Keep hiking in the fall with these 10 tips
Cooler temperatures, shorter days, and leaves changing means only one thing: fall is coming, and with that fall hiking! Hiking in the fall is one of my favorite seasons. Nothing is more impressive than all the leaves changing color and not to mention, it's the perfect temperature to hike at. With the change in temperature also comes the change in how we hike in it. Don't let the cold detour you from hiking, instead use these 10 fall hiking tips to help you become better prepared.
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Tips for Hiking in the Fall
As the day progresses, so does the flux in temperature. Mornings will be cool, afternoons warm, summits cool and evenings cold. Bring layers that you can easily add and remove as the temperature changes (down jacket, baselayer leggings, and top, fleece layer). DO NOT WEAR COTTON. It will not keep you warm and takes a long time to dry if it gets wet. Stick to synthetic (polyester) or natural (wool) materials as they dry faster, wick away moisture, and are good at insulating. Also, the weather in the fall is very unpredictable. I've gone from sunshine to snow in a matter of hours especially if you are gaining elevation.
*Do not overdress otherwise it will lead you to sweat which in turn can lower your body temperature. If you find yourself sweating, adjust your layers and remove any wet layers with dry ones.*
This might seem random but it's not. You're hiking shoes probably aren't insulated and you want to make sure you keep your feet warm and dry. With hiking socks, you can pick your layer of thickness. If you get thicker socks, make sure they also fit inside your hiking shoe or you will get blisters. I always bring an extra pair just in case my feet get wet or I need them for warmth. DO NOT USE COTTON SOCKS!
3. Mitts/toque/neck gaiter
The higher the elevation, the colder the temperature will be and the more exposed you are to the wind. I carry a fleece neck gaiter, thin fleece mitts and waterproof mitts, and a toque with a fleece piece that goes around the ears. Any extra items I bring, I keep in a water-resistant bag.
It can be super easy to not drink anything when it's not hot out and you're not sweating. You should still bring at least 1-2L of water, casually taking small sips throughout the hike. Hydration bladders are handy for this (but the hose will freeze in the winter if not insulated or you don't blow the water back in).
5. Windproof/Waterproof clothing
Ah that wind, refreshing during the summer, not so much in any other season. Windproof clothing (jacket and pants) will keep the chill away and you never know when it will rain (Note: waterproof clothing is also windproof. If you only want to buy one item, make it waterproof).
6. Mess-free, easy-to-eat food
Stopping for long breaks will make you cold. You need food items you can quickly eat in a couple of minutes or eat as you go. Wraps/sandwiches, nuts, protein/energy bars or gels, presliced fruit/veggies, etc are some of my go-to's.
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7. Sleeping Bag or Emergency Bivvy
One wrong turn may lead to an uneventful night you did not plan on having or an injury that prevents you from moving and requires you to wait. You can get super compact sleeping bags (make them even smaller in compression bags) or get an Emergency Bivvy which is light and small.
Fall means shorter days, meaning it gets darker quicker, meaning your hikes need to be done in a timely manner. It can be easy to underestimate the time required to complete a hike and even if there is some daylight left, the trees will make it feel like nighttime. Always carry some sort of light source and if your headlamp takes batteries, carry extra.
Weather is always unpredictable and staying warm and dry should always be your top priority. Keeping a small lighter or waterproof matches in your pack can make a big difference from providing warmth to drying clothes to providing light.
10. A warm drink
This is more of a treat yourself one. Nothing is more rewarding when you get to the top or have a chill than to sip on a nice hot drink (tea/coffee/hot chocolate) to warm you up. I carry a small thermos that holds one cup and I always look forward to taking small sips of it during breaks.
Hiking doesn't have to end just because the weather gets cooler, especially in the fall. Go out and enjoy the beauty of leaves changing colours, take advantage of those late sunrises, and enjoy the trail with fewer people on it during fall hiking.