Spring Hiking Must-Haves
Spring has arrived and that means it's time to transition from puffy warm jackets to rain jackets, t-shirts and shorts. This spring I'm all about two things when it comes to my clothing: moisture wicking and sun protectant. During the spring it rains, duh; you also start to sweat more due to the warming temperatures so wicking moisture away from the body is super important especially to avoid catching a spring-time cold. The sun is starting to get stronger and of course protecting your skin from the sun should always be a priority while you're adventuring outdoors. Also, a piece of advice for spring hiking is to always bring extra layers. In the spring mountain tops can be 10-15 degrees colder than valley temperatures so it's always a good idea to have an extra sweater or pair of leggings in your car in case you need them. But, without further ado, here is my list of spring gear must-haves.
A Real Waterproof Rain Jacket
When picking out a rain jacket it's really important to pick something that's truly waterproof. Too many times I've spent money on rain jackets just to discover that when I'm caught in a torrential downpour it can't keep me completely dry, or it just straight up falls apart within a year. I've learned that oddly enough, not all rain jackets are waterproof. In order to avoid getting soaking wet when you least expect it, look for rain jackets that are Gore-Tex... they're a little bit more expensive but it's worth it. The material reliable and really keeps the moisture away. Another waterproof technology that's reliable is H2No from Patagonia. I have a rain jacket from Patagonia (first product below) which is insanely comfortable, lightweight and waterproof to the core. It's actually meant for fly fishing but it doubles as my rain jacket for hiking. When purchasing a rain jacket try sticking to sites like REI and Backcountry where their customers have written thorough reviews. Reviews will ALWAYS tell you how waterproof and durable a rain jacket is- no one likes to buy a "waterproof" jacket just to find out its not waterproof when it rains so the reviews will be a true reflection of the product. Patagonia will forever be my favorite company to buy rain jackets from because they're so reliable and last a longgg time.
Ventilated, Quick Drying Shoes
Quick drying shoes are just so practical and easy to wear in the spring. In addition to my hiking boots (I have a waterproof and non-waterproof pair) I really love to have a ventilated, open, quick drying sandal. I wear my waterproof hiking boots all winter so I love to let my feet out and breathe the second the air gets warmer in the spring. Strappy, ventilated sandals are so great for any activities where you'll be around/near water and want to be able to hike through it without thinking twice. These are also great for fly fishing in the summer when waders are just too dang hot but you need a good grip on the mossy rocks. Look for shoes that advertise "multisport performance," "moisture wicking" and/or "waterproof" and shoes that look very ventilated (not a typical closed shoe). Keen is one of my all-time favorite brands but I also loveee my Chacos.
Sun Protectant Tees
In recent years I've really studied up on the benefits of protecting your skin while outdoors. I use to think wearing a simple t-shirt would suffice but I've learned that's just not true. The sun can penetrate your clothing to your skin so it's extra important to put sunscreen on everywhere before heading outdoors and choose clothing with UPF 30 or higher. A lot of UPF shirts are also moisture-wicking so you get two great features in one shirt. Investing in good quality shirts means you're gear lasts longer and you'll be more comfortable out on the trail. I have a few of the REI shirts and one from The North Face and I loveee them. Check out REI Outlet to find some good shirts for great prices.
Moisture Wicking Socks
When you do get out and go hiking and wear your trusty pair of boots, moisture wicking socks are a must have. Socks are the barrier between your foot and your shoe so it's important to have a sock that pulls moisture away from your skin and pushes it out towards your boot. If you have a good pair of boots, they'll take that moisture and wick it away completely. Merino wool is amazing at wicking away moisture and keeping your feet comfortable even on 10+ mile long hikes. I don't hike in anything other than merino wool because it's so comfortable and the socks last a long time before you have to toss them. There are some other blends that also do a good job keeping your feet dry and comfy. Bottom line is to look for that "moisture wicking" description and if the socks have padding that's an added bonus. My favorite brands are REI, Darn Tough and SmartWool. SmartWool lasts the longest for me before I literally wear holes through them!
Water Repellant Shorts
This is a new discovery for me. I've recently purchased a bunch of the Patagonia Baggie Shorts (third product below) and I am obsessed. They're super lightweight, breathable and stay put while you're moving around a lot. Not to mention they're stinkin' cute. I could dump a bottle of water on me by accident (it's happened before) and within minutes they'd be dry again. Water repellant shorts are great because no matter what you throw at them and put them through, they'll dry instantly. They also seem to always be made with better, more reliable material so they end up lasting longer than other cheap shorts. In addition, a majority of them are moisture-wicking so that obnoxious lower back sweat (lets be real, that's the worst kind of sweat) will be managed while you hike. Try looking for an inseam thats 3" or longer to allow enough fabric to cover everything while you're outdoors and being active, unless having your butt cheeks hang out is your then than by all means go shorter.
I added this one just for fun and because I'm obsessed with my LifeStraw. Drinking out of freezing cold mountain rivers during the spring is one of my favorite things. The water is just so yummy and with all the snowmelt coming off the mountains it's ice cold and perfect for cooling off on a hike. You can stick the straw straight into a creek or river or fill up a water bottle first then drink out of that. LifeStraw's hollow fiber filter (0.2 micron) will physically filter 99.9999% of all bacteria from your water source. In other words, you can literally stick this thing in the murkiest, muddiest water and you will suck clean, safe water out the other end of it. Also I love this thing because it's light as a feather- 2 oz to be exact. I always keep one in my pack for day hikes and also always bring it with me for longer overnight backpacking trips (it's a great backup to other filtration systems). If you get one remember to blow out the straw after each use. This helps keep the straw clean and keeps it from getting clogged. I cannot recommend this little straw filter enough! Read my gear review here.
Well that's it. My list of spring gear that you've gotta have is all spelled out! Of course each hiker has their own preferences and gear that they just cant live without but these are my essentials for spring. Hope everyone gets out to enjoy this insanely beautiful spring that we've already begun to experience!