by Diane Spicer
Using a spring hiking gear list makes good sense during the early season of fast changing weather and variable trail conditions.
Regardless of where you hike, spring can toss windy gusts, cold precipitation, lots of mud, and fog at you.
And that's on a good day!
Get ready to meet all of that gracefully, as you understand what to wear hiking and what to have in your backpack for spring conditions.
And here's a shocker: That list works great for cool fall trails, too!
Where you hike influences your spring hiking gear list.
And who you are as a hiker is also going to dictate exactly what you wear on a spring hike, and what you carry in your backpack.
Let's pull together a few combinations to give you an idea of how to keep yourself warm and dry despite trail conditions as winter gives way to spring.
You need to keep the mud at bay and stay upright on slick trails, while keeping your skin and your gear as dry as possible.
Here's one spring hiking gear combo to achieve those goals:
Salomon Vaya Mid GTX Hiking Boots
REI Co-op Backpacker Gaiters
Osprey Sirrus 24 Day Pack
REI Co-op XeroDry GTX Jacket
On top of weather and trail challenges, you have to deal with the lack of sizing in your clothing layers.
Try these versatile high performance outer layers:
REI Co-op Groundbreaker Rain Jacket
Columbia Windgates Jacket
REI Co-op XeroDry GTX Pants
REI Co-op Talusphere Pants
You'll be pushing hard with short days and iffy weather conditions, so treat your feet right and bring a great outer layer.
Keeping your camping gear accessible and dry, also a top priority!
Lowa Lady Light GTX Hiking Boots
Kahtoola LEVAgaiter Tall GTX Gaiters
Gregory Deva 70 Pack
Your choice of backpacking stove and shelter for spring backpacking trips are also important to get just right.
Jetboil Flash Cooking System
While you may be tempted to skip the hot beverages, why do it?
Here's a fast, lightweight, convenient stove with a compact footprint in your backpack.
A hot meal makes spring backpacking trips more enjoyable!
The REI Co-op Quarter Dome SL 2 Tent is a great choice for its weight (less than 3 pounds), vertical side walls, 2 doors and 2 stake out vestibules, and interior loops and pockets.
Throw on the rain fly, and you've got yourself covered for three season backpacking!
Now let's dig into the details for your spring hiking needs!
Those are the 3 pillars of your basic spring hiking gear list.
To begin, let's stick with the basics of comfort and safety.
We'll add in fun items at the end, because it's always important to have some fun on a hike, right?
To start building your list, let's get a few things out in the open about hiking in cool weather conditions.
But if you're just starting off your hiking year with a spring hike or two, don't be caught off guard by how chilly and damp it can feel - especially if you're hiking under evergreen tree cover or in a place where spring cloud cover is the norm.
It might also surprise you to know that temperatures plunge about three and a half degrees for every thousand feet of elevation gained, something to be prepared for (mentally and physically) on a mountain trail that starts low and ends high.
All of this adds up to being prepared for wild temperature fluctuations plus moisture.
And that's where clothing technology comes in.
To stay comfortable on a chilly hike, choose a spring hiking outfit that will layer easily to provide at least 3 layers between you and the cold spring drizzle.
Not sure which brands and styles are best?
Wondering about which fabrics make sense for spring trails?
Bookmark this page and return to it for fall hiking tips, too.
To insulate your torso, use a hiking vest that can be taken off when you're feeling warmer.
And spring is when a waterproof rain cover like this one for your hiking backpack comes into play big time.
Moral of the story for springtime hikers:
Stay warm, don't try to get warm once it's too late.
In spring, you'll be facing winter run off and snow melt.
That means wet conditions for your feet, along with unstable trail conditions such as mud holes, rock slides, eroded tread, slippery tree roots, and swollen impassable creeks.
Sounds like a blast, doesn't it?
Waterproof footwear that comes up over your ankles is the way to go, quite literally.
Hiking gaiters protect your pants and backside from mud splatters and snow.
It's much better to blast through the mud, and carefully pick your way around dicey (and maybe icy) sections of trail, in snug boots with good tread.
If you hike where mosquitoes are a nuisance, spring is a great time to check your supply of insect repellents.
Also consider whether or not to bring a bug net on your hike. It weighs nothing, but can keep you sane and safe from the blood thirsty hordes.
As a smart hiker, you've consulted your map before you even left home.
You know how many water crossings there are.
You might even have a rough idea if any of them are without bridges.
If you plan to rock hop through the roaring creeks, think again.
Any time you hop, you put yourself at risk for a fall.
And skip slimy logs altogether.
If a water crossing looks too wild for you, do the smart thing: turn around.
Mark the trail in your hiking journal for later in the season, when the crossing will be as easy peasy as possible.
In the spring season, more daylight hours and modulated temperatures will make your trail time longer.
So you need to bring extra food and water (as the Ten Essentials above preaches).
There are tips waiting for you below.
You also need to be careful about gauging the weather.
Spring is Mother Nature's time to wake up and stretch.
Revel in all of the shades of green surrounding you!
It's also the time to catch a glimpse of spring babies:
Bringing along a field guide on a spring hike adds a lot of enjoyment when you spot a plant you'd like to name, or a bird perched along the trail.
Please budget time for simply breathing, listening, and drinking in all of the fresh odors and textures of a spring trail.
In wild spring weather patterns, rainbows are a common occurrence, so have your camera along in your hiking camera pack.
Every hiker has a particular set of "must have" hiking equipment, depending on what spells comfort, safety and fun for you on the trail.
Don't be shy about adding the gear that makes you feel great on a spring hike, as long as the weight of your backpack does not affect your trail performance.
My favorite comfort item on a spring hike?
A piping hot drink to enjoy when my hands and feet get cold. It also adds to safety, keeping hydration levels high.
Or brew up a fresh cup with your JetBoil!
You might be surprised by the amount of calories your body will burn through just to keep your internal temperature steady.
And that translates into a huge appetite.
Be prepared with extra portions of your hiking lunch.
And take these Hiking For Her hiking snack suggestions seriously - they're chosen for taste but also for nutrient density to keep you going.
You might also be surprised by your lack of thirst on cool weather hikes. Vow to drink often, whether or not you feel a thirst sensation.
Don't want to carry the weight of adequate supplies of water? You can treat surface water using these methods.
One of the quickest, easiest ways to treat water on a hike is a personal water filtration unit.
That's the bottom line, isn't it?
Enjoy the changeable weather, the fresh green sprouts of life, and the sounds & smells of Nature waking up after a long sleep.
Laugh at the mud on your pants as you splash through trail puddles.
Take lots of pictures, and be sure to post your favorite spring time hike here, for all to enjoy.
This spring hiking gear list and suggestions will keep you comfy.
More hiking gear tips for you to enjoy here!
Spring Hiking Gear List
About the author
Diane is the founder of Hiking For Her.
She's been on a hiking trail somewhere in the world for 5+ decades & loves to share her best hiking tips right here.
All rights reserved.
Photo credits: All photos on this website were taken by David Midkiff or Diane Spicer except where noted.
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