The Okanagan offers countless hikes in and around the valley that could keep you entertained forever. However, it's important to remember that the Okanagan is a desert and presents unique challenges when hiking in the summer's sweltering heat. To really enjoy everything the beautiful valley has to offer, we've created a unique Okanagan hiking list that'll keep you both safe and happy.
There are also certain essentials you should always bring hiking, even on a day hike. While I haven’t gone into detail on those in this post, you should always make sure to bring those as well. I'll be delving deeper into what you should always bring in a later post.
1. Water, water & more water
Water is the first on our list for a reason and we can't stress it enough. In the summer the temperatures in the Okanagan often reach above 35 °C (95 °F) and dehydration is a real concern. The heat in the Okanagan is very dry and, at the peak of summer, the sun is out for over 16 hours. Without proper hydration, heat stroke is a very real possibility.
We're huge believers of reusable bottles. Not only are they environmentally friendly, the plastic doesn't leach into your water from the heat.
We love our S'well bottles because they keep our water ice-cold even when in direct sunlight. I can't count the number of times we've left our S'well bottles baking in the car only to enjoy ice cold water from it. They're a little expensive but totally worth it.
We don't usually bring this hiking with us because they can be a little cumbersome, but there's nothing better than coming back to a hot car with ice cold water waiting inside.
Hydration packs are my favourite way to bring water on any hiking adventure. I find I stay way more hydrated when I use a hydration pack instead of a water bottle because I have easy access to water the entire time. We also always fill up multiple hydration packs with ice cubes before heading out which helps keep the water cold and the plastic from heating up. Hydration packs are a lifesaver while hiking — you can carry lots of water and easily access it at every moment.
You'll want to bring as much water as possible on your hike, especially in the summer. Make sure to stay hydrated out there!
Use sunscreen! If you think you've used enough, put more on. I'm serious.
The sun is scorching and is just waiting to bite your exposed skin here in the desert of the Okanagan. A sunburn is a surefire way ruin your day, not to mention increase your risk of skin cancer. Make sure to reapply your sunscreen periodically to replenish what's been sweated off.
3. Watch the weather
Most summer days here in the Okanagan are sunny and hot! We don't get much rain and storms don't often roll in. However, with the heat come dangerously dry conditions and forest fires. And with the fires come smoke.
This last summer saw some of the worst smoke we've ever experienced here in the Okanagan. We were literally confined to our homes because ash fell from the sky. If you happen to be in the Okanagan during such extreme fires, don't go on a hike. The ash gets into your lungs and can damage your body. Play it safe and stay indoors.
We always make sure to pack a brimmed hat when we’re hiking in the hot Okanagan heat. Not only does it keep the bright sun out of our eyes, it helps keep us from overheating. When we start to feel too hot we simply drench it in water — it's like a breath of fresh air! Your hat will also keep your head out of direct sunlight which stops your face and scalp from getting sunburnt.
This one might seem a little unorthodox, but the number of times I've been thankful for tweezers while hiking is innumerable.
If you're planning on doing more than pulling off the highway for a 50-foot walk to a viewpoint, you'll want to bring a pair of tweezers. It's easy to get a sliver while climbing a wooden staircase or exploring the forest. What's not easy is getting that sliver out. You don't want to be digging it out with a sharp rock (been there, it's not fun).
The Okanagan is also a hotspot for ticks in the summer and there are many areas where it's easy to pick them up. It's essential to remove them right away, so many sure to pack your tweezers.
Hiking in the sweltering heat can really wear you down. Make sure to bring healthy snacks like peas, granola bars, and nutty cookies to refresh you; it's also a great excuse to take a break in the shade. Try our delicious Coconut Hemp Protein Bars — they're yummy, healthy, and very filling.
Don't bring things like sandwiches or wraps as they often go soggy in the heat. If you bring fruit, make sure to put it in containers so that it doesn't get squished.
7. Safety equipment
There are lots of wild animals in the Okanagan. From deer and big-horned sheep to bears and cougars, you could run into an animal anywhere, even in downtown areas. While most people don't ever see a large animal while they’re hiking, it's important to be prepared if you do. Besides knowing bear safety, always carry bear spray and a knife.
No matter where you explore, it's important to pack first aid equipment. With so many natural places to explore on your own in the Okanagan, the possibility of twisting an ankle, developing a blister, or worse is very real. The one time I didn't carry a first aid kit we needed it! My feet swelled up and almost started to bleed — a simple bandage would have made a world of a difference on that adventure. Do yourself a favour and carry a small first aid kit on every hike.
If you follow this Okanagan hiking packing list, you're sure to have a great time out there in the hot sun! Happy exploring!
This Okanagan hiking packing list will keep you safe while you explore the Okanagan. If you're looking for fun places to explore, make sure to check out our Okanagan Bucket List! It features adventures from all around the valley.