During my trip to the Canadian Rockies, I went on an Alpine day hike at gorgeous Lake Louise with my daughter. Our hike wasn’t Everest but was challenging for me as a Baby Boomer. Our guide gave us tips and turned us on to hiking gear that made our day hike much easier.
I walk 5-6 miles every morning. You’d think that would be great training for a hike, but there’s a difference between walking on flat ground and climbing uphill. Thirty feet into the hike, I was huffing and puffing and feeling old. It was embarrassing. I should have trained on a treadmill with incline, or done more rigorous cardio exercise.
Balance is super important
As we age, we get wobbly. The last thing you want to do is go home with a twisted ankle or a concussion. Our guide gave me a pair of Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork Trekking Poles to use, which are highly rated.
They reduce the impact on your knees, joints, and leg muscles, and give you lateral stability, which is always a good thing if you’re over 60. When you use poles, you exercise your arms as well as your legs and work your entire body. They help to regulate your resting heart rate, blood pressure, increase your oxygen consumption, and exercise capacity.
They also helped me ease into a steady walking rhythm. If you use poles that are spring-loaded they reduce strain on your wrists. And the nice thing is that most of them are retractable for easy carrying. As far as hiking gear goes, those babies would be first on my list.
If you mostly walk on flat surfaces, it’s better to use Nordic walking poles like the York Nordic Purple Haze Design Hiking and Walking Poles. I love that they’re purple and called Purple Haze.
They’re slightly different in design than trekking poles but look almost the same. The difference is that trekking poles have adjustable locking straps to maintain contact with the grips and concave, carbide Flextips for non-paved surfaces. They’re also adjustable for differences in terrain.
Nordic Walking poles have a releasable strap system and removable rubber tips to use on pavement or indoors. They’re a fixed length to give you more strength and swing ability. If you’re looking to step up your walking routine and tone your entire body, they’ll really do the trick.
Stay safe when you’re taking photos
In other words, don’t hold your smartphone when you are hiking. I took a bunch of photos when we were hiking around the lake but I didn’t want to hold my phone because then I’d have one less hand to catch myself if I slipped. Instead, I had to keep putting it inside my backpack. That meant taking the backpack off and turning it around to fetch my phone.
I saw a woman hiking on the trail who had a smartphone pocket attached to the front of her backpack so she could quickly grab her phone to take a shot. It was the perfect solution, so I looked online and found the Clakit Smartphone Strap Pack. You can use it on a day hike, when you’re traveling, or taking a tour and it comes in a variety of colors.
Make sure to stay hydrated.
If you’re hiking, you should always carry enough water to stay hydrated, especially if you’re older. Dehydration can cause you to get dizzy or even pass out. When my daughter and I did a day hike at the Miraval Resort in Tucson, our guide gave us a fanny pack to wear that held two water bottles and had a purse in the middle. I remember thinking it was cool. The WATERFLY Fanny Pack with Water Bottle Holders is almost exactly the same and I love the colors. It’s adjustable for waist sizes 22” – 52”
Be prepared for weather changes
When my daughter and I hiked around Emerald Lake, in Canada, it started to rain with thunder and lightning. We both ended up getting soaked. The next day, I made sure to take a light waterproof windbreaker with me. Even though it didn’t rain, it came in handy because we were at a higher elevation and it was slightly cooler. Once I heated up, it easily fit back into my backpack. It’s one piece of hiking gear that always comes in handy.
Carry a backpack that won’t cause you pain
If you’re going on a day hike, a small backpack is all you need. It will carry your essentials but won’t weigh you down. Backpacks are also wonderful for traveling because you can store anything you pick up along the way like gifts, brochures, or guidebooks. The backpack pictured below by North Face available on Zappos is sturdy, waterproof, and roomy.
Use and wear sun protection
We all know how important it is to wear sunscreen to prevent skin cancer. I love Coola sunscreen because it’s organic and many spas use it. You should also wear a lightweight long sleeve shirt with UV protection built-in like this one from Columbia.
It’s also a good idea to wear a hat that won’t blow away if there’s an updraft. I was wearing a baseball cap that ended up in a river as soon as the wind came up. Whoops! I should have brought along my Columbia Sun Goddess Booney II Hat, that I wore when I sailed the Grenadines. It’s lightweight and ties under your chin so you have less of a chance of losing it.
Of course, you should always wear sunglasses when you go on a day hike – especially if it’s sunny or if you’re hiking in the snow. They’ll not only protect your eyes from the sun, but also from branches, insects, or other debris.
Beware of mosquitos and other nasty things that bite
f there are mosquitos, they’ll find me. I’m their favorite host. I was eaten alive in the Caribbean, and also in the Canadian Rockies because I forgot to bring mosquito repellent. If you hate spraying on toxic poison, you may want to try something like Natural Anti Mosquito Insect & Bug Repellent Bracelet Bands that are DEET-free. Others swear by Skin So Soft, by Avon.
Just a note about mosquitos – They love the color black, which I usually wear so I don’t look chubby in photos. It’s better to wear light-colored clothing if you’re a mosquito magnet. My brother told me that Acetone is the best thing to repel mosquitos. Thanks, bro, but no thanks. That sounds nasty.
Don’t forget about lions and tigers and especially bears
Your comfort depends on your shoes
Always, always, always wear comfortable and sturdy shoes that fit your feet. I saw an older woman hiking in flip-flops, and thought she was crazy. It was almost like she was asking to slip and fall.
I wore my Saucony Grid Omni Walkers. They’re sneakers but are sturdy, have a roomy toe box for my high arches, and kept my feet dry when it was pouring rain.
Good quality hiking boots are an even better choice because they offer more protection for your feet. Columbia has a great selection of waterproof boots.
Be aware, if you purchase hiking boots, make sure to break them in first, so you won’t get blisters.
Other essential hiking gear to take along on a day hike just in case
- Snacks – You never know if you’ll get lost, or you may just get hungry so be prepared with something to munch on. Power bars or nuts are easy to carry and will give you energy.
- A small first aid kit– for emergencies or if you get a scrape
- A compass – In case your smartphone GPS stops working
- A charged-up portable smartphone charger– Those darn batteries always poop out just when you want to get the perfect shot.
- A smartphone zoom lens attachment – I love bringing my camera for zoom shots but smartphones are lighter.
- LED flashlight
- A whistle – to call for help (use 3 short bursts)
- A water purifier – water is life. You must have it.
- A multi-purpose tool – just because they come in handy.
- Trashbag – so you won’t be a litterbug and ruin the environment
- Your Senior Pass if you are going to a National Park or Monument.
- My favorite accessory – a large dog to scare away predators and to pull you up a hill if you get tired. I had a big dog that scared away two mountain lions once when I was hiking with my daughter who was 8-years-old at the time. My two little chihuahuas don’t quite cut it as protectors from vicious beasts so they stay at home.
What hiking gear do you find essential when you’re on a hike? Please leave a comment below.