Gear Guide: 6 Hiking Essentials for Headquarters Pass Trail
Ready to take a hike into the Montana backcountry? Make sure you pack all the appropriate hiking essentials for a solid trip!
We all have different life experiences and hike for different motivations. Regardless, one thing always remains the same: preparation is the key to both having fun and staying safe during a hike. This is particularly true for the untamed Bob Marshall Wilderness which is also home to an array of predators. Hikers in this region must be versed in basic survival skills, preparation for variable weather conditions, and must maintain careful vigilance. When selecting clothing, follow the adage “cotton kills.” Opt instead for merino wool or synthetic fibers that are capable of keeping you warm and dry under alpine conditions.
Here are 6 essentials to prepare you for hiking Headquarters Pass Trail in northwest Montana:
As our foundation, feet create the base on which we hike, and should be cared for accordingly. Happy feet make for happy hiking. So, start with the socks and carefully consider the expected weather conditions. Experiencing snow or frigid conditions in areas of the Bob Marshall is to be expected even in summer, so if you get easily cold as I do, select a midweight sock. Remember to avoid cotton, so your feet don’t get frostbite. SmartWool’s medium cushion socks with elasticized arch bracing are comprised of 68 percent merino wool, 31 percent nylon, and 1 percent elastane. They will keep your feet warm, dry, supported, and going for miles.
Hiking shoes need to keep your feet warm, protected, comfortable, and blister free. Wet feet are cold feet, and should be avoided in alpine conditions for a variety of reasons including blisters, chafing, and frostbite. GORE-TEX SURROUND® footwear is engineered to be breathable and durably waterproof, allowing them to let sweat out without letting water in. This 360-degree breathability helps your feet stay dry, even as you sweat. Built to cradle your foot when you walk, the sole is rigid and supportive, while still offering a decent amount of flexibility. Lightweight and comfortable, the Mammut Comfort Low GTX SURROUND® Shoe is perfect for summer adventures in Montana.
Your shell is essential for both keeping you dry in torrential downpours and helping you stay warm in Montana’s sometimes-blasting wind speeds. Look for something lightweight that is easily packable and provides your body with plenty of mobility. Marmot’s Minimalist Rain Jacket with GORE-TEX PACLITE® product technology delivering ultra-light, breathable, waterproofness, and wind protection.
Carry a daypack containing everything you need to take care of yourself in a worst-case scenario. Pack food, water, waterproof matches, a bandana, an emergency medical kit, a hat, gloves, a waterproof shell, a headlamp, a topographic map, a compass, sunscreen, an extra base layer, and in the event of longer or sketchier hikes, bring a space blanket to keep you alive if you break your ankle in a scree field. The lightweight and supportive Osprey Talon 22 Pack has everything you need for a comfortable day hike.
Feed yourself well. I typically opt for protein bars without too much sugar, like Bricks Bars. These pastured meat, fruit, veggie, and seed bars resemble the old-fashioned pemmican consumed by Montana’s earliest explorers. Full of muscle-repairing essential amino acids, micronutrients, and omega-3 fatty acids, Bricks Bars are best paired with live enzymes in the form of an apple or orange. Be sure to keep your meat bars to yourself, however, because a fed bear is a dead bear. Avoid feeding frolicking grizzly cubs, mountain goats, or other critters upon which you may stumble. Teaching wild creatures to associate humans with food puts both us and the animal in danger.
We live, work, and play in a land still inhabited by wolves, grizzlies, and mountain lions. Be predator aware, never hike alone, familiarize yourself with safety precautions for wild animal encounters, and make lots of noise. Though dogs will generally scare away black bears, always carry and know how to use bear spray when hiking in areas known to contain grizzly populations. While an effective choice for experienced shooters, a gun is typically not recommended in defense against grizzly bears, as they are massive, known to close in quickly and can be largely impenetrable in moments of extreme danger. A gun, however, can be an effective tool for scaring away wolf packs or a mountain lion.
Ready to Hike Headquarters Pass?
You are entering the world’s most pristine mountain ecosystem. For an optimal experience inside of the Bob Marshall Wilderness complex:
- pack lightly
- wear comfortable hiking shoes
- always bring a shell
- carry a headlamp
- keep candles and survival supplies in your car
- make plenty of noise when hiking
- don’t forget food and water
- avoid cotton like the plague
Phew, that was a mouthful, but I wouldn’t send you into the Bob without exhausting these tips. Remember, more than 1,700 miles of trails are marked throughout the Bob, but wandering its untamed lands can easily lead to confusion, especially with snowfall. To avoid getting lost, be sure to carry a map, look out for cairns, use a compass, and orient yourself regularly. Most importantly, don’t forget to always assess your environment for potential worst case scenarios and have a plan for tackling them. Happy trails!
To read more about Dagmara’s love of the hiking the Bob Marshall Wilderness, check out her feature!