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


    • Ben Evered

      I pack flares when riding in the back country alone. Riding can get you lost and in trouble very quickly. Maybe hikers could bennift from a flare in their backpack.

    • David Stefani

      Thanks, it was very helpful and informative.

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