With summer in full swing, there's nothing better than getting outside, stretching your legs, and reconnecting with nature. With the beautiful Canadian Rockies in our backyard, it's almost a given that we will spend at least a little bit of time breathing in some fresh mountain air!
But before you can get out in nature, it's good to be as prepared as possible. Although heading out for a hike may seem like an easy task, it's best to plan ahead and be ready for whatever you may face.
The first thing to think about when planning your hike is the weather. This may seem obvious, but it's important to be prepared for all weather conditions you may experience when out on your hike.
If it is raining or has been raining a lot the past few days, the trails can get muddy and be more challenging to hike through. Or, if it's hot out, you'll want to be prepared with extra water, lots of layers, and sunscreen. You also want to avoid going out on days with severe winds as they can cause trees to fall and rocks to move places they shouldn't be!
Phones are for more than you think!
Once you have picked the perfect day for your hike and prepared for all possible weather conditions! One MUST is making sure your phone is fully charged before heading out. Your phone will likely be your trail guide, flashlight, camera, and your lifeline in the case of an emergency!
A great app to get on your phone is AllTrails. AllTrails is a great database of different trail maps, perfect for hiking, mountain biking, and climbing. Users can leave reviews and photos of the hikes, track their progress, and make notes to reference back to. This is the perfect tool to scope out a hike before, read some comments, and get hyped for your upcoming adventure.
It's also great to use while on the trail. The map offers a bird's eye view of terrain, allowing you to track where you are, how far you've come, and what's left. There are also trail lines on the map, so even if it's been a while since you last saw a trail marker, you can make sure you are still on track. The best part? You can download a hike in advance, so even if you're deep in nature, you will still know where you are! The app also provides real-time elevation, pace, and time stats so you can see how your hike is going.
What to Bring?
The next step in preparing for your hiking adventure is what you bring. While you don't want to carry around a heavy pack for the day, it is important to have everything you need.
First up, make sure you bring lots and lots of water(more water than you think!). Hydration is key for replacing the water lost from sweating, maintaining your core body temperature, and preventing cramps and heatstroke. Water will be especially important to have on days when it's crazy hot, like during Alberta's most recent heatwave.
You also want to make sure you bring enough snacks to keep you fueled for your hike. You'll want to stick to easy, on-the-go snacks that are easy to eat on the trail. No bias here, but we think our IMPACT Bars are the perfect snack. These plant-based energy bars are packed with spirulina algae, so they are high in iron and protein. They offer the perfect kick of energy to revitalize you with the right amount of good fats to sustain you for the rest of your adventure.
You will also want to make sure you bring a lot of layers. If you live in Alberta, you know what I mean, we can get every season in one day! In addition to layers, moisture-wicking clothing and a windbreaker are good options to bring. Also, having a sturdy pair of hiking boots is also a good idea to get you through the rough and steep terrain as you climb up the side of a mountain(we love ones with ankle support!).
Despite the layers and layers of clothing, you'll also want to bring some sunscreen. As you work up a sweat and strip back those layers, you'll want to slather on the sunscreen to protect against harmful UV rays. We recommend at least SPF 30 sunscreen for the best protection.
Safety during a hike is always a priority, and you should pack accordingly! Bringing a basic first aid kit is a smart idea to deal with any injuries you can get on a trail. As your hikes get more challenging and remote, you'll want to beef up your first aid kit with more bandages, tensors, and splints.
We also recommend bringing thermal blankets, especially as you go out later in the season. It will help to protect you from the elements in case you get stuck in a storm. Beacons and flares are also good to bring if you get lost and need to signal for help!
For experienced hikers, one item to invest in is a GPS Tracker, because your safety is worth it! This compact and lightweight tool is small and easy to stick in your bag -yet still has so much impact. It keeps track of your locations, so if there is an emergency and you have no service, you can use it to request help, no matter where you are.
While you're out the trail, keep your eyes peeled for all the wildlife. The mountains and trails are full of different species and critters. This is especially exciting for those who live in the city and don't get to interact with wild animals too often.
If you are looking to minimize your wildlife encounters, being prepared is half the battle. Traveling in groups and making noise will alert any nearby wildlife of your presence, and since most wildlife wants to avoid you, it will alter them of your presence.
Being aware of noise and smells will also help you to know if there are any animals nearby. This means you'll want to avoid wearing headphones and any strong-smelling products (really immerse yourself in the great outdoors!).
If you are nervous about an animal encounter, avoid hiking at dawn or dusk. This is when most wildlife is active, so you are more likely to come upon animals going about their business.
If you are lucky enough to encounter wildlife, make sure you are respectful of the animals. While they look cute and furry, it's important to keep your distance. Make sure not to separate a mother and her young, these mothers are just as protective of their young as humans and you don't want to be caught in the middle!
You'll also want to back away slowly, and if you have to talk, talk quietly and slowly. Don't run away, don't turn your back, and definitely don't approach the animal. This will make you seem like less of a threat, and the animals are less likely to get defensive. You'll also want to avoid taking photos of the animals, especially a photo with a flash.
It is a good idea to bring some bear spray with you in case you put in a posiotn in which you have encounered wildlife. You can get canisters of bear spray at most outdoor stores(or really anywhere, even amazon sells it!). This is ideal in case you are in a position where you need to distract a bear or other wildlife to make a quick getaway.
Respect our Rockies & Greens
The last piece of advice is to respect the nature you are surrounded by. We are so fortunate to be able to explore such a beautiful area and it is important to respect the areas where we live and play.
As you progress through your hike, make sure you leave the area as you found it, or even better, leave it better than you found it. Take your trash with you, don't break the branches of trees, and avoid stepping on plants and small animals.
Now, that you're ready for your next outdoor adventure, check out this list of our favourite hikes to explore in Alberta.