It's that time of the year when the days get longer and the snow is no longer. So naturally you start planning for the summer, writing down cool ideas, things you want to do, places to explore, etc. But if you're planning on hiking, you should start with this blog! It will point you in the right direction with links to essential gear sites, the best sites for hiking information, and other useful resources when deciding where to go for your next adventure. I'm an avid hiker myself and really this blog came out of my quest for hiking information about The Columbia Valley, Kootenay National Park, Banff National Park etc. So get out there and enjoy your summer, maybe I'll see you on the trails!
Photo by Stephan Malette.
Most trips come out of an idea someone has, "We should hike that mountain this summer!", "We gotta plan an epic adventure somewhere!", and thus it begins, now comes to the logistics. The following are some questions you should answer to help you out.
- What area do you want to go? What hikes do you want to do? What navigation tools will you need? (maps, GPS, etc.)
- Who will be going?
- Dates & times?
- Weather? What's the forecast?
- How serious is the hike? Risk factor? Route?
- Gear considerations? (I'll break down gear in another tip)
- Food & Water? (I'll break down food & water in another tip)
The first place I would look when planning a trip is the web. The following list is a good place to start.
- Canadian Rockies
- Parks Canada
- Banff & Lake Louise.
- Jumbo Pass and Lake of the Hanging Glacier
- Columbia Valley
- Golden & Bugaboo Hikes
- Columbia Valley Trail Alliance
2. Gear (clothing)
Gear can be expensive, but if you take care of what you buy it can last a long time and you can always find used gear being sold. My theory is buy once, buy right. Whenever I purchase something for the outdoors, I do my research, determine what's the best option within my budget, and then once I do purchase it, I take care of it. A good place to buy gear is from MEC. I also buy directly from brands but for most things I count on MEC and have done so my whole life.
Another good tip is to buy local or from a reputable retailer so they can help guide you to finding the right gear and if you have a problem with the gear they can help you get it warrantied.
So you're going hiking, what gear do you need? The following is a little recommendation list. I usually start with my feet and work my way up, it's also a good thing to do right before you leave, ask yourself if you've covered everything from the feet up.
- Hiking Boots (Boots)
- You can get away with a good pair of shoes but I would recommend boots for a few reasons; they are more rugged, can withstand the abuse on the trail, ankle support, waterproof (some), protect your feet, etc.
- Some people are crazy about this, I simply just wear socks that don't have holes and if my boots are new, I wear two pairs the first few times. Wool socks are definitely a good choice.
- Base layer
- Depends on weather, if you think it's going to be cold, bring a light base layer upper and lower. I usually wear shorts with a pair of hiking pants in my bag and will bring a base layer depending on weather.
- Bottom Layers
- Shorts are good if the weather is nice but I would carry a pair of pants in your pack if it's a longer hike just in case. Also, if you're walking through a lot of bush, pants are nice.
- Hiking pants really do the trick in the back country and again, buy once, buy right.
- Upper Layers
- I recommend wearing a wicking t-shirt with some short of warm layer and a wind/waterproof shell. Again, this is depending on weather, be prepared.
- Wool is always a good option because even when wet it will keep you warm.
- They look cool and they protect your eyesight and pretty much are essential for hiking when it's really sunny out or crossing a snowy patch.
- Keeps the heat in if it gets cold out or keeps the sun off your face.
- Keep your hands safe and bring some sort of gloves or mitts in case it gets cold. Not the biggest factor out there, but I like keeping my hands free which means I can't warm them up in my pockets.
- Buff or Scarf
- They have so many purposes so they're worth it in my opinion.
3. Pack Essentials
I grew up in the outdoors and a lot of the things I carry in my pack have resulted from personal experience. Like the time I went snowshoeing in northern Quebec, got lost on top of a mountain at night without a headlamp and had to find the return trail to the camp. I learned to never leave without a headlamp no matter what time I expeced to be home. My philosophy is pack light but prepared. You never know what could happen in the wilderness so it's best to be over prepared than under prepared. The following is my recommended list of essentials for your pack.
- Back Pack (Packs)
- I usually use a day pack for moderate hiking trips (20-40L) but if I see the risk is high or the weather unpredicable, I'll use my overnight pack (40-60L). Hydration packs can be great but generally lack storage space in comparison to overnight packs.
- Food & Water (I'll break down food & water in another tip)
- Navigation (Books & Maps)
- A compass & map or GPS isn't much use if you don't know how to use it, so either carry a little guide book about them or educate yourself about them here; Compass / GPS
- If you are using a map and compass make sure to take care of your map
- If you're hiking on a trail, print off a trail map if they're available. Canadian Rockies maps are found HERE. You can also pick up maps at your local tourism offices and at mountain stores like MEC.
- Extra Clothing
- Touched on above, but I would recommend bringing an extra warm layer in case of emergencies. I usually leave a down coat in the bottom of my bag.
- Survival Kit
- A small kit with the little, but important things that will keep you alive. There are a lot of DIY options or here are some from MEC. It should cover the basics, fire, first aid, food, navigation, etc.
- First Aid Kit
- You should carry a small first aid kit. This is essential and should not be overlooked.
- Fire Starter
- Lighter, matches, flint and steel, whatever you prefer. Just make sure you have it.
- Very useful, again there are a lot of opinions on what sort of knife you could carry. I usually don't use folding knives unless it's a Leatherman or Swiss Army knife.
- Super versitile and, in my mind, very underrated. The longer the better, but always bring some sort of rope with you in the backcountry.
- Duct Tape
- Always useful, you don't need a whole roll, just a little bit to patch stuff, bandage, blister protection, etc.
- Toilet Paper
- Excellent fire starter (keep dry), and also a nice thing to have for...well...you know.
- Cell Phone
- Pics or it didn't happen (gotta get those shots on Instagram!). But in all honesty, the cell phone is an excellent tool when it comes to safety. If you are able to keep your location settings on during your hike, it can become a huge benefit to Search & Rescue if something goes wrong. Sometimes I have even posted a photo of my group before heading out to a hike as a precaution.
- I personally carry a reserve charger to be used in emergencies. If you plan to do a multi-day hike you may want to consider a solar back up charger.
- Better than phone pictures if space permits and high quality photos are important to you.
- To communicate distress.
- Remember my story?
- Insect Repellent
- Key to have especially with annoying mosquitoes or to help discourage ticks
- Bear Spray
- Is not applied like insect repellent. And is only used when the bear is within range from you and you spray it at the bear. Read up on this please, or watch this. Bear Spray
4. Food & Water
The quantity and volume you wish to take with you depend on the duration and difficulty on the hike and on how much you eat. Make sure you have enough water! I usually have a minimum of 2 L for a day hike. When it comes to food, try to eat things that will give you a lot of energy and won't dehydrate you. You still need your salts though so keep that in mind. The following is a list of what I would take on a day hike.
- 2 L or more. I would also bring some sort of water purification process, the best way to purify water is to boil it. But purification tabs are the easiest. Also available are microfilter/purifier pumps.
- Trail Mix
- Nuts, seeds, grains, and little sweets go a long way. Try not to eat all the chocolate first because you never know when you'll need that little burst of morale or energy.
- Gummy Bears
- Optional, but I usually have a little pack I keep for emergencies to give me enough energy to do a task.
Photo by Stephan Malette.
You've planned your trip, your group is stoked and ready to go, but one key thing you should remember to do is let someone know where you're going in case things go wrong. It can be something as simple as sending someone a text saying you're going hiking for the day up such and such trail. I usually will tell one of my family members the following:
- Where I am going (route, area, etc.)
- What time I am leaving and expect to be home
- Who I am with
However, if you are leaving your information with a parks office or someone who knows little information about you, add more details such as vehicle description, color of gear, phone number, etc.
REMEMBER TO TELL THE PERSON YOU HAVE RETURNED
It's as simple as sending a text or calling or even driving by their place on the way back if your phone died.
As I said earlier, also maybe post a photo on social media to let others know.
6. I added another tip
- Celebratory beverages & food. After a trip try to sit down with the crew and talk about the trip, discuss what was good, bad, and start dreaming of the next one. A cold one is always a good way to end off a trip as well!
- Clean up
- When you get home from your trip, clean and dry gear and return it to its special spot. That way you won't lose things and have to visit all my gear links again.
Well there you have it folks, I hope this blog at least helps you out in some small way on your adventure. Enjoy your summer!