"Even when the rainbow seems to pass right by me....I'm still finding Gold in the clouds....."

22 March 2018


on the firetower/summit of Balsam Lake Mountain
Catskill Mountains
April 2014

Ah....Spring.  That elusive season!  At least for hikers in the Northeast!
It seems it will never get here and then when it does it either packs a punch or goes right from winter to summer.  Sometimes we get lucky blessed and have a "real" spring of temps in the 50s and 60s and rain instead of snow.  Sometimes we get sunshine and warmth at the start of a hike and sometimes we end on the summit in a snowstorm as pictured above!  Sometimes a little rain and sleet is mixed in too which was the case on the hike I did in the photo. (Balsam Lake Mountain, April 2014, Catskills). 

This always has been a challenging season for me personally when it comes to hiking clothes.  I have learned over the years to dress in layers.  And to pack mittens/gloves and an extra pair of socks.

Here's  what I wear (usually, and from mid March-about the end of May.  I also tend to wear these in late autumn depending on the temperature of where I will be hiking):

image courtesy of LLBean
  • HIKING LEGGINGS or TRAIL PANTS: The ones I buy tend to be water resistant and be fleece lined.  I have some that are unlined that work well for me as I tend to get hot if climbing to a summit.  I save the fleece lined ones for when the temps are below 30.  I have about 4 pairs of long hiking leggings.  I love the one pair I have with a side pocket (pictured above) because I can put my phone in there and have it easily accessible for photo taking if I'm not bringing my camera).  How are they different from regular leggings you wear with long tunics??  Well, they are usually not knit or pure cotton like regular leggings. Trail pants are great because they are typically water proof (depending on brand) and are made of rough nylon and spandex.  They are almost always quick-dry.  You want to avoid denim, 100% cotton and 100% knit.  The trail pants I own also have zippered pockets and can be shortened to capri length or shorts.
image courtesy of LLBean
  • TEE SHIRT/TANK/CAMI:  I like a sports bra under a hiking tee shirt for my base layer if hiking in early spring or late autumn.  (winter hiking I use a different base).  A tee like the one pictured above runs about $30 and lasts FOREVER!  I own several by LLBean or Champion.  Other good brands that are affordable are Northface and Natural Reflections from Bass Pro.  Any tee that is made from the slub poly-blend fabric and/or has the "wick away" detail is a great item to have in your hiking gear.  The tees come in all kinds of colors and can be worn with the leggings or hiking shorts in summer.  Try several kinds on and see which ones you prefer.  You want to avoid 100% cotton as that will chill you if it gets wet and isn't quick dry.
image courtesy of columbia sportswear
  • LONG-SLEEVED TEE:  this works great as a base or for over the tee. (I wear just the long sleeved if i know the temps will be colder than 50). I wear this over the tee if I think the temps are going to climb over 50 and I need to peel off layers.  This type of shirt is one that I have in a couple different brands.  Target sells the Champion brand for less than $30!  This one pictured here runs about $40. I prefer my LLBean which is anywhere from $20-50.  Again, these are items you wear for hiking or biking so they last a long time if you drip dry them and follow the washing instructions.  I love the fitted ones like pictured above but there are looser fitting ones as well.  Get what works for you.  This one is a mix of polyester, cotton and spandex.  I do have one that includes the sun protectant and bug repellant material and it's awesome on a chilly summer morning or a windy summit.
image courtesy of Northface
  • FLEECE JACKET OR PULLOVER:  This is vital in my opinion.  I own the one pictured above for when it's spring or mid-late autumn.  I also own the one pictured in the first photo....I'm wearing the 3-in-1 jacket from LLBean that includes the fleece zipped into a thick waterproof  shell which also includes a hood that can be tucked into the collar when not in use.  I find fleece works as a great layer for under any type of slightly larger windbreaker.  Get the brand that works for you and look for ones with pockets to stuff a pair of gloves inside.

  • WINDBREAKER or SOFT SHELL WATERPROOF JACKET:  (see first photo).  This is vital because weather changes so often in the mountains, especially in the Spring season!  I typically stuff this into my backpack if I start out on a dry hike.  You can pull it out as needed or begin the hike with it, and peel off when you no longer need it.  It also works great on kayaking trips!

image courtesy of Dickies
  • EXTRA SHIRT/FLANNEL/CHAMOIS:  Dave and I really like hiking with flannel shirts.  They make a great extra layer. Cozy and warm!  Sometimes I wear this instead of the fleece jacket especially if climbing to a summit and the temps are between 45-65.  They roll up easily to stuff into your back pack.  I like the slightly longer look shown here.  Again, if you look for the LLBean or Eddie Bauer sales, you can get a shirt that will last for years.  Or just get a couple of cheaper ones from Target or Boscov's.  You don't have to spend alot of money to acquire good hiking shirts.  I try to save the better quality ones (LLBean, Northface, etc) for just hiking and I buy cheaper ones for around the house.  Do what works for you!  For winter hikes (Which I rarely do) or late Autumn hikes on very chilly days, I wear my one fleece-lined flannel shirt from LLBean. It is truly one of the best purchases I have ever made.  I've owned the shirt for about 8 years now and it looks brand new!

image courtesy of Patagonia
  • HEADBAND OR KNIT HAT:  I love keeping fleece or wool headbands on hand in my hiking bin.   I have all kinds.  Dave prefers a knitted hat.  Ear-muffs work for some people.  I prefer the headband because once my ears are no longer cold or the temps warm up, I can simply slip it down around my head like a scarf.  I think it's vital to keep your ears comfy!

image courtesy of Amazon
  • GLOVES:  I tuck these into my pockets "just in case".  I don't tend to wear gloves or mittens unless the temps are well below 35.  But they are always good to have in your pack because you never know!  Unfortunately, my friend and I did NOT have gloves or mittens with us on the hiking trip pictured in the first photo!!  Thank God we had extra pair of socks to use as mittens when the snowstorm started half way up the summit because it got very cold!!  The temperature actually dropped 10 degrees that day.  (when we got back to our car, it was 55 degrees and no snow!).  Always have some kind of gloves in your pack for spring hikes.
Other things to keep on hand for spring hikes:

extra pair of socks in backpack
pair of leg warmers in case trail is muddy (I don't own gators nor do I plan on buying any as I don't hike often enough in mud season which is what Spring is known as in hiker lingo!)
extra shirt for layering (if not worn under jacket)
micro-spikes in case of ice

The hike I plan on doing this coming Saturday 24 March will be an interesting one as I've never been to the nature preserve where the hike is taking place.  The temps are only supposed to be in the 40s and because I don't know the trails there, I don't know how much snow is actually on the trail.  So everything from the above list will be worn or packed!

As the spring season continues, and i venture out on more hikes that are mainly flat ones, I probably won't need the micro-spikes.

Whatever you end up buying for hiking, you can probably also use for kayaking, biking, and camping trips.  That's how I've saved money......

Note:  if you are an active work-out person, you probably already have many of the work-out shirts or leggings/yoga pants.  Just use those!  However, keep in mind that yoga pants tend to be loose around the bottom so if you want a tighter fit for hiking socks to go over your pants, stick with the hiking leggings.  I've learned this from experience!)

Happy Hiking!!


Sandi said...

Yikes! What the...! That is up so high! Screaming...

Susanne said...

Wow, I don't do anywhere near this kind of hiking but it's always good to be prepared no matter what type of trail you hike. Nothing worse than being hit with weather change, and not be prepared in the way of clothing