by Diane Spicer
These dayhiking tips are geared toward beginner hikers who are just starting out.
Let's get started with the essentials you need for a successful day hike, and then build upon those important basic day hiking tips.
If you've never seen a dayhiking checklist, take a peek at mine.
What exactly do you need for a day hike?
It's pretty simple: sturdy footwear, protective clothing, something to carry your ten essentials, and a way to navigate the trail.
If you've never hiked before, use these links to explore the basic hiking gear you need to get started:
You're an athlete now, so you should think about your food differently.
Pay attention to these basics, and you're all set for dayhiking on well established trails.
Now let's turn to an area where many day hikers make mistakes.
If you're wondering what to wear when you go hiking, you're in the right place for some day hiking clothing tips.
For your first few hikes, you can put together the clothing you already own into a hiking outfit.
Once the hiking bug bites (not to be confused with regular bug bites), you'll want to invest in weather-appropriate and durable hiking clothes.
To share some seasonal dayhiking tips for hiking clothing, I'll take you through what I wear on the trail in a typical hiking year.
I'm not a rock star hiker or a trail fashionista, but I've been through my share of downpours, wind storms, hail, mud holes and bug blizzards.
So let's short cut the process for you, based on my mistakes.
I mean learning experiences.
Of course I do ;)
The perfect place to start: chilly trails.
Cool mornings followed by warm afternoons present a challenge for hiking clothes.
What's a hiker to do to stay warm, but not too warm?
My best dayhiking tip for how to triumph in this situation:
To give you an idea of what to wear hiking in the spring and fall, here's the Hiking For Her "official" top to bottom spring & fall hiking wardrobe.
Your core temperature is an important asset to guard on cool weather hikes.
Here's how to layer your hiking outfit, from the inside out:
I remove the jacket once my boots are laced up and I've stretched at the trail head.
The vest comes off mid-way through the morning, or sometimes not at all, depending upon the cloud cover and temperature.
I leave my vest and gloves in my pack for the entire hiking year! They are lightweight, take up a small amount of room, and are a lifesaver when I feel chilled.
As mentioned above, you can start off the hike with a cozy headband covering your ears and back of your head.
If you tend to feel really chilled, skip the headband and wear a fleece hat.
A brimmed hat (ball cap style) exposes your ears and neck for venting later in day, and works great to keep glaring sunlight out of your eyes.
Now that your torso and arms are nice and warm, here's how to keep the rest of your body comfortably temperature regulated in cool weather:
Some female hikers start off wearing a jacket, then strip down to a short sleeve shirt and skip a vest.
Note: you can get by with cotton if you know for a fact that day will be dry, but skip cotton year round in moist conditions.
I've also seen hikers wear nylon shorts over long underwear bottoms or tights - an interesting fashion statement.
Summer hiking clothes are super simple:
I'm sure you have shorts & T-shirts or tank tops in your closet which would perform admirably on dry, warm days.
Here's a Hiking For Her review of a Title Nine tank top + shorts hiking outfit made of technical fabrics that works well on the trail.
Try to remember to stash a dry shirt in your backpack for your turn around spot, and another clean, dry shirt in the car for post-hike comfort.
Your summer hiking attire can be simple and easy to find in your closet when you first start doing straightforward day hikes.
But after a few sweaty hot hikes where you're wringing out your cotton T shirts at your lunch stop, I think you will gravitate toward more sweat-soaking, wicking technical hiking fabrics.
These promise more comfort, less odor trapping, and a much more presentable appearance back at the trail head.
If hot, sunny hiking weather is in your plans, you can put these hiking tips to good use to keep yourself comfortable and happy.
Now let's turn to some tips for how to keep yourself safe and happy on cold weather hikes.
In some parts of the world, we call it snowshoeing!
Let's get a feel for the most extreme conditions you may face in a year of hiking.
Giving dayhiking tips for cold weather is tricky because ambient temperature is low, but you're going to work up quite a sweat as you move along.
So here's what I suggest:
Use the same layering technique as in fall, but skip the sleeveless top layer.
Instead, add a high collared sleeveless fleece vest over a long sleeved collared shirt, and remove your jacket at the trail head.
A fleece hat and a thin pair of gloves helps, too.
Snowshoeing pants should be breathable and waterproof.
I've learned some behavioral
modifications the hard way, and am eager to share them with you so you
don't have to get cold and wet.
At my lunch spot, I throw down a small tarp, plunk my pack down on it, and then sit on my pack to prevent heat transfer from my body to Mother Earth.
I also throw on a windproof layer right away to preserve my body heat, and may also switch out my hat and gloves to warmer versions if the wind is blowing.
On unusually cold days, I include long underwear, knowing that my waterproof pants have side zips to allow me to vent my body heat when needed (snowshoeing uphill, for example).
My head wear at the trail head changes, too: I use a wool cap, sometimes with ear flaps, sometimes not.
My neck seems to be the spot where cold air really bothers me, so I carry a fleece neck warmer like this one.
For winter trips, here's a valuable dayhiking tip:
My winter boots are drastically different at this time of year - heavy and waterproof, with thick warm liners that can be dried separately.
If I decide to hike on a wet but snow free low land trail, I skip all the heavy layers and just wear a long sleeved top under a waterproof winter jacket.
Begin scouring magazines, websites, and books for dayhiking tips that apply to your area.
Safety and comfort hiking tips are essential to your enjoyment of this sport.
Thinking of day hiking alone?
Rainy day hiking tips can help you brave less than stellar weather.
Want all of the best dayhiking tips pulled together for you in a convenient format?
By now you've noticed how hiking can get pricey, the more seasons you are on the trail: various hats, different weights of gloves, a variety of boots, extra layers...
I know you probably don't want to hear this, but you've got enough real world experience to believe it:
You get what you pay for.
Quality, performance, fit and durability are definitely tied to a higher price point.
Certain companies seem to have a knack for delivering on the goods.
And then fully backing up the goods with excellent customer services and policies.
Don't be surprised to see some names repeating!
I never pay full price unless I'm up against a time crunch or I absolutely want that particular item.
There are so many good deals to be had!
You can sign up to receive emails alerting you to sales, price cuts, new merchandise, overstocks - some companies will literally TELL you when to save money.
Here's one of my favorite place to score a deal: Backcountry.
And another one: REI Co-op Outlet.
Speaking of gear cooperatives...
Did you know there are sports equipment co-ops you can join?
This is one of my favorite dayhiking tips, because I've been using it for 3+ decades and love the "cooperative" angle:
You're also eligible for member-only deals, which can be quite tempting.
I joined Seattle-based REI in 1978 (not a typo!!), and have enjoyed spending my member dividend every year since to upgrade my hiking gear.
REI co-op benefits include a member rebate every year, based on your purchases.
Usually, the rebate is ~10%, which gives you a nice amount of money to spend on yourself - just for buying hiking gear!!
There's also a Canadian gear co-op called MEC that I joined a few years ago when I couldn't find the boot brand I'm partial to (Zamberlan) in any American stores.
One of my best dayhiking tips for women:
Be amazed at how many miles you can cover on a day hike if you're motivated...
As proof, here's a photo of a snowshoe day hike near Mt. Rainier.
Notice the snowshoe tracks, made by my husband and me in the pristine snow as we were heading to our predetermined lunch spot.
So go for it!
These tips are just to get you started thinking about what you'll need as a day hiker.
There's plenty more ground to cover, so to speak!
And here's something else to ponder:
Maybe a day hike just isn't enough!
But don't worry.
Hiking fever isn't life threatening!
In fact, I'd call it life enhancing.
Be sure you're signed up for all of the latest free hiking goodness from Hiking For Her:
Best Dayhiking Tips
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Photo credits: All photos on this website were taken by David Midkiff or Diane Spicer.
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