View of alpine lakes and mt. rainierWe live in a state that is known for beautiful forests, mountains, and coastlines. We also have a wonderful public trail system that allows all of us to enjoy that beauty.

While there is definitely a lot of pricey gear, you don’t have to spend a lot of money to hike safely. Preparing for a hike is more about information than about fancy boots or high-tech backpacks.

Here’s how to enjoy the outdoors safely and on a budget:

  • Find a partner: It’s a good idea to hike with someone else in case one of you gets hurt.
  • Check the weather: Call the local ranger station to ask about weather conditions during your hike.
  • Choose a hike: Pick a trail that is right for you. Washington Trails Association can help you find trails that are beginner level, good for kids, ADA accessible, and more.
  • Do you need a pass? Some trails ask people to buy a pass to park their car at the start of the trail. See if your hike needs a pass. The most common day pass is the Discover Pass, and it costs $10. Libraries in Spokane County and Mt. Vernon lend out Discover Passes at no charge. Some popular trails can be accessed by shuttle or bus. You can also hike on a Free Day when no passes are required.
  • Bring your essentials. The Mountaineers recommend a list of items for day hikers to protect them in case they have to stay outside longer than expected. Many of these items can be found at Goodwill, Army Navy Surplus, or on deep discount online.
  • Dress for the hike. You don’t need a lot of expensive clothing, but there are some things to keep in mind. Most beginner hikes can be done in sneakers and thick socks. Dress in layers and choose athletic clothing. Avoid cotton. Cotton clothes, like jeans, get heavy and cold when wet. Synthetic clothing will dry quickly, and wool stays warm when wet.
  • Tell someone where you plan to hike and when you plan to be back. Make sure they know when to call Search and Rescue.