Day hiking is one of the best activities to experience the Canadian Rockies. The abundance of mountain peaks, fresh glacial lakes, and wilderness makes the Rockies one of the best places in Canada to explore. Another factor that’s so appealing about day hiking in the Rockies is how accessible the trails are, however, there are a few things to consider before you set off into the wilderness. A couple packing tips before we get started:
  • Pack intentionally- If you pack the appropriate gear, you won’t have to pack more weight than you need to carry. Carrying an excessive amount of weight will make the uphills more difficult and cause unnecessary strain on your body!
  • Do your research- is your trail totally dry, or will you have water sources along the way? Is the trail typically wet up until a certain time of year? These types of questions will likely determine how much water to bring, what kind of footwear to choose, etc.
  • Don’t underestimate the Rockies- weather can change within minutes in the mountains and if you don’t have the proper gear, you can find yourself in a really dangerous situation. I’ve been caught in situations where the forecast predicted sun all day yet it starts pouring rain out of nowhere. It’s wise to be prepared for wet conditions even if the forecast isn’t calling for it!
 

Day Hiking Essentials:

Pack:

A 20 L pack is a great size for day hiking. I highly recommend Salomon’s Trailblazer 20 pack. day-hiking-in-the-canadian-rockies-salomon-day-pack The pack has handy compartments for storage and has pockets on the hip belt for convenient snacking.  Another great pack is Osprey’s Tempest 20 L. I used this pack for about 5 years before switching to the Trailblazer.   

Hydration:

Staying hydrated on the trail is so important. Additionally, there’s nothing worse than running low and having to ration your water. I really enjoy using hydration bladders because of their convenience and how much water they can hold.  The amount of water you should bring will vary depending on the hike. For me personally, if the hike is under four hours, I carry about 2 L of water.  The Platypus Big Zip EVO 2L  is my reservoir of choice.  

Day Hiking Safety Items:

 
Sunscreen:
My go-to sunscreen is Rocky Mountain Soap Co.’s Broad Spectrum SPF 31 Sunscreen. It literally smells like icing and is made with natural ingredients + is toxin-free. I seriously never leave home without it. day-hiking-in-the-canadian-rockies-rocky-mountain-soap-co-sunscreen-playfair-wild  
Hat:
It’s a good idea to pack a hat for a day hike especially for those dry, sun exposed sections of the trail. Although it might not get super hot in the Rockies, if you aren’t careful, sun stroke is certainly a concern. BUFF®  makes some of my favourite hats. day-hiking-in-the-canadian-rockies-BUFF-trucker-hat
Headlamp:
You might be wondering why on earth you need a headlamp for a day hike in the Rockies, however, it is one of those items that you will be so thankful to have if you ever needed it. Sometimes wrong turns are taken on the way back down a mountain that totally throw you off. Getting lost and course correcting might be necessary which can push your end time back. If you were to get lost and lose daylight, having a headlamp is so important. I really like the Petzl Bindi Headlamp  
day-hiking-in-the-canadian-rockies-petzl-headlampMedial Kit:
It’s never a bad idea to carry a lightweight first aid kit just in case. Cuts and scrapes definitely happen so you’ll want to properly disinfect right away. This Adventure Medical Kit is perfect to throw in your pack if there was ever an accident:  
Bear Spray:
In the Canadian Rockies, bear spray is a non-negotiable. A can of bear spray is roughly $40 and you can pick some up at pretty much any gas station or convenience store in the Rockies. You’ll be so thankful you have it if you’re ever in a situation where you have to deploy it.    

Day Hiking Apparel:

 
Shell:
As mentioned earlier, the mountain weather can change in an instant. It’s always wise to have at least a lightweight emergency shell in your pack. If you’re looking to invest in a durable emergency shell, Arc’teryx’s Zeta SL Jacket is a great option. For a more budget friendly option, Patagonia’s Torrentshell Jacket is a solid alternative.  
Insulation
For warmer weather hikes, my favourite insulation is Arc’teryx’s Atom SL Hoody. It’s lightweight, quick-drying, and really warm when you’re in need of a jacket. For cooler climates, I like Arc’teryx’s Proton LT Hoody .      
Hiking Pants:
The best hiking pants are really based on personal preference.  You’ll want to look for breathable yet durable pants when selecting a pair. I prefer to hike in tights and usually I’ll opt for Lululemon running leggings. Additionally, The Northface makes great tights for the trail.    
Hiking Top 
Hiking tops are also based on personal preference. Lululemon’s Swiftly Tech Short Sleeve is definitely a crowd pleaser within the hiking community. The t-shirt is breathable, odour resistant, and sweat wicking. I can tell you from wearing this t-shirt for 7 days in a row that it doesn’t get smelly!     For colder days, the Swiftly Tech Long Sleeve is my first choice for baselayers which I’ll wear with a synthetic vest.  
Footwear
Like its name implies, the terrain in the Canadian Rockies is rocky. Poor hiking footwear on the rocky terrain can cause serious injury which can result in emergency rescues. If you’re going to invest money into one piece of gear, I highly recommend spending it on quality footwear. Hiking boots vs trail shoes: I’ve explored both hiking boots and trail shoes in the rockies so I would say it depends on the trail you’re hiking. If your day hiking consists of thick brush and walking on tons of loose scree, then hiking boots are your better bet. Keen’s Terradora Mid boots are a solid pair of boots that feel similar to a trail shoe but give you the ankle support of a hiking boot.     If you do prefer a trail shoe, Salomon’s Speedcross 5 shoes can handle just about any kind of tough terrain  
Socks
  Plain old cotton socks are not ideal for hiking. Sweat wicking socks are what you want to look for. The Coolmax® Vertex No Show Tab Ultra-Light Cushion socks by Darn Tough are incredible.
Other
Depending on the hike, you might want to bring some poles along. The terrain in the Rockies can be quite steep so poles may be useful to you to keep the pressure off of your knees. The Black Diamond Trail Back Trekking Poles are a good pair of lightweight poles to invest in. If you’re looking for a more budget-friendly option, you can find some inexpensive ones on Amazon, like these Nordic Walking Trekking Poles for $30 CAD.
Navigation
Ensure that you have all of the appropriate maps, bring a GPS if necessary.
Food
When you’re day hiking, ensure that you have enough snacks to get you through your hike. It’s a safe bet to have a few protein bars in your pack. See Vegan Backpacking Snacks for my favourite trail snacks.   Happy hiking!