When the point of a trip is to spend time in nature, it seems strange to me that you would have to pack a bunch of stuff other than your hiking boots to get the most out of your excursion. During my recent road trip around the U.S. Southwest to the Grand Canyon, Page, Arizona (home to Horseshoe Bend and Antelope Canyon), and Sedona, where my husband and I spent time hiking, kayaking, and swimming in the hot desert heat, however, I realized there were several items that could totally make or break such an excursion. Here are some things I’m super glad I brought with me on our trip… and a few things I wish I would have picked up ahead of time.
Hiking Shoes: It took me quite a while to find a pair of vegan hiking shoes that I actually liked (as in, I’ve been on the hunt for literally years for a pair I like). I always had this idea in my head that hiking shoes were supposed to be these heavy duty monstrosities that go up and over your ankles (a la Reese Witherspoon in Wild, obvs) and seemingly, most heavy duty hiking boots are made from real leather, a no-go in my book. After copious amounts of research and lots of hemming and hawing, I eventually bit the bullet on these hiking shoes, due to their many positive online reviews and lightweight and versatile nature. Thus far, I LOVE them- it’s actually really nice that these shoes can easily be mistaken for regular tennis shoes (I felt comfortable wearing them out to a casual dinner) and their lightweight nature makes them super easy to pack; however, they are still plenty sturdy to hike around the rocky terrain of the Grand Canyon or Sedona’s Coconino National Forest.
Hiking Shorts: The only bottoms I packed for our trip were yoga pants and despite my undying love for yoga pants and all they’ve done for me, I REALLY wish I had packed a pair of hiking shorts to wear on our trip. Unsurprisingly, Arizona gets super hot in the summertime (like, boiling hot) and black yoga pants really don’t have the breathability you’re looking for in that kind of weather. From a complete vanity perspective, I think a lot of hiking shorts look fairly masculine, but I’m ordering a pair of these for my upcoming trip to Zion National Park, which I, as a self-proclaimed girly girl, would feel comfortable wearing on the trail or out to lunch with some friends.
Sports Bra: I’ve long followed the traveler’s secret of packing and dressing in layers, including on our hiking trips. I knew it was possible that, during our hiking and kayaking excursions, I would get hot enough to necessitate removing my other top layers and simply wear my sports bra to move around in. With this in mind, I had ordered this cute crop top bra to use for our trip, but, unfortunately, it didn’t arrive in time to pack. Since the bra I wanted didn't arrive in time to use on this trip, the two bras that I used were purchased long ago on sale from a big box store, each for around $5, and DEFINITELY not ideal for hiking in the dry, hot weather- the materials did not wick away moisture, nor did they prevent a lady hiker’s arch nemesis- underarm chafing. On the other hand, one reviewer on Amazon said she comfortably ran an ultramarathon in my newly obtained crop top sports bra (as a point of clarification that means SHE RAN 100 MILES IN THIS BEAST!) sans chafing, so I am confident this would be a great addition to a day hiker’s wardrobe.
Water Shoes: My husband and I were the only ones on our kayaking tour around Lake Powell and Antelope Canyon that didn’t wear water shoes for wading in to get into the boat and pushing off the rocky lake floor. While my hiking shoes were lightweight and breathable enough to generally work as water shoes, I didn’t want to get them wet during our kayaking trip as we were planning on going on a hike almost immediately after the tour concluded. Instead, I’ve got my eye on this pair of water shoes. With its bottoms designed for gripping uneven terrain, these shoes would be perfect for hiking The Narrows in Zion, the famous hike where you march through knee to waist deep water surrounded by the park’s canyon walls.
Sun-Protective Clothing: During our kayaking trip, both of our tour guides wore long sleeved hoodies, pulled up tight over their heads. I spent the first half of the kayaking trip thinking they were totally nuts (it was about a hundred degrees out), until I discovered, after chatting with them, that they weren’t wearing heavy-duty hoodies, but instead, quick-dry performance clothing with built-in UBF protection (UBF is the measurement of protection that fabric provides your skin from UVA and UVB rays; fun fact- SPF only measures the effect of UVB rays). Being on the water with the sun both beaming on you and being reflected off the water at you for hours and hours is super draining; sufficiently protecting your skin from the rays helps keep up your energy (and you know, prevent skin cancer). If you’re going on a short kayaking tour like us, sunglasses and sunscreen may be sufficient, but if you’re going on a longer rafting or kayaking trip, getting a long-sleeved shirt like this one would be a great idea.
Supportive swimsuit: I hadn’t realized there would be any swimming during our kayaking trip, but we had an opportunity to swim around Lake Powell for a while. I, like an unprepared fool, swam around in my $5 sports bra and yoga pants- instead, it would have been nice to wear a supportive and athletic swimsuit under my other kayaking clothing. I used to do an annual sprint triathlon and was always on the lookout for a comfy and cute two-piece. I think this suit would have worked pretty great, both for my kayaking adventure and for any tris I do in the future.
For Your Outdoor Activities
Dry Bag: Our kayaking tour guides warned us, on multiple occasions prior to leaving the marina, that our kayaks very well may flip over and that any kind of valuables, including cameras, should be left on dry land. Of a tour of about 15 people, I was the only one who wound up bringing my camera (ain’t no way I was going to miss shooting Antelope Canyon!). While I felt comfortable bringing my relatively expensive camera as I am reasonably confident in my kayaking skills (in so much as I wasn’t worried we were going to spontaneously flip our boat over), it would have been nice to have the extra security of a dry bag that I could have just allowed to float along our kayak on the way to Antelope Canyon. I’m trying to figure out what to do with my camera for hiking the Narrows and I think I’m going to wind up buying this dry bag to keep my camera safe.
Camel Pack: You know what’s even better than not ruining your fancy DSLR camera? Not dying of dehydration! I was a bit stunned in both the Grand Canyon and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area how little potable water resources were available. By bringing along (and diligently refilling) a camel pack, you can have up to 2 liters of water with you at any given time, an absolute must for hiking in the dry desert air.
Zinc sunscreen: Did you know that a lot of the sunscreens on the market don’t sufficiently protect against UVA rays, the more prevalent type of ultraviolet rays from the sun? The United States has much lower sunscreen standards than our European friends, which, as a fair-skinned, outdoor enthusiast freaks me out. If you want to seek higher protection, you should try to use a sunscreen that has zinc oxide in it- I swear by Neutrogena Sheer Zinc Oxide Dry-Touch Face Sunscreen with Broad Spectrum SPF 50 on a daily basis (I spent way too much money on my tattoos for them to get messed up by sun damage!).
For While You’re on the Road
Clif Bars: Pretty much an essential to stave off road trip hanger, would any hiking packing list be complete without Clif bars? For vegan hikers who might find it a bit challenging to locate food at more remote hiking spots (or, given the long expanses of highways between pit stops, pretty much any road tripper), having some Clif bars on hand is a good idea (and having Cool Mint Clif bars on hand is an even better idea).
Phone Mount: Using your phone and all of its applications hands free is important (and necessary in most states to comply with the law). Using a portable phone holder, all you need to do is snap it on to one of the car’s vents, put a magnet in your phone case, and voila, your phone is officially ready to be your go-to map-weilding, music-playing, weather forecasting road trip MVP- all whilst you use it hands free!
Car Power Inverter: The weekend we went on our road trip, I had a TON of work to catch up on. During the hours and hours we were driving, I was able to knock it all out by working remotely on my laptop. Since my laptop has the world’s worst battery life, this would have been impossible without a way to charge it, but with my handy dandy car power inverter, I was able to keep my laptop charged and in working order, regardless of where we were. While not everyone is going to have to work on their road trips, having a car inverter on hand can be useful in a ton of situations (i.e. you can charge your tablet, handheld gaming device, cell phones, fans, power tools, etc., etc. when you don’t have an electrical outlet otherwise available).
Road trip buddy: Make sure your road trip buddy has good taste in podcasts, likes to have weird, meandering conversations, and an affinity for Otis Redding and frequent photography pit stops. Sorry, there’s no Amazon link for this one (although I found mine on OkCupid, ha!).
What are your road trip essentials? Justin and I take a many long car trips and I am definitely open to expanding my trusty road trip essentials roster (which currently consists mostly of podcasts and double-fisting Monster energy drinks and Powerade Zero). Let me in on your secrets in the comments below.
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