Outfitted: Day-hiking favorites
Hiking season is far from over, and I actually believe the best is yet to come. With cooler temps, amazing colors, and fewer crowds, this is my favorite time of the year for day hiking. Whether you’re headed up a 14er, walking over to Crested Butte, or just enjoying the classic Cathedral Lake hike, below are some day hiking essentials I recommend for the journey. Keep in mind, that this is by no means a comprehensive list. Always remember to pack the standard 10 essentials: Navigation, headlamp, sun protection, first aid, knife, fire, shelter, extra food, extra water, and extra clothes.
1. Salewa Lavaredo 26L Backpack
Named after the stunning and iconic Tre Cime di Lavaredo in the Dolomites, this pack is a standout for its sleek, classy design, but it also delivers a punch for its versatility. Included are a roll-top design, a quick-access top pocket, a close-fitting Dry Back Contact carrying system, features for climbing sports, and even a laptop compartment for urban uses. The 26-liter size is great for fall adventures where you’ll be packing an extra layer. I personally love the split shoulder straps. I wouldn’t want this feature on a heavier pack, but it works well here to create a more flexible and mobile feel. Also appreciated are the 3-heights sternum adjustments. $120, salewa.com.
2. Kuhl Freeflex Roll-up Pant
With temps fluctuating, these pants are great for their ability to change from full coverage to a cooler capri option with just an easy snap. Even better is the ridiculously soft and stretchy fabric. I’m not a big fan of rigid hiking pants, so when these stretchy ones came across my path, I snatched them up. They also include UPP 50+ sun protection, are water resistant, and have quick-dry moisture-wicking properties. Not just for hiking, I got my mom a pair of these pants for her birthday, and she wears them pretty much every day. Available in 11 different colors. This version is only available in women, but Kuhl has several Freeflex pant styles available for men. $99, kuhl.com.
3. Cotopaxi Teca Fleece Vest
Just because the weather is getting a little cooler doesn’t mean you need to pack your entire winter closet for a day hike. Throwing in a vest is a great extra layer that keeps the bulk down. It’s great to throw on for extra core warmth if you’re getting a cool, early start, or for when you stop on those snack breaks. The Teca from Cotopaxi is a favorite for its cozy, recycled fleece and colorful taffeta adornments. Available in 7 different color combinations. Fit is true to size and is available in women’s and men’s sizes. $85, cotopaxi.com.
4. Hoka Skyline Float X
Hokas are an understandable go-to for many hikers, and the new Skyline Float X shoe is a great addition to their line-up. With responsive, low-profile cushioning and a sturdy Vibram trekking sole, the Skyline keeps your foot closer to the ground to provide a more efficient push-off. I don’t fully understand how this works, but I’ll take all the help I can get. The upper is made in one piece with engineered, breathable air mesh — meaning they keep my feet cool while still feeling sturdy and supportive. These are my favorite Hokas to date. Available in women’s and men’s sizes and colors. $175, hoka.com.
5. Supergoop Play SPF 50 Sunscreen
I know I’m not supposed to say it, but I hate sunscreen — especially when hiking. I often find the smell nauseating, and I loath how it gets in my eyes when I sweat. However, I don’t want to look like a withered prune when I get older, so I try my best to apply it regularly. A few years ago, I got a free sample of Supergoop when I was in the grand tasting tent at Food & Wine Classic, and it’s been at the top of my list ever since. The Play line is specifically designed for active days and nourishes skin while it protects. With sunflower, rosemary, and rice bran extracts, it feels luxurious to put on, and the natural aromatics make it smell amazing. I kind of want to wear this even when I’m not in the sun. It’s formulated to be water- and sweat-resistant for 80 minutes. It’s a little on the spendy side, but with its high-quality, clean ingredients, I can justify the price. Also available in a spray version. $34 for 5.5 oz., supergoop.com.
6. Mountain Hardwear Stretchdown Light Pullover Hoodie
As I mentioned earlier, thankfully it’s not winter yet. However, I’m always sure to pack a sturdy insulator as a backup whenever I go on long hikes. This pullover from Mountain Hardwear is the perfect go-between. It’s in their amazing Stretchdown line, but this one is designed to be lighter and even more flexible than its beefier siblings while maintaining the same warmth and durability. It packs down into its own little pocket, so you can drop it in your pack without taking up too much space. The unique baffle construction eliminates cold spots and increases stretchability. Additional features are an insulated hood, kangaroo front pocket with an internal stretch mesh pocket, and elastic cuff bindings. Available in women’s and men’s sizes and colors. $240, mountainhardwear.com.
Meg Simon is an Aspen-based freelance writer, graphic designer, and founder of Simon Finch Creative. She can be reached at email@example.com.