It’s been six months since my last hike. I underwent two sets of physical therapy this year to heal my “internal degeneration of the posterior horn of the medial meniscus.” In layman’s terms, I injured my knees from all the climbing. Now I’m fully healed and ready to hit the trails again, but this time I’d like to prevent another injury.
When I looked back at all my climbs in the last two years, I realized that my only professional gears were UV protection shirts from Under Armour and a pair of Salomon hiking shoes. The rest were random items I had lying at home—things that I thought were good enough to bring to the hikes. I could have prevented all the pain, discomfort, and other contingencies had I invested in the right gear.
I’m happy to share that I’ve made a few upgrades.
1. Before: Gym slippers Now: Hiking sandals
When I went hiking in Mt. Maynuba (it involved 8 waterfalls), I brought a pair of flip-flops to alternate with my closed hiking shoes in the wet areas of the mountain. Bad idea! For my upcoming waterfall hike, I bought Sandugo Sinai sandals, which has adjustable straps and is made for extreme river crossing. Sandugo is an outdoor footwear brand made in the Philippines. It’s a more affordable alternative to the likes of Merrell. This will be my first time to use sandals instead of closed shoes for hiking.
2. Before: Bamboo stick Now: Hiking pole
I survived many climbs with just a bamboo stick as my walking aid, but now that I’m prone to injury, a more professional hiking stick is what the doctor ordered. It has a shock absorber and ergonomic handle to prevent straining your extremities. Thanks to my Tita Bebot and Tito Apin for sending me this Golden Bear Sierra trekking pole from Big 5 Sporting Goods, California!
3. Before: Ziplocs and grocery plastic bags Now: Waterproof dry bag
I used to wrap my gadgets and other valuables in just Ziplocs and grocery plastic bags when hiking. While I’ve never had any gadget mishaps yet (thank goodness!), I’m increasing my safety level with a Seaquatix waterproof phone bag (read my review here) and Dry Gear Waterproof Bag. I’ll be wading in waterfalls and crossing rivers in my upcoming hike, so I definitely need these.
4. Before: College kid’s backpack Now: Daypack
While my Roxy backpack has been with me through many memorable travels and climbs, it’s time to upgrade to a bag that’s built for hikes. Looking back, my Roxy backpack may have contributed to my back pain and injury in Mt. Pulag. One thing I learned about hiking is that there’s a major difference between being tired and being in pain. To avoid the latter, get a backpack with support to make carrying a loaded bag for hours much more comfortable. Now meet my new travel buddy, the Cordura Cosmos daypack from Quago, a startup Filipino brand.
5. Before: No knee support Now: Knee support
After giving me the clearance to hike, my orthopedic doctor told me, “Make sure you wear a knee brace.” He said that unlike Merrell hiking sandals, Sandugo sandals—although durable enough for wet hikes—don’t have the same curved, shock-absorbing cushion. A knee brace will help prevent injuries. Better safe than sorry.