7 Hiking Essentials

Walking hilly terrain scorches about 500 calories an hour and seriously shapes your legs and butt—and, according to studies, walking in nature can significantly improve your mood. Now is the perfect time to hike in many parts of the country: beautiful foliage, mild temps and no bugs. Start with comfortable, broken-in hiking shoes (we like Keen Obsidian WP, $125; keenfootwear.com). Listed below is the best gear to stay dry, energized and firmly on the trail.

1.Rain Layer

Showers can sneak up. This water- and windproof jacket folds to the size of an apple. (Marmot Crystalline jacket, $130; marmot.com)

2. A Map, Not an App

Weather-and tear-proof maps withstand all conditions, and unlike your smartphone, they're never out of range. (Natgeo Trails Illustrated maps, $12; natgeomaps.com)

3. 30+ SPF Sunscreen

Rays are stronger at higher elevations. As you remove layers, apply a sweat-resistant formula. (Coppertone Sport Ultra Sweatproof Sunscreen, $10; drug stores)

4. A Thirst-Quenching Backpack

The best models—like the Gregory Maya ($99; gregorypacks.com for retailers)—hold a hydration reservoir (Camelbak; various sizes, $25 to $30; camelbak.com) for hands-free sipping. External pockets are handy and a waist belt lightens the load on shoulders.

5. Amber Shades

Sunlight may seem dimmer in fall, but the UV rays are still damaging. An amber tint provides crisper vision. (Suncloud Daybreak, $49; suncloudoptics.com)

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6. Trail Mix

Snack on Bear Naked Trail Mix in Pecan Apple Flax ($3; bearnaked.com) for an energizing mix of protein, carbs, and fat. For full-day hikes, also bring fresh fruit and a sandwich.

7. Walking Poles

Lightweight poles can ease knee pressure during descents by up to 25 percent. They also boost calorie burn and aid balance. (LEKI Cressida AERGON Trekking Poles, $119; leki.com)

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