Fall is such a great time to go hiking in Tahoe. The mornings are crisp, the afternoons are sunny, the air is (hopefully) clear of wildfire smoke, and the trails are less crowded. Most of the fall hikes in the Tahoe area can be done with pretty simple gear – basically hiking clothes and the ten essentials. While hiking clothes and equipment can be really expensive, they don’t have to be. Below, I share some of my favorite gear at a variety of price points.
The temperature can swing pretty wildly throughout the day, so having layers is critical. In the fall, I usually wear a sweat wicking, tech tee – either a Patagonia Capilene Cool Daily ($45) or the REI Coop Shift which goes on sale frequently. I think I paid less that $20 for mine. Next up is a long sleeved, light layer. Since last summer, I’ve been all about sunshirts for this layer. I love not having to re-apply sunscreen on long hikes! I have the Patagonia Tropic Comfort Hoody ($69). I love the slim fit, back zipper pocket, and the hood that adds even more sun protection. For a cheaper option, I also have the REI Coop Sahara Button Down (currently on sale for $36). I actually bought the men’s version for extra length (I’m 5’11”), and I am very sad that they didn’t have the plaid options when I got mine! We don’t tend to have a lot of rain in the fall here, so I usually skip a raincoat in favor of a slightly water resistant windshirt. I bring my Patagonia Houdini ($99) basically everywhere. Right now seems like a great time to buy a wind breaker – there are a ton of options on sale at REI right now. This Ultimate Direction Breeze Shell for $31 seems like an amazing deal! For early morning, evening, and late fall hikes, I also add a vest. I have a Marmot down vest that’s a few years old – the Women’s Highlander ($123) seems to be the current version. If you don’t want down, they have a synthetic Women’s Featherless Avant ($105). REI Coop also has a down vest, currently on sale for $56.
My bottom layers tend to be way more simple! If the temperature is above 45 degrees, I wear shorts. I usually stick to running or athletic shorts – I’m not sure if I even own “hiking” shorts anymore. I alternate between the REI Coop Active Pursuits 4.5” ($40). They frequently go on sale, and I think I paid around $15 each for mine. This summer, I bought long spandex shorts for yoga, and I discovered how much I love hiking in them. I bought this 90 Degrees two pack ($40), and they’ve held up really well. I like the high waist to reduce rubbing from a backpack, and the legs are tight enough that they don’t roll up, but don’t dig in. On colder days, I wear leggings, usually cheap ones like these CRZ Yoga Naked Feeling Leggings ($24), so I don’t feel too bad about snagging them on a bush or scraping on a rock. These ones have held up really well for the price, though!
I exclusively hike in my trail runners at this point, even in pretty rocky terrain. My current favorite is the Salomon X-Mission 3. It fits my duck feet (wide forefoot, narrow heel) really well, and I have been very impressed with how well they’ve held up over the years. They’re currently on sale for $86 from Salomon, and you can find them even cheaper in limited sizes on Amazon and at REI. The other trail runners I’ve had and liked were the Saucony Peregrine ($120). They were comfortable and stable, but they wore out faster than my current Salomons. The Saucony Peregrines are also on Amazon for as low as $72.
Since I want somewhere to stash my layers and need a way to carry my safety gear, I need some sort of pack. If I’m planning on a shorter hike or doing any trail running, I use the Ultimate Direction Race Vesta. I have version 4.0, which is on sale on Amazon ($70) and REI ($87). This is an incredible deal, and the 4.0 version is awesome. In fact, when I bought mine from Tahoe Mountain Sports, the woman helping me said she preferred the 4.0 over the 5.0 that was about to come out, because of the additional pockets in the 4.0. The Ultimate Direction Vesta 5.0 ($139) is available now, too. For a longer day hike where I want more food and water, I repurpose my mountain biking hydration pack, a five year old Camelbak Solstice ($135).
I haven’t always been the best about carrying the ten essentials on familiar day hikes, but something unexpected could happen anywhere. For navigation, I tend to rely on my iPhone and the Trailforks app. There are some GPS tracking watches that have route uploading capacities and navigation aids. Greyson has an older version of the Garmin fenix ($690), but we haven’t really figured out how to use that feature very well. For sun protection, I ALWAYS have sunglasses with me. I’m hard on my sunglasses, so I like ones that aren’t too expensive but can handle some abuse. For warm weather hiking, I love the Goodr OGs ($25) because they have a non-slip pad on the bridge of the nose. For sunscreen, I stick to the ones with physical blockers like thinksport ($9).
I have a small first aid kit like this Adventure Medical Kits Ultralight one. Be sure to check in on it every six months or so. More than once, I’ve discovered that the band aids are gone when I really need one! In addition to the water I carry, I also have a Lifestraw ($15) for emergencies. Also in the category of things I hope that I don’t have to use, I have a lighter and matches, a space blanket ($5), and a Petzl Tikkina headlamp ($20).
Later this week, I’ll share some of my favorite fall hikes to do in the Tahoe-Truckee area, so be sure to check back! Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I receive a small percentage of the sale as compensation – at no additional cost to you. I promise to only recommend products that I use and enjoy!