The late autumn hiking season from late October through November is a notoriously fickle time of year when shorter days and unpredictable weather require a higher level of preparedness on day hikes and bushwhacks. It’s a great time to hike with no bugs and the leaves off the trees, but if you get caught out after sunset, which is as early as 4:00 pm, you want to bring a little extra insurance.
Here are the unexpected situations that I like to be prepared for at this time of year.
- Hikes that take longer than expected and require hiking out in the dark
- Accidents with an immobilized hiker that require an unplanned overnight until help can arrive to help move them
- Additional traction if we encounter snow or ice on rocky trails and ledges
For me, it’s worth carrying the extra gear to hike at night if you have to, stay warm, make a fire, boil water for hot drinks, or safely walk on icy surfaces. I just don’t carry this gear around. It gets used more often than not and most of my hiking buddies carry it also.
Extra Gear for Shoulder Season Hikes
So in addition to the day hikers 10 essentials, I usually pack these extras on autumn hikes:
- Jetboil Sol with canister gas to make hot drinks
- Petzl Tikka RXP – a second high-powered headlamp/USB rechargeable
- SPOT Gen 3 GPS Satellite Messenger
- Anker Astro Slim3 6000 mAH USB Backup Battery (fantastic)
- GoLite hooded down jacket
- Montbell insulated puffy pants
- Kahtoola Microspikes
- Blaze orange hat, vest, or other garments if you hike in hunting areas
- Sugary drinks, tea, miso soup, and about one pound more food than I normally need on a day hike
- Windproof balaclava
- Long underwear
- An extra pair or two of warm socks
- Pair of fleece gloves
- Pair of insulated mountaineering gloves
- Plenty of vaseline coated cotton balls as a fire starter
This might seem like a big list, but it compresses down nicely in my current day hiking and bushwhacking pack, an indestructible Deuter Speedlite 30L day pack.