Posted on March 15, 2023 at 5:00 am
Around this time of year, I anxiously await getting outdoors with my pup. I have a high energy dog who loves tramping through the mountains and just about anywhere we can find a trail.
If I can’t wait, this means we’ll run into mud, ice, snow, rain, and cold. But early spring can also be a gorgeous time to be out and about in nature. Especially when there are blooming flowers and new life everywhere!
I tend to do less hiking in summer because it gets too hot for me and my long-haired pup. So that makes spring hiking even more important for me! Hopefully, my mistakes and experiences can help you with some tips to make spring hiking as amazing as possible for you.
One thing I cannot emphasize enough is being prepared! When you’re hiking, you only have what is in your backpack and pockets, should something unexpected happen.
I usually end up carrying a bit more things than I think I will need for my own peace of mind. But striking a balance and not overloading yourself is also important so that you aren’t miserable packing it around. Everyone has their own comfort level, and it is a good idea to find yours.
I hope this post and the following resources will give you some ideas to get you started.
The Washington Trails Association has a Trail Smarts section on their website that has a list of 10 essentials that every hiker should carry. I highly recommend checking it out.
If you enjoy getting prepared using guidebooks, you can read Adventure Ready: A Hiker’s Guide to Planning, Training & Resiliency, by Katie Gerber. If that’s not your cup of tea, the library’s collection has many titles on the topic of hiking, so you are bound to find one you’ll like.
We also have books to prepare for a multitude of outdoor adventures. The following OverDrive booklists can be accessed online and with the Libby app:
If a hike in a Washington State Park is part of your plan, don’t forget that you can check out a Discover Pass from the library. The Check Out Washington Discover Pass Backpack includes binoculars, Washington state field guides, and other interpretive materials as well as a special library Discover Pass.
A guided hike can make for a great experience. Guides can share information and point out aspects of nature that could be missed when trekking on your own. You can sign up for two different hikes and a geo walk, all guided by library partners, to experience Waikiki Springs Nature Preserve, the trail along Medical Lake, and the Saltese Uplands.
Along with the essentials that Washington Trail Association shares, I have a few things that I always bring with me on a spring hike.
Layers of Clothing
Spring is usually wet and muddy, if not snowy and icy, and the weather can change on a dime. So, I always bring rain gear and layers—this means more than just a rain jacket for me.
Rain pants keep your legs dry, and they can also prevent water from flowing down into your hiking boots or shoes, soaking them from the inside out. Squishy boots are no fun. I know from firsthand experience. Rain pants also work great as an extra layer on a cold, windy ridge.
Wool socks are also an essential for me. I never enjoy having cold or uncomfortable feet. And even if wool socks get wet, they still keep your toes warm… to a certain extent. I like to pack an extra pair in a waterproof sack.
Keeping extra layers dry in a waterproof sack in your backpack can also serve to keep everything else dry when you swap out your layers and put wet clothes inside the sack after changing. I also recommend a waterproof sack or container for your wallet, keys, and anything else that can get ruined when wet.
A Brimmed Hat
If you wear glasses like I do, then another essential is a brimmed hat. It is annoying when I am trying to take in a gorgeous view and my glasses are water speckled and smudged. A brimmed hat is great for hassle-free sightseeing as well as for bright, sunny days!
My dislike of cold doesn’t just apply to my toes. A wool hat can really help keep your head warm. So, I also bring a wool hat to pull on, usually over or under a brimmed baseball hat, doubling up the layers and the heat.
Extra Food & Water
When I first started hiking in the spring, I didn’t think I needed as much water as I ended up using. I quickly realized that running out of water or hiking hungry is not the experience I want to have.
The cool temperatures tricked me into thinking I would drink and eat less during my hike than say in the summer months! It turns out, you are still burning lots of energy, and maybe even more than in warmer weather if your body is working to stay warm. So even on a short hike, be sure to bring plenty of water.
The same goes for snacks! Bring some high-calorie snacks such as nuts, dried fruit, energy bars, and trail mix to give you a boost when you need it.
Ice & Snow Traction
Spring in the Inland Northwest always includes the possibility of ice and snow on the trail, depending on the elevation. Pick your destination carefully, and check the weather for where you’ll be hiking. You do not want to run into ice and snow unprepared. I speak from experience.
I ran into some packed ice on a trail one year and was totally unprepared. My dog did just fine, didn’t slip at all, but I got a close up look at the ground more times than I care to admit. Whenever the trail passed through dense shady forest, my dog seemed very concerned that I kept unexpectedly sitting down for no apparent reason.
It is good to be aware that the packed-down snow on some spring trails is slow to melt under the shade of the tree canopy, making those spots super slippery. After that hike, I added some ice traction for my shoes to my spring hiking essentials list.
For the Drive Home
At the end of a long hike, I like having some dry, comfy, clean clothes to change into because in the spring mud gets everywhere! Particularly when you have a pup who loves running through every puddle and likes to lean against you at every pitstop.
I would rather not have to clean out my car every time I go for a hike. So, I take some precautions—a clean change of clothes for me and a towel, or several, to clean up my pup are must-haves.
At the very least I try to keep a pair of clean, dry socks and shoes in the car, even if we’re only going on a short hike. There is something wonderful about taking off my hiking boots and socks at the end of a hike and putting on fresh, fuzzy socks and a pair of comfy shoes.
When you’re making your hiking essentials list, I encourage you to think about the types of hiking you’ll be doing and what you might need both during and afterward.
I stay encouraged on hikes during wet, muddy spring weather by thinking about how all that water will feed the green spring plants, wildflowers, and maybe even a waterfall or two. These make hiking in spring worth it!
Alison Johnson is an Education and Enrichment Librarian at Spokane County Library District and the community librarian for the Airway Heights Library. She creates library programming and events for children ages 8–18. This means she gets to play with many things, including messy paints and mini robots. When she has free time, Alison enjoys hiking trails with her dog, paddle boarding (on very calm waters), and reading while enjoying a cup of tea.
Tags: booklists, books, Discover Pass, essentials, hikes, hiking, overdrive, preparation, preparedness, programs, reading, safety, trails, walking