Hiking is a great way to not only get a dose of healthy exercise but also get out and let the fresh air clear your mind. Nature is great for the body and soul, but there is a bit of preparation that’s needed before heading out on a hike—especially if you’re in the mountains or headed to unfamiliar territory. Packing properly for your hike is an essential step before heading out the door, and one of the most important things to pack is a jacket. Yes … even in the summertime! Anxious to get out and explore? We’ll explain why you need a jacket, tips on choosing the right jacket for your hike, and other essentials you will want to pack to ensure you have an enjoyable and safe experience.
You may think, “I can handle a little bit of cold weather or a rain shower,” and be tempted to leave your jacket at home when packing for your hike, especially if it’s hot outside. However, the truth is that your body may not be able to handle it. Even in the summertime, you might prefer to go hiking in a pair of women’s cotton shorts and a T-shirt, but a sudden downpour or heavy fog could make you feel colder than you’d expect. Combined with the fact that cotton clothing can take a long time to dry, continuing your hike in wet clothes could put you at risk of hypothermia, even during those hot summer months.
When exposed to cold or wet conditions, your body loses heat. Even if you’re perspiring, that is a sign that heat is leaving your body. When heat leaves the body more quickly than you’re able to produce it, your body’s core temperature decreases, potentially causing hypothermia. It doesn’t have to be cold outside either. If your core temperature drops below 95 degrees Fahrenheit, you’re at risk. Trust us, you’ll want to pack a jacket for your hike, even if it’s just a thin women’s rain jacket to protect you from the rain.
When choosing the right jacket for your hike, you’ll want to keep in mind the secrets of layering. Your base layer will be what’s closest to your body. Something that’s moisture-wicking and lightweight is ideal. The next layer is the middle layer, which is for insulation to keep you warm. This could very well be your jacket itself, such as a packable waterproof down jacket. But if it is a sweater or fleece as your middle layer, you’ll also want to pack an outer shell that’s waterproof and also protects your body from wind.
Besides taking weather conditions into account, part of choosing the right jacket is assessing your activity levels. If you’re going on a hike that could be strenuous and involves walking uphill or climbing, you’ll likely get warm quickly. Again, layering will be key here, so you can take off layers when going uphill and put them back on when going downhill, and your body cools down again.
In nature, you never know what you may find yourself in front of. Pests as small as ticks or as big as bears could turn a casual hike into a heart-pounding one. That’s why it’s essential to expect the unexpected. Other than your jacket (or jackets), you’ll need water, some form of nutrition, a first-aid kit, bug spray, sun protection, firestarters, and maybe even an emergency shelter, depending on how remote you’ll be. Research the area you’ll be hiking in advance to see what other hikers recommend.
In order to carry your jacket and all the other essentials, you’ll also need an appropriate backpack or daypack. You don’t want it to be too big, or it could weigh you down. You don’t want it to be too small either, or it won’t fit everything you need to carry. The key to choosing the right backpack is to gather everything you’ll need to take with you on your hike, lay it all out, and then assess what size bag you need. Your jacket could take up a lot of space in the backpack if it’s thick and intended for high elevations or cold destinations. Or it could take up just a little bit of space if it’s just to be used for wind and rain protection. Regardless, do a test run in it and make sure you can return it if it doesn’t fit everything comfortably.
With a little preparation and a high-quality jacket to protect you from unpredictable weather, you can ensure that your hike will be memorable for all the right reasons.