Autumn is upon us. Some of you may live in places where the difference between Summer and Fall is negligible but, here in Vancouver, Fall means an unmistakeable shift to coolness and rain. Being someone who hates working out indoors, I’ve learned (often the hard way) what it takes to enjoy the outdoors in this unpredictable season. Learn from the error of my past ways.
Slight warning: this advice pertains more to hiking that running. Since I don’t tend to run for super long periods of time, especially these days, I rarely need to consider special gear.
With that out of the way, here’s my list of essentials:
- Suitably sized backpack for below listed add-ons: Look, I hate carrying backpacks, particularly when I used to trail run. They’re a pain in the ass. They’re bulky and they get heavy. Still, they are a necessary evil to carry everything below, which is essentially to ensure that you options for all the weather gods may throw at you.
- Layers: Mornings are cold, but afternoons get warm. The base of a mountain is warmer, but summits are breezy and cool. In other words, you need layers. I typically do a tank top + base layer + jacket. Also, see other items below for extremities. It’s more to carry, but we got that backpack issue out of the way already.
- Gloves: This was one of my biggest offenses in the past. It took countless mornings and summits during which I couldn’t feel my hands before I realized that packing a tiny pair of gloves would mean that I could do things like: hold a water bottle, grip a zipper pull and, you know, curl my hand into a ball. Really, I am the world’s slowest learner. Just pack some gloves.
- Hat: Whether it’s to block rain or snow, or just as another source of heat retention a hat is also a must. Like gloves, a hat takes up almost no room. Do it.
- Spikes or some form of slip-on traction devices: Everything can seem gloriously snow free from the trailhead, but snow at higher elevations can be a pain to walk through. Even worse, as snow melts during the day and then temperatures drop at night, trails can turn into lovely little ice chutes. I’ll do a separate post at some future date on my preferred brand of spikes, but for now I’ll just say toss them in an outer pouch in your backpack and leave them there year round. I’ve been surprised at just how often I’ve used mine, and how envious others have been as I cruised past them like snow and ice didn’t even exist.
- Survival Blanket: Really, this is something you should probably carry year round, but I consider it even more essential in Fall and Winter. It weighs nothing and it’s flat so it takes up no space. Sometimes, I am a safety bear.
- Goretex is your best friend: Shoes and jacket are a must, here. This is no time to cheap out on ‘water resistant materials’. No, you need an impenetrable shield. Drop the big bucks and get yourself some Goretex. When the heavens decide to release hours’ worth of torrential rain, your soul will be soggy but your flesh will not.
- Keep a change of clothes/shoes in your car: I once tried to dry soaking wet layers by laying them over my dashboard vents as I drove. Newsflash: this doesn’t actually work. I have driven hours from trailheads to my home absolutely freezing cold despite blasting heat because I was soaked to the bone. Take some dry clothes, socks and shoes, toss them in the trunk, and never have another uncomfortable drive home. Bonus points: this allows you to stop for beer and/or food on the way home without horrifying other diners with your smell and appearance.