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What's In My Bag: Fall and Winter Hiking in British Columbia

What's In My Bag: Fall and Winter Hiking in British Columbia

This month's What is In My Bag is coming to you from Cnoc Outdoors' ambassador Steve Holliday. Steve lives in Vancouver and his fall is what most would consider winter; here is what is in his backpack when he goes out in the fall in Canada:

Here in Vancouver, its very important to really prepare for fall and winter hiking. As the leaves fall and the sunshine fades quickly, it's the time of the year in which you need to revisit what you have in your pack and ensure you have what you need for the changing season.

There are certainly a lot of items that you carry in your pack for all the seasons, but there are some items you need to ensure you carry specifically while hiking in the fall and winter.

This past year in Vancouver, there were more Search and Rescue’s performed than have been needed for a long time; the reason, I believe, was the result of social media. Don’t get me wrong here, I’m not saying Facebook and Twitter caused people to get lost - it's obvious these people did not prepare themselves for the hike. The problem is that so many people are posting great pictures - and sometimes dangerous pictures - of themselves online, which causes others to want to do the same. So off they run with their cell phones in hand, not taking the proper time to investigate the trail or other conditions. What can be done to help with these situations? It's just a matter of posting more information on social media about how important it is to always be prepared, no matter how short or easy you think a hike might be. Spend some time looking over maps, investigating the trail, how long will it take, and what I need to bring.

To help start, I’d like to share what’s in my pack for fall and winter hiking.

This is not an exhaustive list, and I welcome additions and suggestions.

a gear shot with Vertex poles and Vecto

Essentials for any season hike

Medical Kit - This should include your standard items, but I add these as well:

  • Moleskin
  • Lip Balm
  • Deep heat
  • Ibuprofen
  • Include any medications you take daily

    Knife or LeathermanMake sure this is in good condition and sharpened

    Hiking PolesUsually I use one and carry another in the pack. I like the Vertex poles for this as they collapse really small and fit easily in my day pack. You can use them for helping to pitch a tarp if needed

    backpack next to wood post

    FoodUsually on a day hike I bring mostly snacks, items like dried fruit, nuts, energy bar, sometimes a sandwich. Bring a little extra, just in case.

    Lighter or MatchesSometimes I will bring both to have one as a backup. For the matches, I bring waterproof ones.

    Bear sprayI still bring this during the fall season as this is when bears are looking for food and can be aggressive. You can leave this out when winter has finally settled in.

    Plastic bagGreat item to bring for any different reasons, but I always find garbage on trails, and I will pick it up and take it out.

    Water bottleUsually bring 750ml bottle filled with water

    Water filterSawyer Mini

    Water bladderCnoc Outdoors Vecto - It's light and takes up little room.

    Tarp - UST All weather tarp - This is small, yet will provide enough protection and comes with rope and stakes.

    simple shelter hung from trees


    FlashlightUST FlashBlade Recharge Multi-Tool 3.0 - It's a knife, flashlight and multitool; I bring this to help save weight

    MapStudy the map if this is a new hike, and read the recent trip reports. It's important to know the trail and conditions before you head out.

    Emergency BlanketThese can also be used for signaling.

    Additional items for Fall and Winter hikes

    Warm jacketDown or other compressible jacket

    Rain jacket

    Warm HatCanadians call it a toque


    ParacordIn Winter I bring thicker cord, as this can be used to repair snowshoes

    TinderEither store-bought or homemade with Paraffin wax or dryer lint, since in fall and winter it’s hard to find dry kindling to start a fire.

    HeadlampThis is very important; even if you’re not lost but it's dark, it's much easier to hike with a headlamp than a flashlight in your hand.

    RaincoverAn item that should probably be in your pack most of the time, but even more important in the fall and winter.

    It looks like a lot of stuff, but I’d rather carry it and not need it than not carry it and need it.

    damp man looking into camera with evergreens in the background

    What's In My Bag: Rock Climbing in the South East

    What's In My Bag: Rock Climbing in the South East

    This month's What is In My Bag is coming to you from Cnoc Outdoors' ambassador: Macy Howell. Macy's real passion is rock climbing so here is what is in her backpack when she hits the rock:

    I'm an avid climber and hiker in the South East, and I'm so happy to live in a place with such beautiful crags. The colors in Tennessee are gorgeous! My favorite aspect to the sport is lead climbing, which comprises much more gear than bouldering, however, so this is my list of everything I take. First, I'll go over the basics, then touch on some things that are specific to my trips at the crag.

    Full bag for rock climbing

    Sport Climbing Gear

    • Quickdraws (10x)
    • Rope (Petzl 9.8mm 60m Dynamic Rope)
    • ATC Belay Device*
    • Harness
    • Multi-Anchor Chain
    • Clipping Stick 

    *Fun Fact: ATC stands for Air Traffic Controller. Does that sound more nerve-wrecking than ATC? You bet it does!

    Climbing Shoes and Chalk Bag

    • Five Ten Anasazi LV
    • Friction Labs Chalk

    Belay Glasses

    I love sport climbing, but I don't like sore necks. The picture above is my friend wearing those crazy mirror belay glasses which are angled so that you can see what's above you without craning your neck back. Just be careful not to try and walk around with these lest you run into a tree or someone else!

    Grab a pair if you've got the extra funds and prefer sport climbing over bouldering! (Or just has a friend who hangs on the wall all the time)

    Belay glasses

    Hand Maintenance Kit

    • Athletic Tape wrapped around Climb On Salve stuffed in the pocket of my chalk bag
    • BLDG Active Skin Repair for after the climb
    • Nail Clippers

    You can't climb without fresh hands, and you want to be careful to keep your skin from tearing so you can climb on! I have a routine for hand maintenance whenever I finish climbing, and it's applying BLDG Active Skin Repair Gel and hydrating with some sunscreen lotion. I may be a climber, but I don't always like my hands to look like they've been put through a meat grinder.

    Hand care kit

    Hand Lens (Jewelers Loop)

    As a climber, I'm always on the rock, but as a Geologist, I take advantage of this by studying it! There isn't a geologist I know that is ever without their hand lens. I’ve identified ages of rock, and gemstones like tourmaline and beryl (emeralds) with this handy tool. It also helps me decipher the different minerals and their size that make up a rock, and is what most people use to discern real minerals from fake minerals (ie. diamonds). My natural curiosity tells me to bring it wherever I go!

      Snickers and Beef Jerky

      Last, but certainly not least, food. Not a classic combo, but this is what really keeps me going at the crag! Beef jerky, goldfish crackers, hummus and pita, subs, mangos, chocolates, you name it, it's been packed in my bag. Don't underestimate the power of s'mores either.

      On the way to the crag

      Other Items that I take occasionally

      • Hammock
      • Outdoor Research rain jacket
      • Dixie Craggers Guide Book
      • Vertex Carbon Trekking poles 
      • Beanie, Sunglasses
      • Book and Journal
      • Headlamp
      • Puffy Jacket

      As you can see I try to stay as minimalist as possible, climbing gear is heavy and it feels especially so after a hard day of rock climbing! Just remember that because you have extra space in your pack doesn't mean you have to fill it. I hope this help anyone looking to sport climb and please follow my blog at TheCuriousClimber.com to read my other tips and stories on my escapades out in the South East.

      Happy climbing!

      Enjoyed Macy's list? You can enjoy the post even more with 15% off your purchase from Macy on the Cnoc Outdoors site using the code CURIOUS.

      What Is In My Bag: Fall Hiking

      What Is In My Bag: Fall Hiking

      I get a lot of questions about what gear I use for some of my hikes and I figured I could answer them in a more organized way than individual email responses. So as a result of your questions, we are proud to present a new segment of the blog: "What is in my bag" for different times and activities. To get the ball rolling, the first post will be about fall hiking, mainly in rainy and mixed weather areas like the PNW, the UK, Patagonia, New Zealand and Scandinavia.The premise is: day hiking in any terrain conditions (not scrambling or hiking) in areas with no snow but warm days, cold nights and a real chance of rain and cold winds.

      Fall trail in Oregon

      Never Leave The House Without (aka: emergency kit)

      This part will probably be on every post as my emergency kit is always (yes, always, even when in a local park) with me and includes:

      • Headlamp (+spare batteries) - not much to say here, I always have a headlamp; you never know if and when you'll get stuck outdoors in the dark. I use the Silva Siju
      • Medical tape wrapped around a lighter - two for one: a mini BiC lighter with a foot or so of medical tape for blisters or to work with the roll of bandage (see below) to make band aids or any dressing
      • Flint - even if it is wet, the lighter is out or in almost any other situation, the flint can help you make fire in case of emergency (only!). Just make sure you know how to use it. I use the Light My Fire FireSteel
      • Ibuprofen - can work for pain or inflammation, from a hangover to a twisted ankle or sore knees
      • Surgical Gloves - one of those random things that can save a persons life: keeping pressure on a wound without getting it infected. It can also be used to carry water or waterproof gear in an emergency
      • Roll of bandage - to dress wounds, make a sling, support a bruised ankle, filter water and so much more
      • Vaseline - my skin gets dry fast in the fall with the changing weather and the combination of wind and sun, so I try and prevent my lips from getting chapped. Also good for any kind of skin issue: rashes, hand moisturizing, etc
      • Vecto - emergency water to carry
      • Chlorine Dioxide Water Tabs - the lightest way to carry water treatment, I make sure to have 10 of them, for 2 days of drinking. I use Aquatabs
      • Compass - on day hikes I tend to know where the north is, so the compass tends to be for emergencies. 

      All of the above is packed into a simple, thick PE bag (can be a Ziplock) and just tossed into the backpack on every outing.

      Just want to add here a note about my pocket knife - it usually lives in my pocket, but is part of my emergency gear. Mine is a small knife as I needed something that complied with UK rules and am just used to by now.


      Basic Gear

      Here is what I consider to be pretty much basic gear for going outside - there might be a few "extras" to account for it being fall, but otherwise I see these items as essential for every day hike:

      • 25L Backpack - I prefer a running style pack that comes with a top load and a hood. These kinds of bags are light, very simple and designed to be "no fuss". I use the Haglofs Gram Comp 25

      Fully loaded pack

      • 2L Water - I tend to not plan on treating water on day hikes (unless it is very hot), and instead just take 2 liters of water in collapsible containers to reduce the need to stop and mess with water treatments. I usually use 2 of the 1 liter Platy bottles
      • Food - With food, just like with water, I want something that takes the least amount of time to deal with, so it is breakfast at home and I snack on fruit, trail mix and maybe some string cheese throughout the day
      • Camera - Despite the quality of cameras in phones I love dedicated cameras and the quality the offer, which allows great shots of nature and gear in use. I use the Sony RX-100 II stored in a ziplock
      • Phone - Not really much to say here, to each their own on this topic, but I do have a big and robust case for my phone, especially when hiking, and a ziplock to store it in
      • Satellite Location Device - For many years I thought these were for people who are overly fussy and neurotic, but then I got married and had kids and now I always take one; a quick message home that all is well (or not) makes a huge difference. I use the Delorme Inreach SE (now Garmin Inreach)
      • Trekking Poles - Ruined knees and fear for the future means I always have poles, always. Want to guess what I use? I prefer EVA and for day hikes usually pick the Vertex carbon
      • Poo Bag - LNT at its best, my poo bag is a 1 liter dry bag with  a half roll of toilet paper, hand sanitizer and a ziplock for dirty papers.

      Vertex EVA and Carbon

      Seasonal Clothing

      What fall is known for the most is rain, always rain. As the temperatures are usually on the milder side, it is rarely really cold or really hot, but rain is always around the corner. For that I carry:

      • Wind Jacket - Wind can be a major factor for loss of body heat so a wind shirt is a great solution when temperatures are higher but wind chill is a danger. I use the Arc'teryx Squamish hoody
      • Poncho - The most breathable (after an umbrella) waterproof protection for easy on and off in the shoulder seasons. I use: Sea To Summit poncho/tarp

      Poncho used in Scotland

      • Insulated Jacket - Temperatures can change quickly, so a synthetic insulated jacket can be a real life saver on breaks, stopping to admire the view or in an Emergency. Down is great,but in the very wet season a synthetic jacket will be more effective. I use: Arc'teryx Atom LT Hoody
      • Gloves - Numb fingers can't do much if things turn to bad, so keeping those digits protected, even if it is a thin fleece, can make a huge difference in morale. I use: OR PL100 gloves 

      Light fleece gloves

      Warm clothing and gear

      Fall hiking clothing should, more than anything, be versatile. In order to achieve this, we want a couple of thin layers that can work well together while covering most of the body. For me that means:

      • Shorts - I call fall the season of shorts and rain: usually during the day the temperatures are comfortable for hiking in shorts, especially if I'm moving a lot, and that helps to vent the body when the hiking gets hard. I use: UA running shorts or TNF Horizon shorts
      • Short Sleeve Top - The choice is difficult between Merino wool and synthetic, as they will both perform great in their own way; as the temperatures cool down, thin Merino works for me. I use: Janus Summerwool top
      • Long Sleeve Top - For sun protection, bug protection, breaking the light wind and keeping the potentially cold tarp off your skin. Many times I will take a Merino hoody with a zip, but a button down bug shirt is really convenient too. I use: TNF safari shirt or Trekmates Merino hoody
      • Trail Shoes (with mid-weight socks) - Nothing beats light and agile trail shoes when hiking, especially on a day hike. Embrace the "wet feet" effect to stop fearing puddles, especially combined with mid weight Merino wool socks to keep feet warm even when wet. I use: Inov8 Race Ultra 270 and Icebreaker socks

      Inov8 Ultrarace 270

      • Sun Hat - Wide brimmed, trucker, shader or a race hat, all will protect your head from the sun and your face from the rain, a must on fall hikes. I use: Inov8 Hotpeak 40
      • Buff - The ultimate multipurpose kit: neck shade or warmer, headband or arm sweat absorber, balaclava or just as a "snot rag", it does it all. I use: Cnoc Outdoor logo High UV Buff

       Packing a bag

      That is pretty much all you need for a day outdoors in our neck of the woods, but what is your version? Are you a hot hiker? Dealing with surprise snows? Let me know in the comments so we can compare and contrast.