Hiking is one of the best ways you can experience the true beauty of the Pacific Northwest. There’s something about the combination of our fresh air, the unpredictable weather, and an ever-present moodiness that makes for great experiences all over this region. Now, we’re not talking about backpacking trips in this post. (That’s a whole other post for another time). We’re talking about day hikes with your friends – the kind that you can accomplish in a half day, a full day – not overnight. If you’re looking for tips on how to be prepared for the trail without taking yourself too seriously, keep reading. This post was meant for YOU!
First of all, let’s get you started on some essential knowledge. Read some of our past posts to familiarize yourself with the places you want to go and things you’d like to see when hiking in the Pacific Northwest. There are so many things to see and do…trust me – it will help you if you narrow it down and really zone in on a specific area!
- The Essential PNW Bucket List for 2017
- 20 Adventurous Hikes In The PNW (Other great sources are WTA and AllTrails)
- 5 Essentials You Need On The Washington Coast
- Camping Resources For The PNW // How To Camp In The Rain // Camping On The Beach
- Best Places For An Instagram In Washington State
10 Essentials For Hiking In The Pacific Northwest
Yes, we know. It rains here. However, you still need sun protection (See myth #5 on this CNN Report). If you’re like me, I don’t like to carry around a big bottle when I know I’m only going to use a little bit of it. Therefore, my go-to’s are travel-sized bottles of your favorite brand. This way, there’s no excuse not to pack it because it takes up practically no space. I also like to use this tiny sunscreen stick and keep it in my purse for easy and convenient application.
2. Good Hiking Shoes
Shoes are probably the most important item you need to consider when hiking in the Pacific Northwest (and really anywhere else, too). I’ve learned from experience that shoes can make or break a good day on the trail. Make sure to hike with a pair that’s been broken in. Before your hike, wear them around the house or out running errands for a few days. Also, it’s important to let you know that you don’t need $300 expert mountaineering shoes just to take your 2-mile lake hike. It’s most likely the case that your favorite pair of tennis shoes will work just fine too. Just make sure they are comfortable to wear for long periods of time. If you are looking to buy a pair of good hiking shoes, we recommend finding some with good ankle support, and make sure to try them on with a thick pair of socks to get the right size fit.
3. Light Layers
As I’m hiking, I always seem to peel off layer after layer as we go further up the mountain. It’s a pain in the butt to continually pack bulky, heavy items in my bag so I like to opt for clothing that is light but also keeps my core temperature stable. Here’s a really helpful article written by REI on everything you need to know about backpacking clothes. They even have video tutorials!
Like we said in point #1, it’s important to protect your skin from harmful UV rays all times of the year, not just in the summertime. Personally, I like to go a little more stylish with this one. 😉 It really doesn’t matter the type you wear – they all protect you from the sun! Below, I’ve attached some of my top picks – ranging from stylish to functional and everything in between.
5. Rain Jacket
Hiking in the Pacific Northwest, it’s always a good idea to have a rain jacket. Seattle averages about 152 days of rain a year, totaling 37 inches annually. While that may not seem like a lot compared to other places (New Orleans get 62 inches and Miami gets 61) it’s more of a consistent wet and humidity here. As you can see in the chart below, every month of the year gets rain, but it’s more often in the colder, winter months.
In rain jackets, Berty and I look for actual water proofing (rather than just water resistant) and a jacket that has inside pockets to keep gear dry. Here are some really good options for your next outing:
Read More: Our Roundup of Favorite Rain Coats
6. Water Bottle
“A hydrated camper is a happy camper” – Cheesy, I know. But I used to work at a summer camp and we always told the kids this phrase. It rings true for adult campers too (haha). Staying hydrated gives you energy and keeps you alert on the trails. Something I like to look for in a water bottle is a skinny barrel (that can fit into practically any backpack side pocket) and some kind of hook-ability so I can latch it on a carabiner for easy storage. Bonus if it can keep hot things hot and cold things cold. Coffee on the trail is always a good idea! 😉 We’re sharing our favorite brands here:
Read More: 20 Energizing Hikes In The PNW
7. Lightweight Backpack
A lightweight backpack allows you to be hands-free when hiking in the Pacific Northwest. You don’t necessarily need a huge backpacking backpack (and actually, I would suggest you NOT do that on a day hike – that is, unless you’re training for something specific) but something with comfortable straps, side pockets, and *bonus* waterproofing should do the trick. We like to bring a variety of bags but we are always looking for something with an easy-access front pocket so we can quickly pull out our phone to snap some pictures! Here are some we’ve been loving lately:
This one varies for everybody. Your phone camera can be sufficient enough (helloooo less weight!) or you can choose to pack one or two DSLRs like us. We use two Canon 5D Mark III‘s with solid use of a 35mm lens and a 24-70mm lens. However, if you’re simply looking to take casual pictures with your friends and share great views of your hike, we’ve got fun camera accessories added below for you to check out. 🙂
Being hangry is a real thing, folks. I always get hungry between meals so we have a steady stock of energy bars ready to shove in a bag and head out the door. We like to buy them in bulk (they are cheaper that way) and there are many choices at places like Costco, or even online.
The most important part to any adventure. We wrote a post on the best PNW locations to go with you friends based on your Myers-Briggs Personality Test. It’s definitely worth a read! Hiking with friends in a great opportunity to make memories together and get to know someone a little bit better!
Read More: 8 Vital Reasons To Travel With Your Friends
Headlamps are helpful if you are trying to accomplish a sunrise hike (and wake up at 2am to begin) or are waiting at the top for sunset (and will be hiking down in the dark). If you are not wanting to distort your night vision, try and find a style that has a red-light feature. Otherwise, there’s not much difference between them in our opinion. Go to REI with $20-$40, try on as many as you like, and pick your favorite.
Have you ever been hiking in the Pacific Northwest? What has been your favorite trail? We’re always looking for new routes to take so I’d love to hear what has been your favorite!
Disclaimer: If you click on a link to a product mentioned above, we may get a small commission from it. This helps us earn a little bit so that we can keep this blog up and running! All opinions are ALWAYS our own and products we suggest are things we know and brands we trust! If you’d like to read more about the way we do things and why, you can click here.
Want More PNW Travel Tips? Read These:
Follow our Pacific Northwest Board on Pinterest for even more hiking inspiration!