Gear and Tips

Hiking solo is one of the greatest joys I’ve experienced in my adult life. You learn a lot about yourself when it’s just you and your own two feet conquering a mountain. There are feelings of wonder, peace, and pride at having accomplished something so great on your own. That said, hiking solo isn’t something that I take lightly. I strive to be Prepared, Informed, Strong, and Smart for every single trek, no matter how small. I research the trail location, plan my route, plan for backup routes, check the weather, and check the trail conditions all the day of the expedition. Here’s how it all starts:

Pre-Hiking Prep:

  • Clean and waterproof boots (once per year). I use Camp Dry Water Repellent Spray found here.
  • I wear a baseball cap during buggy months which I coat in Permethrin (once a year) to protect against flies, mosquitos, and ticks. Find it here. 
  • Check trail conditions and weather, inform a friend of mountain name, trailhead location, intended route, estimated time of arrival and estimated time of departure.

What to Wear:

  • Here’s my typical outfit, from bottom to top, for warmer months (spring to fall):
    • Gel Toe Protectors to go on my toes to prevent blisters and calluses. These are THE BEST THING ever. Buy them.
    • Sock Liners to help prevent blisters (I also apply blister bandages to problem areas before I leave)
    • Wool Socks (and I keep a spare pair in my pack)
    • Shorts or Running Pants, or Water Resistant pants, depending on the weather.
    • Synthetic Fiber T-shirt or tank
    • Lightweight running jacket -> I love this, it keeps me cool when it’s warm out, and warm when it’s cool out.
    • Waterproof Windbreaker -> This is absolutely essential. I keep it in my pack at all times. You never know when it might rain, and the summit is usually much cooler than ground  level, not to mention much windier. I’ve gotten chilled even on hot days from the wind hitting my sweaty back, and this has been a lifesaver.
    • Baseball cap for when bugs are out
    • TIP: Avoid wearing ANY cotton while hiking, during any time of the year. Opt for wools and synthetics to help wick moisture away from your skin to keep you dry and prevent blisters.
  • This changes a bit in winter:
    • Socks stay the same
    • I wear Thermal longjohns underneath my Spyder ski pants to keep me warm and dry
    • Thermal longsleeve shirt
    • Lightweight jacket/hoodie
    • Spyder ski jacket
    • Fleece Cowl -> I love this thing, it keeps everything warm, from neck to ears to chin to mouth/nose, and head.
    • Glove Liners -> These are awesome to wear just on their own or under mittens and have fingertips that allow you to use touch screens
    • Mittens -> I clip these to my coat sleeves to remove them easily without losing them

In my Pack:

  • Here’s a list of things I typically keep in my pack during the warmer months:
  • My Pack  carries up to 50L, and while I do like it, I’m considering getting a slightly larger one to accomodate all of my gear. Though I LOVE hiking alone, one of the drawbacks is that I have to carry all of my emergency gear myself, instead of spreading it out across multiple packs. This pack also has a rain fly that you can remove and cover it with to protect the contents.
    • A 3L Camelback  + 1 bottle of water -> Mostly for longer trips/hotter weather. This way, when the camelbak runs dry, I still have 1 bottle left while I search for more water.
    • The day of the hike, I pack my food, and always pack more than I think I’ll need.
    • An extra pair of wool socks and liners
    • Carmex chapstick, hand sanitizer, and tissues
    • Deet Wipes that I use to cover all of my clothes, bare skin, and even my pack. I like the wipes because I’m not inhaling the aerosolized vapors, and I put the used wipes in the mesh pockets of my pack to help keep bugs away. Reapply every couple of hours.
    • Bear Spray for obvious reasons
      • Learn about bear safety HERE
    • Gaitors to keep my legs dry in rain or muddy conditions, or when walking through a stream
    • A Headlamp + extra batteries for those early morning starts or in case of emergency
    • Trailbook and Map for the regions I explore
    • Hiking Poles -> These are decent and retract down to a small size, however be careful that they’re tightened properly before putting weight on them.
    • Water Purifiers -> I carry both Iodine drops and a Life Straw with me
    • I carry This first aid kit + an Ace Bandage + a knee and an ankle brace
    • Stormproof Matches
    • Emergency Kit -> including :
      • Whistle flashlight * 1
      • Multifunction calipers * 1
      • Mosquito Head Net * 1
      • Hand see-saw * 1
      • Flint bracelet * 1
      • Risers * 1 (10M)
      • Fast hang buckle * 2
      • Outdoor emergency blanket * 1
      • Earplug * 1
      • Hooks * 2
      • Fishing line * 1 (33M)
      • Bait * 2
      • Swivels * 2
      • Floats * 6
      • Compass Thermometer * 1
    • I also carry an additional emergency blanket, several large, medium, and small carbiner clips, a Swiss Army multitool, a Tactical Knife, Sunscreen, extra blister bandages, Ibuprofen, Tick-repellent bug spray, a large ziplock bag (which can be used in a variety of circumstances, including keeping my camera dry) in which I keep a roll of TP, a plastic grocery bag, a brick of super high energy emergency food (lasts for like 6 days), an external battery supply charger for my phone, and a waterproof container.
    • From late fall through early spring, I keep a pair of HIGH QUALITY Crampons carbined to the back of my pack, because you literally never know when there might be ice (see Whiteface Mountain, where a lousy pair of crampons broke halfway up the mountain)

I pretty much draw the line for hiking solo at WINTER. It’s too dangerous with too many unknowns, and I mostly only partake in small ventures during these months. Plus I just really, really hate winter. However, during those small ventures, in addition to everything listed above (expect for the bug and bear sprays and sunscreen), I carry snow shoes, a face cover, ski goggles, packs of hand warmers, a beanie, and a thermos full of hot chocolate or tea.

  • Extra Stuff (Camera Supplies)
    • My camera is a Canon Rebel
    • A Lowepro shoulder bag that I carry my camera in outside of my pack
    • A sturdy, reliable tripod that collapses to fit in my pack (barely)
    • A wide angle lens
    • Lens filters, cleaning Q-tips, cleaning cloth, spare battery, spare memory cards

I think that’s about it, though I’m certain I’ve forgotten some things. Now you know why I complain about my pack being so heavy! If you’re still reading this, I hope this helps you plan your own adventures! Any questions, feel free to ask. Happy Trails!

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