There is more than a subtle difference between hiking, backpacking and mountaineering. Loosely speaking, a hiker carries a day pack and comes home at night. A backpacker carries his bed and a mountaineer is attached to his fellow climbers by rope – and preferably to the cliff face as well. It is all a matter of to what degree you wish to expose yourself.
We will really just cover what to take on day hikes here:
Rule No. 1:
If you don’t wish to expose yourself, but come home at night, is to carry extra clothing and rain gear. This should be regardless of how favourable the weather might be when you start. The Cape Peninsula is infamous for sudden dramatic changes in the weather. I always carry rain gear and a jersey, even in mid-summer.
To carry these things along with your day water bottle, you will need a day pack. If you are a beginner, a basic 20/25 litre day pack will suffice. You can graduate to a 75 litre backpack when you are ready, if ever, to sleep under a rock overhang or in a bats’ cave.
Next on your shopping list should be a pair of lightweight fabric boots. Only think about the more expensive heavy-duty leather boots if you decide to take your hiking more seriously.
Either way, ankle support is important, not only to prevent twisted ankles, but also to hold the foot back in the boot and avoid toe blisters on the downhills. When buying boots, try them on with a pair of thick socks (preferably 100% wool). You should be able to put two fingers between your heel and the unlaced boot. Toe space is all-important if you want to avoid blisters. Be sure to insist on non-slip soles, of which two excellent makes are REP and VIBRAM.
Never wear nylon socks. Nylon does not absorb sweat and will probably lead to blisters or chaffing. If you need to wear two pairs of socks, wear pure cotton underneath pure wool: stick to natural fibres and they wont stick to you.
Lastly,- if you think you are hooked – join a club. At the last count, there were a couple of dozen to choose from in the greater Cape Town area.