Photo by Toomas Tartes on Unsplash

Hiking in the mountains

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Hit the Trail with the Right Gear

Hiking can be an incredibly joyful and rewarding pastime and is made even more enjoyable when you have the proper gear. Hiking gear can be a big investment to make but is well worth it in the end. If you are just starting out and are on a budget, try buying one or two pieces of gear at a time to spread out the cost. So what exactly do you need to go hiking? In this article, we'll cover all the essentials and link to some of our favorites.

Backpacks

A hiking pack is one of the most important pieces of gear you will buy as an outdoor adventurer. With so many different types of packs to choose from, it may be difficult to know what kind you need. If you are mostly doing day hikes (hikes that can be completed in one day) you will want to go with a small to medium-sized pack. This may be anything from 15 Liters-40 Liters, depending on your preferences. If you intend to do longer multi-day hikes or backpacking trips, you may want a larger pack, ranging from 45-70 Liters. Features to look for when shopping for a backpack include extra pockets for easy organizing, a compartment for your hydration reservoir, and loops for your trekking poles. Hiking packs come in different sizes, so it is important to try them on with at least 10 pounds of weight to ensure a correct fit. Here are a few of the best hiking backpacks:

Osprey Sportlite 15

an teal colored osprey backpack.

Osprey Sportlite 15

This 15 Liter pack is great for shorter day hikes. It is super lightweight and comfortable to carry.

Buy at Osprey

Gregory Nano Waistpack

teal gregory waistpack.

Gregory Nano Waistpack

Perfect for quick hikes, you can stash your wallet, keys, and a bottle of water in this waist pack. Bonus: it comes in an array of fun colors.

Buy at Gregory Packs

Osprey Talon 44

a dark blue osprey talon backpack.

Osprey Talon 44 Backpack

A versatile bag that can be used for day hikes and backpacking trips, the Talon has a sleek and functional design and is super comfy during long days in the backcountry.

Buy at Osprey

Trekking Poles

two trekking poles with yellow handles and black straps.

Trekking Poles

Trekking poles are not essential for everyone who hikes, but they sure are nice to have. Trekking poles will save your knees on steep terrain, loose rocky trails, and long days logging miles. Look for a pair that are lightweight and easily collapsible. Lightweight, collapsible, and easy to store, these Leki trekking poles are a must for anyone who wants or needs a little extra support when hiking. These aluminum poles are a great all-around option for hikers and backpackers alike.

Buy at Leki

Hiking Footwear

One of the most essential pieces of your hiking kit is your footwear. Whether you decide on a sturdy hiking boot or a light and breezy trail running shoe, make sure you feel comfortable and supported for all of your outdoor adventures. Here are a couple of the best hiking shoes available:

Lowa Renegade GTX Mid WS

a brown high top hiking boot.

Lowa Renegade GTX Mid WS hiking boot

The Lowa Renegades have been setting the standard for hiking boots for the last 25 years. With durable and waterproof GORE-TEX construction, these boots will withstand many years and many miles on the trail.

Buy at Lowa

Salomon Alphacross 3

green and gray hiking shoe.

Salomon Alphacross hiking shoe

If you are looking to go fast and light on your next adventure, these Salomon trail runners might be the perfect shoe for you. With an all-terrain grip and a comfortable fit, these shoes were made for long days of hiking, casual walks in the park, and morning runs from the pavement to the forest.

Buy at Salomon

Rain Jacket or Shell

Whenever you hit the trail it is vital to be prepared for changes in weather. There’s nothing worse than being caught off guard by an afternoon storm without any rain gear. Be sure to pack a rain jacket or shell on your next hike. Here are a few that really stand out:

REI Co-op Groundbreaker Rain jacket 2.0

blue REI groundbreaker rain jacket with hood.

Co-op Groundbreaker Rain Jacket

This light, fully weatherproof rain jacket is an excellent choice for many reasons. It has an all-around design that makes it perfect for hiking and other sports, as well as casual use. It also doesn’t break the bank and comes in an assortment of colors. As an added bonus, the jacket is made using Bluesign-approved materials, making it an eco-friendly choice.

Buy at REI

Black Diamond Stormline Stretch Rain Shell

woman's black rain shell jacket.

Black Diamond Stormline Rain Shell

From icy rain in the alpine to sudden downpours in the city, this outer shell can handle anything. Completely waterproof with a helmet-compatible hood, this jacket is ideal for hiking, climbing, mountaineering, running, and more. Find the men’s version here.

Buy at Black Diamond

Time to Gear Up

Now that you have an idea of what you need to hit the trail, it’s time to gear up and get outside. With so many fantastic options for hiking gear out there, you are sure to find pieces that suit your needs and your style. Happy hiking everyone!

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Mjolnir

Like many of the recent Marvel Cinematic Universe films, LGBTQ+ fans awaited the release of Thor: Love and Thunder in open anticipation of the inclusivity that both Marvel and Disney had promised. However, the fans were only setting themselves up for disappointment when the film was finally released.

Despite passionate assurances from studio heads to key actors, Thor: Love and Thunder was NOT spectacularly gay. It wasn’t even that good…

Premiere Night Promises

A bolt of lightning cuts across a rainbow on a dark and stormy night.

Lightning bold across the sky

Photo by Bill D.

Standing on the red carpet at the London Premiere of the film, director and actor Taika Waititi and fellow cast members Natalie Portman and Tessa Thompson were offered up the inevitable question: “How gay is the film?

Amidst some laughter from the crowds, Waititi gestured towards Portman to respond. The actress (who plays Thor’s love interest, Jane Foster, throughout the franchise) raised the microphone to her lips and thought for a moment, before delivering a quiet yet fateful: “So gay!

Barely a moment had passed before the gathered fans went wild and Taika Waititi gave his own verdict: “Super gay!”. Tessa Thompson made no statement on the ‘gayness’ of the film, instead opting to swing her microphone around suggestively. As more cheers erupted, a second round of “super gay” slipped out of Waititi’s mouth, before he urged the fans to enjoy the film.

Thor: Love and Thunder’s LGBTQ+ Potential

Thor’s movie-goers were definitely hyped up for a gay extravaganza and they had a specific character in mind. The fan-favorite Valkyrie, played by Tessa Thompson, stumbled her way into the MCU during Thor’s third film, Ragnarok. The Asgardian warrior won many people over with her wit, sarcasm, and pure badassery.

After the events of Avengers: Endgame *spoilers*, Thor Odinson gives up his claim to the throne of Asgard and names Valkyrie as king in his stead. This left many fans excited to see what would become of the character, especially after certain revelations were made at the 2019 San Diego Comic-Con:

“As a new king, she has to find her queen. So that’ll be her first order of business.”

With these words, Tessa Thompson threw her LGBTQ+ fans into a frenzy, with heavy expectations for the then-upcoming fourth installment of the Thor films. Indeed, in an interview with the LA Times, shortly before the film's release, Tessa Thompson was asked to comment on the sexuality of her character. She responded with several promising remarks, including “there’s a lot of folks that are righteously very hungry for that representation to exist in these movies, as am I”.

*Warning: spoilers ahead!*

So, How Gay Was Thor 4?

To put it simply: not gay at all. Not only did Valkyrie end up without a fabulous new queen, her non-heteronormative sexuality only got the barest mention (a brief line about a previous, now dead, girlfriend). Valkyrie may have made bedroom eyes at some pretty ladies before an action scene spoils the moment, but that’s about as much as we get.

The film does get some credit for introducing a trans character in a minor yet significant role. Thor returns to his people (after a brief stint as a Guardian of the Galaxy) only to find out that the daughter of one of his closest (and deceased) friends is now a boy. The issue is, whether due to personal prejudice or some alien inability to grasp the concept of being transgender, it does take Thor a frustrating few moments to come to terms with the change. And to stop deadnaming.

In fact, the only concession to the queer community was Taika Waititi’s extraterrestrial character Korg finding a husband in one of the closing scenes. This heartfelt moment was somewhat underscored by the revelation that Korg’s entire species is male, meaning he had no other choice but to be ‘gay’.

This Is Not Marvel’s First Queerbaiting Attempt

Close up of an eye reflecting an unknown scene as a rainbow crosses the image.

Photo by Harry Q.

This is, by far, not the first time that LGBTQ+ fans have been sorely disappointed by the workings of Marvel and Disney. In fact, people across many social media platforms have been chiding expectant viewers for once again falling for classic queerbaiting tactics. “Being queerbaited by the MCU is like being a golden retriever with a human who always pretends to throw the ball”, one Tumblr user declared.

Captain Marvel, starring Brie Larson, was the perfect moment for the MCU to introduce its first lesbian lead. Larson’s character seemed to have an intense relationship with another woman, going so far as to help raise her child (before Larson’s Carol Danvers disappeared from Earth for 6 years). Despite leaning into several romantic tropes, the status of their relationship was never fully fleshed out. However, it was also the franchise’s first female-led superhero movie, so maybe they thought that introducing her as a lesbian would make the film too awesome.

The heavily anticipated Avengers: Endgame was also slated to introduce the MCU’s ‘first gay character'. While many fans were excited, particularly as this would be the second of Larson’s appearances on screen, the big gay build-up was a massive letdown. The film’s director Joe Russo made a cameo as a blip survivor mourning the loss of his husband. A five-second throw-away scene that had no impact on the outcome of the film. Big whoop...

Even when we did see a film with a gay lead, The Eternals, there were also ten other straight leads. At that point, it just seemed more like basic probability than an attempt at pushing LGBT+ superheroes into the spotlight.

Why Can’t Disney Let Marvel Be Gay?

The big problem with allowing a few characters to be anything other than cishet is that there are still many countries in the world that outlaw homosexuality. As much as we like to think that the MCU is being made for comic book fans, we all know the purpose of the films is to make money for Disney. And without certain markets in Asia and the Middle East, Disney wouldn’t be raking in up to (and over) one billion dollars per theatrical release.

Is There Any Hope For LGBTQ+ Fans In The MCU’s Future?

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, the second in the much-loved Black Panther arc, will be released in cinemas this November. The studio has confirmed that the film will contain a queer character. Actress Michaela Coel will play Aneka, a warrior, and trainer of the king’s guard. Whether or not her diversity will stand out in the film (let alone endure for more than a 10-second scene that can be easily cut) remains to be seen.


Next year’s The Marvels film, starring Brie Larson, Iman Vellani, and Lashana Lynch may offer the MCU a chance to redeem itself in the eyes of its LGBT+ fans. The studios may feel it’s finally time to offer us the heartwarming lesbian relationship between Larson’s Carol Danvers and Lynch’s Maria Rambeau that seemed to be teased in the first Captain Marvel. Don’t raise your hopes too high, though, as you may yet end up as a stubborn golden retriever waiting for a cinematic universe to finally throw that rainbow ball.