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Hiking essentials: what to bring and how to dress

After these long winter months, it’s finally the return of milder temperatures ideal for beautiful hikes.

It’s a perfect activity to practice since it doesn’t require any particular equipment, with the exception of good walking shoes, and can be done almost anywhere.

Walking path in Ordesa National Park in the Pyrenees
Walking path in Ordesa National Park in the Pyrenees

We can of course travel the world to find breathtaking trails, but there are also beautiful trails near major cities that allow us to escape for a few hours.

It’s one of my favorite things to do and over the years I’ve made up a list of essential accessories and clothing for day hikes or less that help cover changes in temperature and trail conditions.

How to dress for a hike?

Hiking essentials

At the bottom of the mountain, it’s cooler. After a few kilometers of walking, our trail grade rises and presto, we get warmer. Made it to the top? The wind will quickly make us regret our coat if we didn’t bring it.

You guessed it, temperatures and weather conditions can change drastically during the same hike.

Parc du Bic
One of the trails in Parc du Bic

Therefore, it’s recommended to favor multi-layered clothing that will allow you to adapt your clothing throughout the hike, with materials that breathe well, are waterproof or dry quickly.

Here are a few items that I particularly like when it comes to shoes, coats, and pants.

Good boots or walking shoes

If there is one item to invest in, it’s boots or walking shoes. We are looking for a waterproof shoe, which holds the foot well and with a quality sole that prevents feeling the slightest rock on the ground.

Depending on our needs, we can also choose a model that goes up to the ankles and has the advantage of holding the foot well when walking or a sole with bigger treads.

The Ridge Flex WP boot from Keen

The Ridge Flex WP boot from Keen

I love the Keen brand and received their new Ridge Flex WP model for testing.

It’s a very comfortable waterproof boot, fitted with knobby tread soles. But what makes this model particularly interesting is the KEEN.BELLOWS FLEX technology that is used. This technology makes walking easier as the boot flexes where other models are stiffer, risking cracking over time.

Keen assures us that with this technology, we spend 60% less energy walking. We immediately see that the boots are light and that the increased flexibility makes it possible to walk with less effort. You don’t have the feeling of heavy, stiff boots on your feet.

A waterproof windbreaker coat

Women's OutDry™ Extreme NanoLite™ Shell
Women’s OutDry™ Extreme NanoLite™ Shell

A windbreaker is another must-have for spring and fall hiking. Practical when the wind picks up, we also want a waterproof model to protect against the rain.

My favorite styles are the super light coats that you can pack for storage.

Hiking pants

Women's Saturday Trail™ Stretch Pants
Women’s Saturday Trail™ Stretch Pants

The hiking pants are also a must. Some people like leggings, but for spring or fall hiking, I prefer windproof pants which are lightweight and waterproof or dry quickly.

That’s the case with these ladies’ Columbia Saturday Trail ™ Stretch Pants. I like this model that fits great and is very comfortable. Other cool stuff includes a rain and stain resistance treatment as well as an SPF 50 sun protection.

The leg cuffs have a drawcord, which is very practical against mosquitoes or ticks, but you can also roll them up like in the picture if it gets hotter.

These pants are very versatile and can be used either for a hike in the desert or in the woods.

Other clothing items to bring:

  • a hat or cap for protection from the sun;
  • gloves if it’s a little cooler;
  • an extra pair of socks or a sweater, in case they get wet.

Useful accessories for hiking

Several hours later, the end of the trail at Ordesa National Park
Several hours later, the end of the trail at Ordesa National Park

Depending on how long and where you’re hiking, other accessories can also be very useful to bring with you:

  • a backpack;
  • a portable charger: It can be annoying to have dead batteries once you’re at the top and not being able to take pictures;
  • sun protection: sunscreen and glasses;
  • a mosquito repellent according to the season;
  • binoculars for viewing wildlife and birds;
  • trail map.

For your safety, if you go deep in the woods or if you risk returning after dark (obviously you won’t need those if you are going for a short hike at Mont Saint-Bruno on a Saturday afternoon):

  • a whistle to signal your presence or scare away an animal like…. a bear!
  • a headlamp if you return after dark;
  • a lighter ;
  • survival blanket;
  • a first aid kit with Tylenols, allergy medicine, bandages, etc.

Hydration and eating well while hiking

Un sandwich au sommet de la montagne

Eating well and staying hydrated while hiking is a must. Ideally, we eat before, during and after the hike.

What to bring for meals?

No matter how long the hike bring snacks. If the hike exceeds a few hours, bring lunch. We choose a meal that can be carried easily and that doesn’t need to be reheated, such as a sandwich, raw vegetables, cheese, hummus, pita bread, etc.

Obviously, to stay hydrated, don’t forget a water bottle and a sufficient quantity of water. It’s recommended to bring at least 1.5 to 2 liters of water per person for a day.

As for snacks

Nuts, dried fruits, energy balls and roasted chickpeas are great snacks that will provide energy during the hike and are easily carried.

Otherwise, granola bars are great options for getting good nutrition while walking.

Have a good hike!


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