Hiking Hacks: 3 absolute essentials for happy trails

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It’s the perfect day to be out on a hike. The sun is shining, a breeze is blowing away the mosquitoes and a nutritious lunch is packed for the top of the trail. 

Oh-oh… the sun went behind some ominous clouds, you took a wrong turn and you left your lunch in the car. What could be the perfect day can easily go sideways if you are not prepared for the unexpected. Here are some important tips to prepare for a hike in Alberta or British Columbia... some of the best hiking in Canada.


A high alpine hiker hiking with a backpack
A mountaineer equipped with everything he needs to summit safely reaches the snow line high in the alpine

1. What’s in the bag?

Always pack the essentials whether you plan to use them or not. Those should include rain gear, a warm layer, a first aid kit, matches, a headlamp, a knife or multi-tool like a Leatherman, sun protection, toiletries, hand sani, a paper map or GPS device (do not trust your cellphone to work in the backcountry), water and extra food.

Speaking of food: consider how long you are going to be on the hike before making that egg salad sandwich. Avoid foods that will crush, spoil or melt. Make sure you have high energy snacks like nuts, energy bars, dried fruit or jerky. If it’s just an easy stroll, dress it up a bit and take a tub of sliced fruit and nut butters. Or, slice up some hard cheese to enjoy on a cracker. Whatever you decide to take, take extra. 

Did I say bear spray? If you are in bear country, have that canister dangling from your backpack or your belt. Learn how to use it here.


A hike from a sail boat on Harmony Islands on the Sunshine Coast British Columbia. Photo by Albert Normandin
A hike from a sail boat on Harmony Islands on the Sunshine Coast British Columbia. Photo: Albert Normandin

2. Happy feet make for a happy hiker

The choice of footwear you decide to use on the trail is up to you. Are you nimble and would rather run past the waterfalls? If so, you might want to invest in a trail runner with good grippy soles and cushioning for pounding the trails. But remember there is no ankle support and they easily get wet. 

A hiking shoe looks a lot like a trail runner but is somewhat stiffer offering more stability on the trail and depending on the brand - might be waterproof, but is still low cut. So, if you are looking for ankle support consider a day hiking boot. They are heavier but many come in waterproof material so when you do scamper close to the waterfall, your socks won’t get wet. And finally, if you are going for the epic backcountry backpacking tour, you should be looking at rugged high-cut boots that stabilize every stride.


You know what’s overlooked but just as important as shoe choice? Your socks. Forget cotton, it gets hot and holds moisture and sweat. Look for a brand like Darn Tough Socks (Not a paid endorsement) because they are comfortable, have no bumps to rub you wrong and have a lifetime promise to never wear out. The brand offers every thickness of fibre combining merino wool, nylon and lycra to make sure your feet are happy on the trail.

So what do you do if you didn’t break in your shoes or wore the wrong sock and you feel a hot spot happening on your pinky or heel? Stop and adjust your laces, straighten bunched up socks or trade the left sock for the right sock. If that doesn’t help, dig into that first aid kit and put on that moleskin or bandage and protect that sore spot. 


The view from the top of a hike near Port Alberni
Overlooking the Alberni Valley near Port Alberni, Vancouver Island

3. What to leave behind

Let someone know you are heading out for a hike. You may not know what trail you are going to attempt but at least tell someone you are heading into Kananaskis Country or to Squamish for the day. Also, check where you plan to hike and make sure your well-behaved and leashed Fido is allowed on the trail. Leave a cooler of frozen water or energy drinks and salty treats in the car for the end of the trail. The chilly drink is refreshing, and those potato chips are a guiltless well-deserved reward.  With these three essentials, we hope you have your best hiking trip in Canada this year. Happy trails!

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