list grew again -- a puffy jacket, fleece-lined tights and pants, a warm base layer, wool socks and waterproof boots. With the purchase of those items I was getting out in colder temps but my hands were freezing at times and I needed a warmer hat and neck gaiter in addition to better gloves. I was spending so much time on the trail I also decided it was time to purchase some basic safety items and a first aid kit.
As I look back over the past two years of hiking, my so-called “inexpensive” hobby has started to add up, but I try to buy quality products whenever I can find great sales. They should last me for a long time and many miles on the trail. Next on my list is a day pack. When I hike without my toddler, I keep borrowing my son’s hydration pack because it has more space than my very basic version, but I’d like something with room enough to stash my puffy or a fleece and possibly an extra camera lens for my dslr. I’m also contemplating an annual pass to my state parks and some microspikes. My family was sweet enough to gift me a National Parks Pass this past Christmas. The only recurring cost is my trail runners, which are my prefered hiking shoes. It seems like my “wish list” never stops growing, but I can’t complain considering the friendships I’ve formed on the trail and how my life has been enriched by time spent in the outdoors. I’d say that’s pretty priceless.