The Best Gear for a Walking Vacation

From strolling the boulevards of Buenos Aires to hiking in the Canadian Rockies, walking provides good exercise while stretching your mind and soul.

To maximize the joy that comes with vigorous bipedal activity, it’s important to plan. No matter what the activity, it’s always wise to carry a first aid kit. Adventure Medical Kits makes sport-specific and ultralight, watertight options. Or throw together your own in a Ziploc bag.

Even if your route includes pinxtos at a seaside cafe in Spain, a trailhead food truck or a wild blueberry patch, carry an emergency snack (Honey Stinger’s gluten-free and kosher Almond Pumpkin Nut & Seed Bar packs 14 grams of protein). Electrolytes like Tailwind’s small packets of Electrolyte Powder help you rehydrate and re-energize.

As for the rest, a trail run requires a different set of tools than a multiday trek and a rugged day hike necessitates different gear than an afternoon of urban exploration. Here are a few basics in each category to get you started (all items come in men’s and women’s versions unless otherwise noted):

Hard surfaces require a supportive, comfortable shoe with some grip, but not a heavy, chunky tread. For women, Dansko’s new Peony Walking Sneaker ($140) is based on the same arch technology and shock-absorbing heel cushioning as their clogs, beloved by chefs. It also has a lightweight, yet tough rubber outsole with a minimalist tread and 100 percent recycled liners and mesh uppers. For men, the Arc’teryx Norvan LD 3 GTX ($200) is a trail runner, but even with a 4-millimeter lugged sole, the lightweight, low-profile, waterproof and tastefully designed shoe is comfortable for striding around the city.

Apple’s Series 8 watch (from $399) handles the rigors of travel well with its crack-, water- and dust-resistant body. And it offers fitness tracking that measures not only steps and heart rate zones, but will take an EKG, measure your blood oxygen and allow you to customize intervals. It also supports international roaming, so you can make calls and send texts wherever your data plan is supported.

In a city it’s nice to have a small, secure, body-hugging pack. Gregory’s Nano Switch Sling ($55) checks all the boxes with five zip pockets to maximize its 3.5-liter space, including a small one on the cross-body bag’s padded shoulder strap for items like Air Pods. Compression straps on the bottom secure a lightweight jacket.

Stainless steel water bottles can weigh you down, which is why the MIR Climate+ 20 oz wide bottle ($40), made with 25 percent less stainless steel than other bottles of its size feels so light, yet still offers double-wall vacuum insulation to keep beverages icy with no leaking.

Summer weather is increasingly temperamental, so be prepared for rain. Montane’s new Minimus Lite ($239) running jacket is 7.1-ounces, waterproof and breathable. Its full hood protects your head from a downpour and two roomy zip pockets stash keys, cash and credit cards. And it still packs down to the size of a bean burrito.

Trail running shoes need to hit that elusive sweet spot between providing a rugged, durable sole while being lightweight and agile enough to swiftly navigate rugged terrain. The HOKA Speedgoat 5 ($155) nails it. It’s a half-ounce lighter than the previous Speedgoat 4 yet still has a beefy, lugged Vibram sole and enough cushion to make it feel like a magic slipper.

Few things are more distracting on a trail run than a pack that rubs or bounces. The Rab Veil 1 ($45) eliminates that problem. A 1.5-inch-wide Velcro band secures the ultralight, breathable running belt around your waist. One central zip pocket secures your phone and car key, and the two side stash pockets hold snacks. A horizontal sleeve on the outside of the zip pocket is for your water bottle. All of it gets a bounce-free ride.

Flylow’s fun new Hawk running shorts ($80) are as comfortable as they are quick drying, with a PFC-free water-repellent nylon outer fabric and breezy mesh liner brief. An elasticized waist and draw string hold them up and a zip pocket in the back is big enough for a phone. Side mesh pockets stash energy gels.

Say what you will about style, but knee-high compression socks boost blood flow and shorten recovery time. Vim & Vigre’s 15-20 mmHg (moderate compression) Pinecones socks ($38) are made with a blend of nylon, Australian merino wool and spandex that makes your calves, ankles and feet feel swaddled and protected. The pine cone print adds fun to an oftentimes painful endeavor.

The Finnish-designed Suunto 9 Peak Pro (from $549) is sleek, tough, intuitive and has a 40-hour battery life. With global navigation satellite system tracking, its navigation is more accurate over a wider geography than devices that use GPS. For trail runners, key features include altitude readings and weather tracking; the ability to import and export routes from other apps; and key data like heart rate, speed, distance and recovery time.

When hiking in rough terrain, ankle support and a more aggressive tread are key. The Oboz Bridger Mid ($190) offers both and needs minimal break-in, which is unusual for beefy hiking boots. The waterproof nubuck leather upper makes hiking in a rainstorm or crossing a stream less daunting.

Made from recycled fabric scraps, the Cotopaxi Inca ($130) has patchwork-quilt flair. The 26-liter pack is ideal for an ambitious day hike. Six zipper compartments distribute necessities across the pack, including a stretchy phone pocket on the padded straps. There’s an internal hydration sleeve plus two generous water bottle pockets, and the padded and breathable back panel and shoulder straps, combined with the adjustable shoulder, waist and chest straps keep the pack where it should be.

Sturdy, lightweight and streamlined are important qualities for poles, especially ones that fit in a suitcase. Mountainsmith’s Andesite ($100) carbon poles with carbide tips weigh in at 6 ounces per stick and have comfortable foam handles that minimize blisters. With two telescoping sections as opposed to three, they compress to 32 inches.

A cult classic among hikers, Patagonia’s stretchy Nano Air Light Hybrid Hoody ($299) has 40 grams of insulation in the front that cuts chill, but the back and sides still breathe through air panels made from 100 percent recycled polyester ripstop shell. The zipper cinches the insulated hood close to the face, keeping the neck and head cozy in wind. It all squishes down to the size of a Nalgene bottle.

You may never take it out of your pack, but it’s always wise to carry a hands-free headlamp in case of emergency. The rechargeable Petzl Tikka Core ($60) offers 450 lumens of floodlight, weighs less than 3 ounces, and inconspicuously tucks away into a zippered waistband pocket.

When trekking long distances, it’s nice to have a breathable, lightweight boot with a tread that can handle well-trodden terrain. Salewa’s Pedroc Pro Powertex Mid ($200) boot is built for speed hiking, so it’s flexible yet still supportive. It’s also waterproof so feet stay warm and dry.

No need to haul a sleeping bag or tent when trekking from inn to inn. Patagonia’s 28-liter, 100-percent recycled nylon Altiva ($149) is nicely minimalist, with a front-loading stuff pocket that can store a day’s worth or more of gear and snacks. The suspended mesh-back panel adds airflow, there’s an interior hydration sleeve, and a waterproof fly for hiking through the rain. Zip-up hip pockets keep small treasures safe and exterior lash points secure trekking poles. If 28 liters doesn’t feel right, the same pack comes in 14, 22 and 36 liters.

Quick-drying underwear is a must for a long-haul trek. Royal Robbins’ ReadyDry Essentials line of women’s underwear, tanks and bras, and men’s briefs (from $20), are made from a blend of recycled polyester and a yarn upcycled from coffee grounds and recycled polyester. You’ll only need two pair of these light, comfortable, quick-drying, sweat-wicking and, most important, odor-wicking, undergarments.

Poles give your arms a workout, keep you balanced and protect precious joints. Leki’s Makalu FX Carbon ($229) folding carbon poles weigh 8.9 ounces per stick and have three telescoping sections that break them down to a mere 15 inches long, making them easy to stow in a suitcase for an overseas adventure.

Other than shoes, a hat that keeps the sun off your face and neck is the number one priority on a long trek. Stephanie Carter, the founder of Wallaroo Hat Company, is half Swiss, grew up in Colorado, married an Australian, and her own hiking résumé includes the Tour de Mont Blanc and the Camino de Santiago. Who better to design a comfortable, packable hat that offers maximum UPF 50 protection? Wallaroo offers multiple styles, but the Charlie fedora ($53) has an ample 2.75-inch brim, folds like a taco and wears as well in a cafe as on the trail.

Follow New York Times Travel on Instagram and sign up for our weekly Travel Dispatch newsletter to get expert tips on traveling smarter and inspiration for your next vacation. Dreaming up a future getaway or just armchair traveling? Check out our 52 Places to Go in 2023.

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