WHAT TO PACK FOR DAY HIKES
Now that you’re sorted on what to wear hiking in Washington, you probably want to know what to pack! Below I have listed some recommended items. In terms of what gear is absolutely essential for survival versus “nice to have”. I would first make sure you have the 10 essentials: navigation, sun protection, insulation, headlamp, first aid supplies, fire starter, shelter, repair kit, food, and water.
You could technically hike without a daypack, but it might be challenging to carry your drink bottle, layers snacks, etc. without a small space to store them. I would recommend you use a backpack that you already have at home or invest in one that is made for hiking. Key features include adjustable straps, waist belt/strap, chest strap, and somewhere to easily access your water bottle or water bladder. I swear by my Osprey Tempest 20L Daypack (comes in 9L, 20L, 30L, 40L, and a 6L lumbar pack for trail runners). Another good option is the Patagonia Nine Trails 20L Backpack, or sometimes I opt to use my camera bag if it’s a short hike (the Peak Design Everyday 30L Camera Backpack).
You will want to pack some sort of insulation layer in case it gets cold, even if it seems like a sunny day! The weather can change very fast in the mountains of Washington. A nice breathable mid layer I love is the Patagonia R1 Fleece and I will even hike in this on cooler days. Another one of my favorites is the Patagonia Better Sweater 1/4-Zip Fleece Jacket, but keep in mind that it is heavier and also warmer than the R1.
For an additional warmth layer I would suggest something like the Arc’teryx Atom LT Jacket or the Arc’teryx Cerium LT Down Jacket (an investment but SO worth it for such a feather-light warm jacket in my opinion). I pretty much take my Cerium LT everywhere I go. A more affordable option is the Patagonia Down Sweater.
RAIN & WIND PROTECTION
I rarely go on Washington hike without a rain jacket. You just never know when the weather will turn! My go-to is the Marmot PreCip Eco Jacket and I also like the Patagonia Torrentshell. Both are lightweight and will keep you dry in a downpour. I also usually pack a lightweight wind jacket. This is completely optional but I find these are often the perfect thing to throw over a t-shirt when there is wind chill but it’s too hot for a fleece. Plus they stop mosquitoes biting you! Over the years I have owned the Arc’teryx Squamish hooded jacket, Patagonia Houdini Jacket, and the Backcountry Canyonlands Jacket and they all do a brilliant job.
A water bottle or hydration bladder is an absolute must when hiking! Dehydration can be a killer so it’s not something to skimp on. I personally haven’t had a great experience using hydration bladders so I stick with my trusted Hydroflask and Nalgene water bottles. Hydroflask’s will keep your water cool (or warm) for an entire day whereas Nalgene’s are more of a regular style water bottle.
Hiking snacks are a personal preference and the amount you pack will depend on the length and difficulty of trail. I will typically pack some granola bars, protein bars, energy chews, homemade trail mix, gummy worms, nut butter sachets, wafers, or dark chocolate. If I want something more substantial I will pack a bagel or fresh bread and cheese.
Another one of the “10 Essentials” is a means of navigation. A great starting place is purchasing or printing a topographic map for the area you will be hiking (keep it inside a protective/waterproof sleeve). It’s also a great idea to bring along a compass and have some basic skills to use it. In addition to this, it’s a good idea to save some offline maps to your phone. For instance, I use apps like Gaia and Maps.Me for hiking and backcountry trips.
This isn’t a “must have” but more a piece-of-mind item that is good to have if you can afford it. Emergency devices essentially provide a means to call for help if you find yourself in a precarious situation. You may be taking local trips where you have phone service, but if not it might be worth investing in a device that has an SOS feature and tracker, like the Garmin InReach Explorer+ or SPOT Gen3 Satellite GPS Messenger. My husband and I didn’t make this purchase for quite some time after we got into hiking and backcountry camping, but it now gives us peace of mind on longer treks and more risky hikes.
I typically take a small and lightweight first aid kit on hiking trips. You just never know when it will come in handy for yourself or your hiking partner. I really like the range by Adventure Medial Kits as they are ultralight and waterproof. I always throw in a couple of extra blister-pads too, just in case!
Depending on where you are hiking, it’s probably a good idea to take some bug spray with you. Ticks and mosquito-borne diseases are no joke in many places around the world so best to be prepared! As I said above, I often choose to hike in full-length clothes to avoid wearing bug spray and I sometimes wash my clothes in mosquito deterring solution/spray for longer trips. I also nearly always take a bug head net with me.
*Also be sure to wear sunscreen!
GLOVES & BEANIE
Even during Washington’s summer months, I will often pack a pair of lightweight gloves and a beanie if I am going on an early morning or late afternoon hike. The weather can change very fast in the mountains and I personally get cold easily, so it’s worth the extra weight for me. Do what suits you! The North Face and Icebreaker both make a range of good glove choices. But for beanies, I usually opt for my Pendleton Cable Hat.
If you plan to stay out for sunset or will be hiking up pre-sunrise, then I would highly suggest packing a headlamp. My go-to is the Petzl Actik Headlamp. Some extra “just in case” items you may consider bringing along are an emergency blanket/bivy, means to start a fire, a knife or multi-tool, and a whistle.
WASHINGTON HIKING ETIQUETTE
When accessing these beginner-friendly Washington hikes it’s important to demonstrate appropriate hiking etiquette. I have listed some key points below.
- Unless signed otherwise, give way to hikers coming uphill and always yield to horses and other pack stock.
- Say a friendly “hello” to other hikers so that they know you are approaching (and to create a welcoming atmosphere on the trail).
- Don’t speak loudly on the phone, repeatedly shout to your friends, or play music out loud on the trail (no speakers please!) Be respectful of other hikers and wildlife by keeping noise to a minimum. Many wildlife species rely on natural sounds for communication purposes, and disrupting those sounds can hurt their chances of survival.
- Stay on the trail unless it’s absolutely necessary when yielding. Going off-trail can damage plant or animal species and hurt the trail’s ecosystems.
- Always practice Leave No Trace principles (more on that below): leave rocks, vegetation, and artifacts where you find them for others to enjoy.
- Give wildlife space by keeping an appropriate distance and not abruptly startling them. NEVER feed wild animals.
LEAVE NO TRACE
If you’re going to be out in nature, it’s important that you strive to protect it and follow Leave No Trace principles. In addition, please be sure to educate yourself before heading out.