Hiking sounds easy and leisurely. Yes, it can be but don’t be fooled! The popular outdoor activity can also be challenging! When Libby and I headed to Alberta recently we did some planning in advance on what gear we should bring.
Libby is an avid outdoor girl with impressive experience. Me, on the other hand, enjoy the outdoor but I’m no Girl Scout. Nor am I always sure-footed especially on rugged terrains and steep inclines. Plus, I’m afraid of heights. Yup, she lucked out with me tagging along!
After exploring in Italy last fall with hubby, I realized that I needed to be better prepared for hikes. No, I’m not talking about the the cobblestone lanes that led us to the cute shops in Lake Como! But real hikes.
I’ve also adjusted what, and how, I pack in this post-covid moment of travel. I use to pack more than necessary to “have options”. Now, I’m packing the essentials and as minimal as possible. Whatever I packed had to be light and compact but ready for any kind of weather and terrain.
I would still consider myself a newbie to hiking and the whole unplug and look up with patience and gratitude way of life. What do you mean there’s no cute cafe to stop at along the way? Not always! Besides, we were in bear country and nature is very instagram worthy.
What we brought and what we needed list…
Hiking shoes or boots for sure. Columbia Sportswear has great options for all seasons and all terrains. Since I didn’t know what the trails would be like, but I did know from previous experience that a shoe that had wet and dry grip would be ideal. Columbia Facet 75 OutDry Hiking Shoe was also waterproof and added cushioning to help absorb shock and provide support. These were perfect!
A lightweight raincoat that’s breathable with a hood is handy to have in case of unexpected rain. Fjällräven’s High Coast Hydratic Trail Jacket checked all the boxes. It also rolls up nicely to stash away. I chose mustard yellow for more visibility. This jacket exceeded expectations and kept me feeling dry and not-sticky. Bonus, I’m still wearing it at home when I walk the dog on rainy days!
Backpacks help to keep your essentials with you but also your hands free while on hikes. Fjällräven’s Abisko Hike Foldsack was lightweight and comfortable for dayhikes. Lots of zipper enclosures, pockets to keep smaller items safe. I appreciated the mesh ventilation especially when it was super hot under the sun.
We faced cool mornings that quickly warmed up consistently in early June. The Northface lightweight hoodie in the season’s popular lavender/black colour combo became a go-to for comfort and ease in those transitional moments. A lightweight tank or t-shirt was easy enough to toss on as well. Layering is good when hiking higher grounds.
If you’re heading into rugged nature it’s a good idea to have legs covered as much as possible. Ticks are every hiker’s nightmare so be sure to check your skin each time your return from an outing. Columbia’s lightweight Boundless Trek Leggings were comfortable for hiking with a 4-way stretch and helped to wick away sweat. I also look for deep side pockets to have my iPhone handy for quick photos.
There is also the Tickless Device that has caught my attention but I couldn’t find one in time for this trip. I have one for my dog but there are human versions as well. What is it? Tickless is a chemical-free, odor free and environmentally friendly device that you attach to body (backpack, jacket ring, pant belt loop for example). It emits an ultrasonic radio frequency that ticks and fleas don’t like. So, it repels the critters away.
I was mostly in these hiking shoes but when I returned to the resort, I slipped into a comfy pair of Keen Elle Sandals. This brand caught my attention for the materials they use — sustainable (they use materials that have had a past life), PFAS-free and free of toxic chemicals. The cushiony foot bed was a welcoming feeling after a day of trekking.
For times that allowed for a dip into the water, I brought the one piece Knix Deep V Heat Wave one-piece swimsuit (see image below!) from their most recent collection. The Canadian brand is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year and the suits flattering on many body-types, shapes, and sizes. This is some of our editorial team in our favourite swimwear from Knix.
We saw quite a few people with walking sticks and made note for the future. Not just older folks either! MEC has several options and you’ll want to look for lightweight poles with good grips and can offer stability and balance. I definitely could have used a set and will be investing in the for future hikes!
What other quick & practical tips do we have for a newbie?
The day we decided to go to Lake Louise I naïvely thought “Oh, it’s pretty touristy so there will be a cafe or shop to stop in and buy water and grab a sandwich.” Our first stop was going to be “The Tea House” that everyone had talked about. Well, yes, it definitely was there but the line up was massive. Luckily I had half a sandwich left from breakfast that I had shoved in my Foldsack. Afterwards, I did grab a very large iced coffee inside the Fairmont Château Lake Louise at the foot of the mountain.
Make sure your phone is charged up! My latest iPhone 14 Plus kept up all day of me taking hundreds of photos and using MAPS to make help us find our way. Also a FaceTime home from Lake Louise was a real treat for my family.
Definitely wear sunscreen! We were out for 6 hours! I had brought the new Burt’s Bees sunscreen this time around. I also brought along a few of their tinted spf lip balms – lots of shades and protection from the sun. Now I’m also wearing them at home on a daily basis.
And of course, stay hydrated! Toss in a good water bottle for your outing! Bring a few bars for a quick snack on the trails.