Hiking Gear 101
In British Columbia, an interesting phenomenon of the Covid-19 pandemic has been an increase in the number of people venturing outdoors and exploring our amazing province. This should not be surprising, as we live in one of the most incredible geographic regions in the world. We have an ocean, a desert, rivers, lakes, expansive forests and of course, magnificent mountains. When it comes to the mountains, there is no better way to explore than to go hiking. It is invigorating, rejuvenating, and allows a connection to the landscape that cannot be described.
I have been an avid hiker for decades – hiking short trails I can do after work, to multi-day adventures off-trail through challenging terrain. For this article, I am going to make some gear suggestions for day hikes that are several hours in length over moderate to challenging terrain. Keep in mind that these are my personal thoughts and feelings but should give you a good idea of what you may need. Take the time to find what works for you, and most importantly – be safe and enjoy the backcountry!
The most important gear you will ever own for hiking is your footwear. Your footwear needs to offer support, keep your feet warm and dry and be comfortable and durable. Leather boots with a Gortex membrane are the best choice. There are several manufacturers that make excellent boots, and everyone will have their favorite. Do not try and save pennies when buying boots- you will pay for it in blisters and pain! Save up if you need to but buy once and cry once. Nothing ruins a hike quicker than sore feet! The high-end boots might last you a lifetime and many can be re-soled. Get a good pair of merino wool socks to go along with your boots.
A good quality backpack is a must for hiking. Even for day hikes you will need a place to store your food, water, rain gear, extra clothes, bug spray, matches and fire starter, etc. Like boots, it is best to stick with quality. When selecting a backpack, always choose a size a little bigger than you think you will need. Also, if you ever want to do multi-day adventures, you will need more gear and many backpacks capable of that also serve as great day packs. I would also recommend buying a rainproof pack cover so your pack and its contents stay dry should you get rained on.
If you are hiking in BC, you can be sure at some point you will be rained on. Getting soaked while hiking is uncomfortable and potentially dangerous if temperatures drop. Lightweight, breathable rain gear should always be in your pack. If you do not need it that trip, bonus- but one time you will! So bring it, the weight is minimal but the reward is maximum if the heavens open up. Rain gear with a Gortex membrane generally works well and is relatively breathable.
Hiking poles are getting extremely popular with hikers and for good reason. They make uphill travel more efficient and downhill travel safer and much easier on the knees. Collapsible, lightweight aluminum poles are the best. Once you get used to hiking with poles, you will not want to be without them.
When hiking you will either be exposed to sun or rain. A hat helps diminish the effects of both. I wear a Tilley hat as it provides excellent protection and can be rolled-up and stuffed in my pack when I do not need it. Find what works for you and become friends with it. Heatstroke is not fun and is a killer!
Emergency Communication Device
When venturing into the backcountry things do not always go as planned and you will not always have cell service. Should you or a member of your hiking party, or even someone you encounter on the trail suffer serious illness or injury while hiking, you will need help to arrive as soon as possible. There are a couple different companies offering devices that use satellites to send and receive messages. I use an InReach Mini. It is light, small and pairs with my cellphone. Hopefully, I never have to use it for an emergency, but it is comforting knowing it’s there should I need it.
The above are just the basic items you will want to consider using to make your hiking trips safer and more comfortable. See you in the mountains!