Packing for a (Light) Hiking Holiday

This morning I'm returning from a short jaunt to Arizona. Planning this trip was somewhat of a whirlwind. Usually I spend weeks to months planning a trip and this one was slapped together in a matter of days. But let me be clear, when I say "slapped together" I mean meticulously planned with a v. well-organized itinerary because we wanted to make the most of our short trip.

Maybe this wasn't on purpose, but we ended up with a pretty active set of plans. But I guess when we decided to go to Arizona, that was our fate. I hadn't ever gone on a trip like this before; I mean, I've definitely done hiking trips before but they were usually day hikes a drivable distance away. I hadn't ever flown to a destination with the intent of being (relatively) active.

So, I had to put some thought into my packing list. The tricky aspect of this trip was that we'd be in really varying temperatures (basically summer weather in Phoenix and winter weather in Page) and I needed to have somewhat nicer clothing for our evening activities. And everything had to easily tuck into a carry on bag.
I wanted to dedicate a post to some packing essentials for light hiking holidays; I figured it might come in handy for others as well as for my future-self. I need to put an emphasis on the word "light" because this is honestly the type of stuff anyone would use to go for a walk around their neighborhood. There are no ropes or carabiners or tents. This is for the amateur hiker flying out to some cool hiking spot, like me; basically the opposite of Reese Witherspoon's character in Wild.

My essentials are as follows:
  • Backpack - this is a given. It's so comfortable to carry (unlike a purse or a tote that stresses a single shoulder) and convenient. The backpack should be big enough to stuff everything into but not so large it overwhelms you. I have this little fashion backpack, which I love because it's roomy enough to function as my second carry on bag (it fits my iPad and toiletries and journal), which means it's roomy enough to function as a hiking bag since it fits my water bottle and camera and first aid kit. But at the same time, since it's cute and not overwhelmingly large, I can also use it as my purse for going out in the evenings. It's a multi-functional bag, and that's why I love it.
  • Comfy footwear & socks - whether you prefer trainers or hiking boots, make sure to wear shoes that cradle your feet. Heaven forbid you get a blister on your hike; it would ruin your day. I recently got these Skechers with memory foam ($20 at TJ Maxx) and they are like pillows for my feet. I can confidently go for long walks in them without getting achy feet so they are the perfect hiking shoes. I also have a pair of hiking boots that I love for the ankle support but the soles aren't quite as comfortable; it's a tradeoff.
  • Hat & sunnies - it's important to protect your head and eyes from the sunshine.
  • Water bottle - staying hydrated is key. Packing snacks is also a smart idea, by the way. But even if you forget to run out and get snacks, never forget to pack some water. I like reusable metal water bottles because they're durable and environmentally friendly.
  • First aid - even if your shoes are super comfortable, you might end up with a blister or two, in which case, it's good to have some bandaids and antiseptic. It's also nice to have some pain relievers, anti-nausea tablets, and mosquito bite spray. The moral here is that it's good to be prepared.
  • Sunscreen & lip balm - protect your skin against the elements. I like a moisturizing sunscreen which helps protect my skin from sunburn and windburn. A little travel-size tube is great for reapplications. If you're hiking a mountain, I find that the change in altitude and cooler air (and breathing heavily through my mouth because I'm so out of shape) can chap my lips so I like to religiously apply lip balm.
  • Camera kit - holiday photography is one of my favorite activities. I usually carry an extra battery, a mini tripod, remote, and a wide angle lens.
  • Flashlight - in case you're walking through a cave or the sun starts setting, having a flashlight handy is nice.
  • Binoculars - my eyesight isn't anything to envy so binoculars have come in handy for me several times.
As far as clothing goes, I think that hiking is all about layers, even in the summer. Because if you're climbing up a mountain or if there's inclement weather or the sun goes in and out of the clouds, it might get chillier or it might get warmer and it's nice to be able to add layers or peel off layers.

I like to wear a tank made of a synthetic material that wicks away moisture as my base for cooler hikes so that I don't chill myself with my own sweat. Then, I'll put on a thermal long sleeve tee or a rollneck top, layer on a t-shirt, a flannel or a sweatshirt, and then top it off with either a jacket or a vest. I actually like vests because I feel like it gives my arms more mobility and it keeps me warm but I don't overheat. For bottoms, if it's really chilly, I'll layer some long johns under a pair of khakis. If it's lovely crisp weather, I'll just throw on some yoga pants. And, if need be, I'll add a scarf.

And for warmer temperatures, I like to wear natural fabrics (like cotton or linen) that are nice and breathable to keep me cooler. Then, I'll layer on a t-shirt and maybe tie a flannel around my waist as a contingency. And for bottoms, I think shorts are usually the way to go, but if I'm heading somewhere with lots of bugs or there are tall grasses with a potential for ticks, I'll throw on some long linen pants.
And of course, you should pack some directional tools. I love using my phone but I also insist on paper maps. Paper maps won't run out of battery so they're v. reliable.

Here's what I packed for my trip to Arizona:
I stuffed two t-shirts, a tank top, a pair of yoga pants, and two button downs into a medium-sized packing cube. I tossed a knit hat and some gloves in too, because I didn't know how cold it might get in Page. I packed my little undergarments bag with socks and underpants and bras. I packed a suede moto jacket and a pair of flats for our evening activities. And of course, I packed a toiletry bag. My airplane outfit consisted of a pair of jeans, a tank, and a long sleeve tee. I decided to top that outfit with some of the bulkier items on the plane to make more room in my little weekender bag (including a faux fur-lined vest). And I wore a warm coat and giant blanket scarf on the plane too.
Everything nestled into my weekender perfectly. I also threw my iPad and phone and wallet and chargers into my backpack.
Anyway, those are my (light) hiking essentials. When I get back this afternoon, I'm going to start editing my Arizona photos and I can't wait to share my experience in one of the prettiest states I've ever visited.