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What to Pack for a Day Hike in the Canadian Rockies

By Kaitlyn Forde

Step one: Find a trustworthy backpack to carry essentials.

Step one: Find a trustworthy backpack to carry essentials.

I came to Banff clad in Lululemon leggings, a blanket scarf, Sperries and no expectations. A recent university graduate, I planned to have one easygoing summer in the mountains before returning to my city-girl Toronto lifestyle. When I first arrived, I questioned the difference between a canoe and a kayak, didn’t understand the semantics of bear spray – let alone understood the possibility of seeing an actual bear – and had a pair of fashionable (not very functional) Nikes. Although athletic, I was the farthest thing from outdoorsy, and everyone let me know it.

My first summer I hiked every mountain, including – and I say it proudly – the Town of Banff’s largest mountain. I conquered Cascade Mountain with Nikes, a purse and a water bottle in hand. Yes, an actual over-the-shoulder purse that could only fit my cellphone (for the essential Instagram shot) and my wallet. Three summers later, I’m much more equipped.

Since moving to Banff I’ve assembled quite few hiking essentials. And, it seems, I’ve obtained another degree of sorts. I’ve graduated to experienced hiker. In the hopes that you’ll bypass my first summer’s mistakes, here is my lesson plan:

1. Backpack: You need a pack to stow hiking essentials, and to keep your hands free. This North Face backpack is built for women and weighs under three pounds (similar men’s models are available). Its dynamic aluminum frame ensures comfort and durability.

Most of the gear pictured here is actually mine!

Most of the gear pictured here is actually mine!

2. Gloves: You’ll be surprised how quickly the weather cools when gaining elevation. Your legs feel the burn. But your hands experience the chill.

3. First Aid Kit: Better safe than sorry! Local drugstores sell them.

4. Camera: Hiking, mountains and great views go hand in hand. Once you conquer, don’t forget to capture the moment.

5. Waterproof Jacket: Pack for the possibility of rain (or snow); in the mountains four seasons in one day is possible. Pick one up at Lolë to stay comfortable and cute.

6. Hand sanitizer: Clean those hands of backcountry grime before indulging in your food.

7. Sunglasses: Keep those UV rays from your eyes, cut the glare and enhance the view. Bring a cap too!

8. Bear Spray: Appreciating wildlife is core to the mountain parks experience. But be prepared, just in case. Buy a canister at a local sport or hardware store, keep it handy and know how to use it. Tip: You can rent bear spray at Canmore’s Rebound Cycle, Totem in Jasper or Bactrax in Banff.

9. Clif and Bare Bars: Recharge with energy-packed snacks. Nuts, dried fruit and oats will give you fuel to keep trekking.

10. Water: Staying hydrated is a necessity, especially when your body is adjusting to the change in altitude. This Patagonia Banff bottle doubles as a souvenir.

A good pair of hiking boots will get you a long way. A bad pair will give you blisters.

A good pair of hiking boots will get you a long way. A bad pair will give you blisters.

11. Hiking Boots: Don’t underestimate the trail or overestimate your shoe’s grip. Our sport stores sell sturdy mountain footwear. Tip: You can rent a pair at Bactrax in Banff.

12. Sunscreen: Protect your skin. Summer days are long,
and there’s no shade above treeline. Tip: Our spas offer rejuvenating treatments for sunburned or dry skin.

13. Mid Layer: It may sit in your pack, but you’ll be glad to have that extra layer while gaining elevation or stopping to rest. This Helly Hansen fleece is lightweight, keeps you warm and has air circulation channels that keep you from overheating while you’re active.

Sport and sportswear shops in our mountain towns have you
covered. They sell (and some rent) all the apparel, footwear and gear you need for hiking. The outdoorsy staff give great outfit and trail advice.

>> For more Canadian Rockies activities, shops, restaurants and entertainment, read our digital magazine.

>> Connect with us on FacebookTwitter and Instagram at whererockies and tag your Canadian Rockies posts and photos with #whererockies

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