Thursday, October 25, 2012

Top 10 Things to Pack for a Fall Day Hike

fall hiking trail
Fall Hiking Trail
Fall is one of my favorite times to hike.  The temperature is often that perfect point where you aren't sweating from the heat and humidity and as you exert yourself, you warm up enough to wear a light sweater.  As the season progresses, the scenery changes as fall colors appear transitioning into trees going bear before the snow comes.  This time of year, hikers usually don't need additional traction (like snowshoes), and there are far fewer summer hikers to dodge and back up the trails.  All in all - fall hiking is the best!

Fall hiking can bring on additional challenges.  For example, shorter days mean less daylight, colder and more unpredictable weather, and the possibility of ice or snow on the trail.  It's very important to, as the Leave No Trace guidelines suggest- Plan Ahead and Be Prepared.

Before heading out for a day hike, use this list and check it twice....

hiker in ravine
Matt has all his gear in his day pack for a comfy fall hike.
1.  Non Cotton Clothing - You might have heard the term "cotton kills".  This is because wet cotton wicks heat away from your body.  Stick to these materials - nylon, poly, and wool, and don't wear jeans and a t-shirt!

2.  A Day pack - Find a sturdy backpack with a hip belt.  I use an old L.L. Bean school pack.

3. A Map - Don't try to save money or get lazy by not getting a map.  Trails can be confusing (especially in New England)  Don't leave home without one and don't rely on a phone.

4. Water - For an all day hike - at least 2 Liters, for 1-2 hour hike, one Liter should be fine.

5. A First Aid Kit - For a day hike bring sunscreen, band aids, a pocket knife, gauze/pad, tape, and benedryl/ibruprofen, space blanket, pencil, and paper.

6.  A Flashlight/Headlamp - These are life savers if you over estimate the hike length and loose daylight.

7.  Food - For a full day hike bring a meal + snack.  For a couple hours, bring a granola bar, piece of fruit, or trail mix.

8. A Rain Layer - Get a light weight waterproof jacket.  I also bring a pair of lightweight rain pants.

Fall colors in New Hampshire
9.  A Warm Layer - Bring a non-cotton warm layer like a fleece or wool sweater.  You might not need it at the start of the hike but if you stop for a snack, summit view, or first aid - you'll be glad you have it.

10.  Warm Hat and Gloves - If you are traveling up in elevation, this can really make your trip a happy one.

Optional:  I also bring the following...
* Camera - capture the memories
* Trekking Poles - protect your knees
 * Compass - it's only useful if you know how to use it
* Sunglasses - for the sunny days
* Identification (driver's license) - Just in case...
Hiker covered in leaves
Enjoy the fall

With this list, you'll be able to have a comfortable and safe hike in fall!  

I welcome comments and questions below.


  1. Hi - I'm friends w/Jenny. I've been unsure of where I am in the woods in the past, usually when breaking trail in deep snow - and had to use a map to figure out where I was based on a variety of map features with the additional help of a compass. My point being that a map may not help a hiker at all if that person does not know how to read/use a topo map - and that part of using a map is often having a compass and knowing how to orient the map with it.

    Thanks for the adventures to live off of vicariously!

  2. Great point Brandon! Since I'm usually in the Whites I find that most National Forest trails are well marked with blazes and cairns, and due to the dense forest, compass orienteering is often challenging to impossible. However, there are lots of other places, to hike in the North East that do not have good signage nor blazes and orienteering skills are a must. This is life saving advice to novice winter hikers. Thank you so much for the comment and for following the blog!