First Time Out - suggestions?

3:56 p.m. on August 8, 2012 (EDT)
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We will have a short trip to Jasper and Banff for the very first time in late August, and have no idea what to bring or get. The plan is to do two or three half-day hikes, nothing too intense, as we are middle-aged office workers and want to come home cast-free.

What type of gear (e.g. footwear, daypacks and contents, hydration) would you suggest? 

6:24 p.m. on August 8, 2012 (EDT)
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I don't know that area but there are some folks here that are experts on it: hopefully you will get a reply from Peter1955 or Family Guy


You might also check out the Trip Reports forum and look for Peter1955s reports for clues.


Hope this helps...

7:03 p.m. on August 8, 2012 (EDT)
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First you have to provide for the survival essentials. 

Let's start with the zero essential - something you actually leave at home instead of taking with you: detail information about your plans, including expected return or return contact time, left with a trusted relative or friend who WILL call the appropriate authorities if your don't return or make contact as expected.  Here is an epic failure you'll often read about:  "the search didn't start until Tuesday when fellow workers became concerned about the hikers missing 2 straight days of work...."

Next are the other survival essentials, but instead of a shopping list, think about your needs and the equipment that will provide for them.  In that context, the rule of threes is a good start: You can survive  3 hours without protection from the elements, 3 days without water, and 3 weeks without food.  But you can't survive much more than 3 minutes without hope.

Providing for the zero essential gives you hope that even if you become lost or unable to return as expected there will be an SAR out looking for you.  Providing for the remaining essentials gives you hope that'll you'll be able to survive until you are found.

So that takes care of the big two.

You need adequate protection from the elements, be it cold, heat, sun, or rain.  That means appropriate clothing and shelter for the expected conditions, sch as a set of dry clothing in case what you are wearing gets wet, adverse weather protection - rain gear, snow gear, sun screen, etc., sleeping bag, and a tent, tarp or hammock (if you don't expect rain a good poncho can provide both protection from unexpected rain, and shelter in case of rain.)

You'll need a whistle for signaling.  3 short blasts is the international signal for distress.  It's surprising how much further the sound of a whistle will travel over the sound of your voice.  

A flashlight or headlamp, and sufficient batteries (in addition to the ones in the flashlight or headlamp) will help you avoid injury while exiting in low daylight or having to carry out other survival activities if needed at night.

You'll may need a way of starting a fire, for warmth or signaling.  Usually not absolutely necessary, but a fire often gives comfort to people who are awaiting rescue.

You must also protect yourself from injury and illness from the elements, so you'll also need a first aid kit.

You don't need food and water to survive, but without adequate hydration and energy you might suffer illness or inability to protect yourself from the elements.  Unless you will carry enough water for 2 or 3 days (highly unlikely) you need a means of collecting water and purifying it.  You could just boil if you bring a stove and sufficient fuel.  Or you get a filter and purifier system to reduce the amount of fuel you would have to otherwise carry.

Check on the net for the likely amount of caloric intake per day needed for your weight and expected physical exertion.  Take at least one more day's worth of food that you think you'll need.  

Remember that you need to replace electrolytes when drinking lots of water.  That means sodium, potassium, and chloride at a minimum.  Foods with minerals like zinc and magnesium are also helpful.  

What you don't need to survive is a map and compass.  But both, and the ability to use them, can help you avoid getting lost in the first place and thereby avoid having to call on all the other essentials equipment you have assembled.  If you know where you are then you are not lost.  a map and compass help you keep from getting lost.  A gps can do the same thing and more, but even though I hike explore mostly by gps, I still carry a map and compass as a backup.

Now you can take a look a the so-called "ten essentials" to fill in the rest of your shopping list.  

7:26 a.m. on August 9, 2012 (EDT)
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whoops, I see I misread your post blue,,,I answered as if you were looking for places to go and not what to bring. sorry about that.


nogods bailed me out with a fine response (thanks).


  • Again I have no personal knowledge of that area but as far as footwear:

I would say that with only a daypack you should be able to get by with trail running type shoes or low top hiking shoes. I don't know your feet or ankle strength but I hear a lot of folks recommend using above ankle boots when dealing with talus and very rocky areas. There are many schools of thought about footwear and the common sentiment is that it is a very personal choice. From my own experiences I say that fit is key above all else unless extreme elements are involved like deep snow or ice. Search the threads here on footwear and you should find some really good stuff regarding the fitting process.

For what to bring in your daypack I agree with nogods above that you should search for threads on the ten essentials and go from there; even a half day hike could take you far enough from help to justify carrying some first aid stuff at least.

  • Regarding daypacks:

With all packs it's best to first decide to what you will be bringing and then get a pack that will hold everything. For backpacks torso measurement is a key first step in narrowing the search but for a day pack that doesn’t have a waist belt it probably doesn’t matter so much. I use a really cheap Swiss Gear daypack from K-Mart that I bought for about $30.  I haven’t researched day packs much but I have admired the Kelty Redwing daypacks. Personally, I like a well padded straps on any pack.

  • Regarding hydration:

I’m not sure what you are asking about hydration. Some basic tips: bring some form of water treatment as a backup if nothing else. For a half day hike you will likely be able to carry all the water you need for the day without having to replenish it (depending on how much you exert and so forth). If you are asking about containers some considerations might be: does it need to work with a filter or particular treatment method, will I be exerting at a high level and using water to the point that I need a hands-free drinking method like a hydration bladder, and so forth. I see AT thru-hikers using plastic soda bottles, coffee creamer bottles, etc.. all the time. I sometime use cheap plastic water bottles along with a Nalgene (that fits my MSR filter). It’s mostly a personal choice but use scenarios and environmental conditions may cause you to prefer one type over another.

1:04 p.m. on August 9, 2012 (EDT)
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Alberta can be cold in the mountains even in summer.  Expect some rain and days with highs in the 50s F.  Bring quality rain gear and some warm clothes by summer standards.  There are plenty of bears around.  I had a black sow and cubs within 20 inches of my face one morning in about 1975.  Carry bear spray and make some noise on the trail.

9:24 a.m. on August 19, 2012 (EDT)
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Thanks everyone for your excellent advice. Looking forward to a great trip! 

12:44 p.m. on August 19, 2012 (EDT)
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Depends upon where your short hikes will take you. If you are staying close to civilization, comfy shoes, some mosquito repellant, a hat and a light jacket will be all you need.

But if you get a bit more adventuresome you will need more. I always carry a light weight hooded rain jacket (e.g., Marmot Precip) and long sleeve shirt and pants (sun, skeeters).  If I'm going higher where there is a possibility of wind and lower temperatures, I stuff a 200 Polartek equivalent fleece zipper jacket in the bag for under the rain gear. Fleece goes on at every rest stop so I don't get chilled.  For summer rain I wear shorts and low gaiters for the boots. For day hikes that could end up coming home in the dark, LED Head lamp with new batteries is nice if you want to extend the hike so you can see the stars away from lights and camp smoke for awhile and delay dinner.

Brimmed hat (all the way around - not just a baseball cap) for sure, sunglasses and wide spectrum UV 40+ protection so I don't end up a crispy critter.  UV Lip balm

Pack something for foot care - especially blisters.  Most of my first aid kit consists of a small 1/2" wide adhesive tape supply, and 3M Compease coverings, small knife (good for lunch carvings), Ibuprofen and TP (in ziplock).  Duct tape is better than moleskin for 'hotspots'. Just leave it on until after the next shower or two.  100% DEET ('Jungle Juice') works very well, especially if used sparingly and relatively often (when they start biting again).

For a day hike, our inspiration for snacks includes hard salami, cheese, crackers canned tuna (the kind you don't need an opener for), a couple of big carrots, M&M and nuts.  It will be hot, don't take anything that will melt.

Pack some cash so you can enjoy the tea houses.

Don't forget the camera, extra 'chips' and batteries. A good quality pocket size is a lot more convenient than a big bulky SLR...unless you are doing a National Geographic spread.

Lake O'Hara (Yoho) is a grand place to spend a day hiking high and snooping out the lodge. Needs reservations or at least info on the bus.

8:58 p.m. on August 23, 2012 (EDT)
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definately the ten essentials and a good pocket digital camera, and some cash. don't forget a few sandwiches to munch on for a dayhike. good pair of sunglasses and sunscreen (part of the ten essentials). I also take 3L of water in a sippy bladder (camelback). I drink alot when Im hiking. in other words, what peacock said!

6:00 a.m. on August 24, 2012 (EDT)
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Hi Blue, my first big hiking trip was to Canada (Vancouver, Banff, Lake Louise, Icefields Parkway, Penticton) in the first two weeks of September.  As ppine says expect some colder weather.  In the two weeks we were there we experienced, warm sunny days, heavy rain, cold days (down to -1c at night), and even snow.  I would carry a waterproof jacket and possibly over trousers as well (mine came out the bag more than once!).  If we were starting out relatively early in the morning I often was found sporting a very fetching fleece head band along with my fleece jacket as it was often chilly.  I was very grateful I packed thermals and a warm hat when stood on the Glacier in the snow!

When you get to Banff (we did not make it as far as Jasper but I assume they will do similar) I would recommend stopping in at the Information Centre before you do anything else.  They were really helpful, provided a map detailing all of the trails in the area and offering suggestions of some good hikes.  They will also let you know which trails should be avoided due to bear sightings. 

On our first day as a bit of a warm up we hiked up to the peak of Sulphur mountain.  The trail was relatively quiet but as there is a gondola you certainly don’t get to enjoy the views to yourself when you get to the top.  It has fantastic views across all of Banff and the surrounding area though.

One of the most enjoyable hikes we did was up to the Plain of Six Glaciers in Lake Louise.  The trail is quite touristy to begin with, especially around the lake but most stop at the teahouse half way up (worth a stopping in at for a drink on the way back down) and the views at the top are well worth continuing up. 

A quieter hike (I think we saw maybe 5 other people) was the hike up to Rock Bound Lake i again would recommend.

I took hiking boots as well as a pair of approach shoes.  For many of the hikes we did my approach shoes were more than adequate as you would be following a well defined trail.  I was grateful of my boots, with ankle support for the two hikes I mentioned above, particularly on the Plain of Six Glaciers hike where you are on scree/snow for the last section.

I hope you have an amazing trip, It somewhere I would love to go back to.

1:45 p.m. on August 24, 2012 (EDT)
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There is no such thing as civilizaiton in most of Alberta, which is why it is such a wonderful place.

1:52 p.m. on August 24, 2012 (EDT)
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ppine said:

There is "NO" such thing as civilizaiton in most of Alberta, which is why it is such a wonderful place.

Ummmmm, see everything from demographics down:

Actually, Alberta is the 4th largest populated territory in Canada:

So with that being said I suppose this is solely based upon what your definition of "civilization" is and what you are comparing it too(Alberta compared to say... Shanghai for instance.)

3:55 p.m. on August 24, 2012 (EDT)
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Ahem! While I agree that Alberta has a disproportionate share of uncivilized rednecks, the same can be said of many of the southern States. However, Shanghai is by far more 'civilized'.

Once you get into the mountains, you'll find most of the residents are friendly and helpful. For an idea of the ambience, think 'aging hippies'.

I spend all my available time, year round, hiking in Jasper, Banff, Waterton, and Yoho. (see TRs).

My typical daypack is a Deuter 28l Futura, containing

  • two Camelbak bottles and UV Allclear water treatment
  • an Outdoor Research Foray GoreTex Paclite jacket
  • rain pants to go with the jacket
  • a down sweater or fleece
  • gloves and toque
  • camera and binoculars
  • bug spray and sunblock
  • Vel seed bars and Sunrype fruit bars
  • lunch from The Other Paw Bakery (excellent!)
  • map and compass
  • Petzyl Tactika headlamp and batteries
  • toilet paper
  • bear spray
  • Black Diamond Expedition hiking poles

My emergency kit (always carried) includes

  • three ways to start a fire
  • hand sanitizer (for fires) and tea candles
  • a few dollar-store ponchos (and cord for emergency shelter/bear hang)
  • space blankets
  • mirror
  • Orange garbage bag
  • first aid kit, including veterinarians' tape, moleskin and quikclot
  • Gerber multitool or my old Leatherman Wave

In mountainous terrain, where there is a risk of a fall, I'll carry climbing gear (half-rope, harness, belay tube, carbiners) and an ice axe if there's snow around.

I will be wearing (in addition to the clothing items mentioned)

  • Synthetic T-shirt
  • Zip-off synthetic hiking pants (NO JEANS!)
  • Trailspace hat for warm days or an old Armed Forces cap if it's cooler
  • Hiking BOOTS, Salomon full-leather with Mountain Contagrip soles

For easy walks near the Icefields Parkway, you would be okay with proper trail shoes, but IMHO boots are an absolute necessity for any serious hikes. I have refused clients who have turned up with 'trail sandals', runners or (on mountain hikes) trail shoes. All elevation includes roots on the way up, loose scree slopes, and rocky scrambles - if you're away from the highway and you break an ankle, it will take a long time to get you back. Note: Cell phone coverage in the Parks is non-existent outside the townsites.

For a winter trip I'll add a lot more stuff - the down sweater, for example, become a down parka, and I'll carry snowshoes, Kahtoola Microspikes, or my Camp Stalker crampons. And so on and so on.

That being said, I am usually responsible for a number of people and I have to carry enough gear to keep them alive overnight if necessary. If you're going with one or two people you can get away with a lot less.

Definitely dress in layers and have enough space in your pack to carry extra. Definitely carry lots of water and some emergency snacks (1,000 cal). Definitely carry waterproof rain gear; even the dollar store ponchos will keep you from getting soaked.  Definitely carry a map and pay attention to it. Make lots of noise and you won't have a problem with wild animals. Stay in a group and don't let kids (especially) run ahead or lag behind. 

If you want suggestions on trails to do, send me a PM. Having hiked in the area since 1982, I know a few of them.

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