Essentials for Hiking a 14er [or any long day hike]

This weekend Greg and I are taking a little overnight trip out to Summit County to get up bright and early to hike Quandary Peak. Quandary a 14er (if you aren’t sure what that means you can read more about it here!) in the Tenmile range and summits at 14,265′. This will be our fourth 14er (here’s recaps about our first, second and third 14ers). We are going with two other couples (including Paige and her husband!) and it will be the first 14er hike for all four of them!

There’s something really thrilling about hiking a 14er. It’s definitely challenging, but the views that you are rewarded with at the summit (and along the way!) make every single step worth it. Paige has been asking me to provide her with a list of things to bring for weeks now and I keep forgetting. Yesterday she had the brilliant suggestion to write a post about it- so that’s exactly what I’m doing! Disclaimer: I am not a hiking expert and do not claim to be. These suggestions are from 5280 magazine’s “14er issue” and my own personal experience. This list is for hikes classified levels 1-3 (not requiring ropes).


• A Day Hiking Pack I usually carry a small backpack when I go hiking around Boulder and Denver (for any hike that’s less than three hours). For longer hikes, you’ll want something large enough to carry a substantial amount of water, food, extra clothes, etc. I am partial to Osprey brand packs- they hold up well and are very thoughtfully designed. I also like that they have a female specific design that fits well around the chest.

• Water I have a hydration pack (known as a bladder) that I fill up with 3 liters of water. I sometimes also bring along an extra bottle or two just in case. Drinking water helps prevent altitude sickness and (obviously) keeps you well hydrated while you’re exerting yourself. If you’re hiking with a dog, make sure you bring water for him too!

• Food Plan to bring enough food to keep you fueled for a long hike. You’ll be burning a lot of calories along your hike, so make sure you replenish accordingly. Foods with a good combination of protein, fats and carbs are the best. Greg and I always pack a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, trail mix, apples, and beef jerky. We also always bring along a can of our favorite craft beer to enjoy at the summit.

• Layers For any 14er you’ll be starting on the trail pretty early in the morning (or sometimes in the middle of the night!) where temperatures can be pretty low. By the time you reach the summit, the temperature will most likely be a lot warmer! Convertible pants (that can zip off or fold up to become capris or shorts) are a great option. I usually wear a tank top with a long-sleeve shirt and a light jacket overtop. You’ll probably find that you end up removing and re-adding layers throughout the hike, so having a little extra room in your backpack is great!

• Good (sturdy) shoes I would definitely recommend that if you’re hiking a 14er- invest in some good hiking shoes! Wearing regular running or gym shoes is not a good idea. You’ll want something sturdy that grips easily to rocks and keeps you from slipping. Also- make sure your shoes are comfortable and will keep your feet feeling good for the duration of the hike.

• Sun Protection Living in higher elevation, wearing sunscreen is just a way of life. I quickly learned to never leave my house without it- and I live at 5,300′ elevation. The sun is much more intense at 10,000′ or 14,000′ so be liberal with the sunscreen. A hat that protects your face and neck is also a good idea (even if it looks super dorky).

• Watch Definitely keep track of the time. Thunderstorms often roll in during the early afternoon hours and it’s a good idea to summit by noon (at the latest). You definitely do not want to be caught in a thunder (and lightening) storm at 14,000′!

• Cell Phone You may not be able to get reception, but it’s a good idea to bring a phone just in case. I use mine primarily for the camera function during long hikes (and a camera is another good thing to bring along!).

• First Aid Kit It’s a good idea to at least have band-aids and antiseptic wipes- just in case. Ibuprofen is also a bonus.

• Trekking Poles They’re not essential but really help for support on the descent.

Here’s a few other items that I don’t usually bring, but are a good idea:

• Pocket Knife

• Head Lamp (if you’re starting the hike before sunrise)

• Maps

• Compass

• Matches

• Gloves

That’s all I can think of- if you have anything to add- please feel free to leave it in the comment section at the bottom!

Do you go hiking? What do you usually bring?



  1. The first time I attempted a 14er, my hiking pal and I started at about 2pm–we’d just arrived in Colorado. We couldn’t figure out why everyone was coming down the trail by that point :) We quickly learned our lesson and didn’t make it that day but went back a few days later – starting at 6am!

  2. I’m doing a 14er this weekend too! :)
    I’ve also thrown my Yaktrax in my pack for September climbs and have needed them because of the snow! Last weekend my friend was climbing Lincoln-Democrat-Bross-Cameron and her boots started coming apart–she told me this week that the guy with duck tape was her trail bff and duck tape is her new pack essential. The more I thought about it, it made great sense.
    Good luck this weekend!

  3. Chapstick!!

  4. Enjoy! Any time I am outside I’ve always got chapstick and sunglasses with me.

  5. Great list! Pinning it. And I need to buy another pack – one that doesn’t cut right across my boobs!

  6. Oh have SO much fun!!

    I’ve never done a ’14er’ per say, but I’ve hiked the alps (and overnighted there), so I think it was close to that range? It was fun, tough, and beautiful. Enjoy!

  7. I love hiking! My only 14′er was Mt. Bierstadt. Sunglasses, water/electrolyte enhanced drinks are great to get some extra calories in while hydrating. I’d love to tackle another 14′er soon! Have fun on your weekend hiking trip!

  8. All of the above, plus I never leave home without a pocketknife. The big thing I don’t see on your list there is “a buddy”. It’s more dangerous to trek alone. I also add one of those tiny emergency blankets, since a night alone and injured about 12k’ can be a bad thing.

  9. I’d definitely recommend always carrying the 10 essentials (including map/compass, headlamp, matches, a knife and a tarp/something to use as an emergency shelter: Even though we always *plan* to get off the mountain or off the trail before incliment weather and/or without injury, you’ve gotta be prepared for the worst. Getting stuck in a bad situation (waiting out a rain storm, stuck for whatever reason overnight) would be made worse by not having the gear to protect yourself! Fortunately, most of these things that you aren’t already carrying don’t weigh too much extra so it won’t bog ya down. :) Happy hiking this weekend!! Quandry has been on my ‘to do’ list since I’ve lived here!!

  10. Sorry for the novel – just want y’all to always come home safe and sound!!

  11. I am the most unprepared hiker ever apparently, but that’s okay. :) I do want to get some of these essentials!!

    • Yup- (as you know) hiking a 14er is a whole different ball game! You can definitely get lucky and not need most of the stuff you pack- but it’s much better to be safe than sorry! :)

  12. Tissue (my nose always runs with the exertion), some energy chews (Power Bar, Gatorade, Clif etc.) that can give you a quick pick-me-up if you’re crashing… My hubby suggests a small can of coke for a quick sugar fix if needed, and taking aspirin ahead of the hike to thin blood and help with altitude headaches. Spare socks, bandaids…

  13. Toilet paper and baby wipes! You never know when nature will call!

Comments are welcome (and encouraged)!