Hiking in the great outdoors is an incredible experience and the Canadian Rockies boasts some of the most beautiful scenery in the world.
If you are wondering what to pack for such an epic hiking destination, I have compiled a list of essential items to take based on my own travels here. Before visiting Canada, I had not been on many hiking trips so it was very much trial and error!
When thinking of hiking footwear, bulky boots usually come to mind. I cannot stand those heavy designs and was instead seeking lightweight hiking shoes that were transferable from the mountains to the street.
I ended up opting for a pair of North Face trekking shoes, similar to the ones below. Besides being comfortable, supportive and waterproof, the shape was more stylish and streamlined than the more traditional boots.
These trekking trainers also had a sturdy sole with strong tread for good grip. Even crossing a stream, where these shoes were half submerged, no water got in. The fact that they are so light is a plus for packing as well.
Insect repellent with 30% DEET
One thing that is certain about hiking in the Canadian Rockies during the summer months is that you will be bitten by mosquitoes. I tried a number of ‘gentle’ insect repellents, but the only ones that were in any way effective in preventing mozzie bites were those containing 30% or more DEET.
This is quite toxic stuff and I hated having to spray a load of it on all of the time, but it was either this or be covered in bulging red hives.
Sometimes, instead of regularly dousing myself with insect repellent, I would just put on a bug jacket. I got given this during the Big Five Safari in Manitoba and continued to wear it in the Rockies.
It is really light and can be worn over a vest top or T-shirt. I have got it on in this picture taken during a hike in Summer Meadows, Banff National Park…
Not the most stylish item of clothing, but it did the job. For those times where you’re being swarmed, the hooded section, which covers the face, was invaluable. There is a bit of space so it’s not as claustrophobic as you might think.
While the weather in the mountains will be warm and sunny during the summer, it can be quite changeable and, especially as autumn approaches, it gets very chilly. Suffice to say, it is well worth having a weatherproof jacket with you on longer hikes.
A specially designed outdoors coat, like the Jack Wolfskin one below, will keep you warm and dry, yet is breathable at the same time.
Sun hat with a rim
When you are exposed to the elements for hours at a time and there are not always places to seek shade, no amount of sun block is going to be enough. Having a hat or cap to keep the midday sun off your head and face is an absolute must.
On the subject of avoiding insect bites again, if you spray insect repellent on the outside rim of your hat, this helps keep the mozzies off your face.
For hiking, your backpack must be extra comfortable, lightweight and have different compartments to carry all of your essentials. Mesh pockets on the outside are perfect for holding your drink within easy reach.
You will most likely have a few extra bottles of water, trust me you want to carry as much liquid as possible, a packed lunch, sugary treats to keep energy levels up, sun screen, insect repellent, deodorant etc.
Pick a top-quality water bottle that’s BPA free and leak-proof. This can be used throughout your travels and will save you a load of money – even when you are traipsing around cities.
On popular hiking routes like Sulphur Mountain and Lake Louise, there are going to be cafes and shops to fill up your bottles within close reach so your water bottle will be enough to keep you going. For day hikes, I prefer taking at least four individual 500ml bottles just to be safe.
Never underestimate the sheer comfort a snug fleece can provide when the wind picks up and goosebumps begin to appear. This soothing cover-up can even be folded and used as a pillow if you fancy a nap before following the trail back.
I learnt the hard way that leggings are unsuitable for hiking trips. Mosquitoes can bite right through them; in fact wearing black leggings seemed to attract them!
Investing in proper trousers that are designed to be worn in the great outdoors is definitely worth it. They are usually water resistant as well and are generally very comfortable.
There was one particular hike I went on during bear season where it was against the law to be in parties of less than 4, due to the increased risk of running into grizzlies.
In reality, the risk is extremely minimal, as they generally avoid humans like the plague, but just to make sure they know of your presence and head the other way, attaching a bear bell to your bag provides added peace of mind. Or, there is always singing at the top of your lungs (this might not be a popular option with your hiking buddies though!).
I hope you found this list useful. If you’re looking for tips on places to visit, have a read of my post about road trips in the Canadian Rockies. Do you have any essential items to add to this list?
Please note: The products in this post are affiliate links, which means I’ll earn a small percentage if you click through and make a purchase. I don’t earn much money from this blog, yet put my heart and soul into sharing my travels, so every little helps.