Hiking Essentials: What’s in my Closet
As any avid hiker knows, a long hike will only be as comfortable as the gear you take with you.
Last weekend, I ventured all the way to Lake Lovely Water—an eight hour, incredibly steep and wobbly leg-inducing round trip hike—with an overnight pitstop at the Tantalus Hut at the top (post coming soon about my eventful weekend at Lake Lovely Water).
We set out for our hike early in the morning on Saturday, knowing fully well that the majority of the hike would be, well, for the lack of a better word, incredibly wet. Rain was in the forecast (and a lot of it), and we would also be crossing a river by boat, canoeing on the lake, and bushwhacking on the way up. Case in point, I knew I needed to be prepared.
To be completely honest, I was not as prepared as I could have been. When we arrived at the trailhead on Saturday morning, the weather forecast had changed to mostly cloudy, and the rain at the time was more of a mist than a downpour. I figured that I could leave my rain pants in the car to save some extra space in my bag; turns out that that was a big mistake, and I was soon to be very thankful for the few pieces protective gear that I had brought with me.
As it turns out, it was surprisingly not pouring rain on the hike up to the lake, but it was still very wet from the heavy rainfall that had occurred the night before. As we bushwhacked through the forest for a solid 20 minutes or more, my Lululemon leggings proceeded to collect all of the water from the surrounding greenery that I touched—I guess rain pants really would have been a good idea.
So I know what you’re thinking, how could a girl who is as ill prepared as this possibly tell me what kind of gear I should buy for when I go hiking? And you’re partially correct—I am often ill prepared, but usually only the first time I go on a hike. I have learned from my mistakes time and time again, and slowly, over the years, I have managed to upgrade my existing gear to what I have now. Am I always 100% prepared for my trip/hike? That’s debatable. Do I make mistakes when packing and choosing gear? Absolutely. But because of this, I have lived and learned and now know exactly what I need after I go through these moments of trial and error.
My hiking essentials for an overnight backpacking trip include:
A good pack can not only make or break your hike, but also your back too. I am a firm believer that you should spend a decent amount of money on an overnight pack simply because it will be attached to you for the duration of your trip—in other words, this is not an item you want to be cheap about.
Arc’teryx probably makes some of the best, most durable, and custom fitted packs out there, but they also come with a hefty price tag. There are other, equally as comfortable and sturdy bags out there, you just have to do your research and make sure you get one that fits your body properly. I would recommend spending over $150 on a bag, and ask around/research for the best brands.
Pro tip: a more expensive bag made by a great company (i.e. Arc’teryx) will come with an unwritten warranty. After many years of use in addition to backpacking around Europe/Asia, the straps of my bag needed to be replaced. I took it into Arc’teryx thinking they might tell me how to sew them back up, but instead, they replaced the entire back part of the bag (straps and everything) for free—now that’s customer service worth the money. My bag is quite old, but this is the new equivalent to what I have now.
Make sure you pick up a waterproof pack cover for your bag in case it rains!
Hats are must for a few reasons: protection from the rain, bad hair days, protection from the sun, and did I say bad, greasy hair days?
Patagonia insulated jacket:
As much as I hesitate to admit it, the jacket I wear from Patagonia is a down jacket. Now, I know what you’re thinking: how hypocritical could I be? A vegan that wears down? Now, before you jump to conclusions, hear me out. I was a fairly new vegan at the time, and I honestly did not fully understand the connection of down to animal cruelty. It sounds naive, and it pretty much is, but I was still in a time of transitioning and refused to believe that what I was purchasing was wrong.
Do I regret buying a $300 down jacket? Yes. Of course I do, now that I know better. Am I going to throw it out in disgust? No, because the damage has already been done. If I’m going to own up to buying into that industry, I might as well get 20 years of use out of it. Is the jacket warm? Yes, of course it is; it’s made with goose feathers. That being said, I do not encourage anyone to buy into this brutal exploitative industry, and I do believe that there are numerous other synthetic insulated jackets that will keep you just as warm without supporting animal cruelty. See this list of top synthetic insulated jackets of 2016.
This kind of ultra-warm layer, despite being anything but waterproof, is an essential item for those cold nights while camping. Layer a waterproof shell jacket overtop if you need warmth and protection from the rain.
The North Face rain jacket
Any 100% waterproof jacket will do, but make sure it truly is waterproof! I own a very thin shell jacket, which is great for layering and for folding up compactly in your bag when the rain stops. My jacket is white, but I would recommend buying any colour but white unless you want to own a stained jacket.
Vasque hiking boots
A good pair of shoes is arguably one of the most critical components of your outfit when you go for a long hike. Prior to hiking this weekend, I had never owned a pair of hiking boots. Can you believe that I spent the last 4 or 5 years hiking solely in running shoes? Yeah, neither can I. A good pair of hiking boots probably would have allowed me to enjoy my hike up Wind Ridge a little more…
In preparation for my hike this past weekend, I knew I would need some proper hiking boots because the trail would be wet and muddy (although no one told me I would be crossing streams too). I went to MEC and talked to a staff member there. He helped me find a pair of durable, waterproof, narrow hiking boots (because I have skinny and long feet).
I ended up buying a pair of Vasque boots, and I have to say, they didn’t completely kill my feet after 8 hours of hiking in them without any previous break-in time. To be completely honest, they weren’t 100% waterproof on the way up, but that’s probably because water came over the top of them numerous times. On the way down, however, my feet were very dry considering the muddy condition of the trail. They were also quite breathable, which meant my feet were not as sweaty as I thought they would be after that much hiking.
Patagonia R1 Polar Fleece Hoody
This thin Polartec fleece hoody is the ideal layer between your base layer (usually a long sleeve) and top layer (a waterproof jacket). It is lightweight, more breathable than heavy fleece, and it has a hood and high neck. Essentially, this layer will keep you warm enough for the beginning of your hike until you decide to take it off, in which case it will compress small enough to fit into your pack. There’s honestly nothing worse than having a bulky middle layer for day hikes, which restrict movement. This avoids this inconvenience and allows you to stay warm without overheating.
Lululemon Speed Tight IV (or any Lululemon pants for that matter)
I’m sure I can speak for many of my female readers when I say that Lululemon pants just work. They’re durable, they stretch the way you want them to, and they are a reliable company when it comes to replacing or fixing items. I also found out this past weekend that they dry relatively quickly after being completely drenched.
The reason I like these pants in particular is because they have pockets. There’s nothing worse than having to take off your entire 30 lb pack in the middle of a hike to retrieve something you need. These pockets make access easy and because they’re tight, you can be assured knowing your item won’t fall out.
Polar Watch A300
From the moment I bought my Polar A300, I fell in love. I cannot exercise or hike without it now. This activity watch is my new best friend, it tells me so many awesome things about my workout: the duration, average heart rate, real time heart rate, fat burn, my daily goal percentage that I have completed, daily calories, daily steps, etc. It’s completely waterproof so I can hike in the rain with it, shower with it, and even swim with it. Visually, it has a nice large face so I can actually read the time without squinting. I recommend that anyone looking to get an activity watch should start with a Polar. Price-wise, they’re decently affordable, and they have exactly what you need if you’re not looking for anything overly technical.
Note: You have to buy a heart rate monitor in addition to the watch to be able to track and record your heart rate, but the strap is probably twice as accurate for heart rate monitoring than a built in monitor on the watch.
Lululemon Swiftly Tech Long Sleeve Crew
This long sleeve is incredible for a few reasons: it has anti-stink technology, it’s breathable, it has thumb holes to keep your hands warmer, and it’s the perfect layer to go underneath a larger layer on top. If you sweat, it’s honestly, no problem because this baby is woven with Silverescent technology (aka a fancy work for anti-stinkage material). I own two of these and they’re my go-to for hiking in the rain.
Pristine Water Bottle
When you’re planning on going on an overnighter where you will have access to semi-clean stream/river (running) water, this water bottle is honestly the only water filter you need. You simply fill it up, and the built in filter will get rid of 99% of the two leading causes of water-borne illness: cryptosporidium and giardia lambia. I love this bottle and how easy it is to use, and I will be taking it on every overnighter I go on in the future.