Looking for the ultimate guide to spring hiking apparel? Tis’ the season for muddy boots, confusing trail reports and wondering how many layers to wear: SPRING! While there is no denying that spring can be a tricky season to hit the trails, it’s also an exciting time after spending winter dreaming of lacing up those hiking boots again. What makes spring hiking so tricky is the inconsistency in the weather, lingering snow, and general lack of dry trail conditions. Because of these factors, preparation with apparel is key. Having the proper shoes, clothing, and added precautionary layers can make or break the enjoyment, and even safety of a hike. This article covers my top recommendations for spring hiking apparel that you will absolutely want from March-May each year, and we will even cover some general tips, too!
-Always always always check weather reports for the specific area you are going. Even the closest town could be significantly different in temperature and conditions.
-If possible, check recent trail reports for where you are hiking. This can tell you about potential closures, flooded creeks, dangerous spots on the trail, etc.
-Be bear aware and bring bear spray if you are in an area that’s known to have bear activity. Spring is when bears are the most active and dangerous because they have their babies with them and are “hangry” from a long winter of hibernating.
-Leave yourself plenty of time to get back to the trailhead before nightfall.
-Bring a trail map. There’s a chance the trail will still be covered with significant snow, which can make navigation tricky.
-Know that the higher you go, the more likely the trail will still be covered in snow until early June in some cases!
-Leave the tall peaks (12,000 feet and above) to summer. It’s quite dangerous to attempt a big summit until snow has melted.
Chances are, if you live in any sort of mountainous or wet climate, you will encounter mud, slush, ice and snow (or a lovely combination) on the trails during the spring. I recommend hiking boots with really good tread, microspikes just in case, and warm socks. Typically, the parts of the trail that experience sunlight may be thawed out while other sections of the trail will be an ice skating rink. I always bring spikes in my backpack just in case for situations like this.
While leggings and stretchy shorts can do the job on some hikes, I recommend more during pants for spring season hiking. I’ve personally witness many friends ripping their leggings slipping on the ice. For this reason, bringing rip-resistant, waterproof pants is recommended. If it’s still quite chilly where you plan to hike, wear a pair of leggings underneath your hiking pants for added warmth.
BASE LAYER TOP
Because of the unpredictable nature of spring hiking, it’s always best to have a warm base layer top on. Base layers are simply the layer (long-sleeved) that goes directly on your skin to trap insulation. Typically I will wear a sports bra or light tank top underneath my base layer top, in case it gets unseasonably warm that day. Here are the main types of base layers used by hikers:
· Synthetic (moisture-wicking): Dry quickly but tend to start to smell quickly.
· Merino Wool: Dries quickly, doesn't smell and is very soft/warm.
A mid-layer is the next layer designed to keep you warm + keep moisture from reaching your body. Here are some common types of mid-layers:
· Fleece: soft, comfortable material that doesn't soak up water easily so it dries very fast.
· Wool: transports moisture well and is very warm. Not as soft as fleece. If it does get slightly damp from sweat, it dries much slower.
It’s important to note that depending on your location, elevation, and weather, a mid-layer may be unnecessary and make you too hot. However, it doesn’t hurt to pack one just in case!
This is the outer-most layer designed to protect you from wind + moisture. Here are some common types of outer layers:
· Rain jackets
· Thermal or insulated jacket
In the spring, you may not need a full-blown coat or down jacket, but a windbreaker, rain jacket, or light jacket will suffice. This ultimately depends on the altitude and temperatures you will be experiencing. In general, the spring season tends to have more unexpected precipitation in the form of rain or sleet than the others, so having a waterproof jacket with a hood is essential.
While this may seem like a given, it’s still important to state that bringing along a pack with your belongings is a must. You will need a place to store things like:
· Extra layers
· Water + snacks
· A map or navigation device
· A beanie or cap depending on weather
· Bear spray
· Extra pair of socks (in case they get wet crossing water)
· Anything else you like to carry with you while hiking!
I hope these recommendations help get you inspired and prepared for getting some hikes in before summer! While more preparation is sometimes required, it’s absolutely worth it!