Gear Guide: 7 Hiking Essentials for St. Mary Peak Trail
Dagmara Mach weighs in on the best gear for a proper hike in Montana's Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness. Pack up and head out to St. Mary Peak!
You are entering the 1.3-million acre Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness—a 70-million-year-old alpine oasis that has remained relatively unchanged since the earliest humans to inhabit this area first laid eyes on it. Once a place where only the brave few ventured in pursuit of vision quests, St. Mary Peak is now accessible to any able hiker with a thirst for historic geology and breathtaking views. Grizzly bears are thought to lurk deep within the wilderness and black bears certainly frequent the region. Mountain lions and wolf packs are also known to run amok, so bring your friends and a solid dog pack.
Thoughtful preparation is the key.
Here are 7 essentials to prepare you for hiking St. Mary Peak in the Bitterroot Mountain Range:
The tower of your body is only as strong as its foundation, so begin with your socks and select wisely. Made to provide added arch support while featuring quick-drying synthetic fibers, Stance Fusion socks will keep your feet happy and dry for miles of switchbacks, scrambles, and ascents.
These hiking boots offer the best of both worlds. Not only do they keep water on the outside from coming in, but they allow sweat vapor to escape from the inside out. Nobody likes hiking in a pool of sweat.
These pants are engineered with GORE-TEX PACLITE® Product Technology and are a lightweight addition to any mountain hike. Montana’s alpine weather conditions shift rapidly, so it’s always important to bring weatherproof options.
With weather frequently changing from sun to clouds and back again, as well as the occasional sweeping winds you’ll want your sunglasses easily accessible in a place where they won’t get broken. Use sunglass retainers to keep them safely around your neck. Cloth retainers typically get dirty on their first run, but the made in Montana Flyvines, comprised solely of recycled fly line accessories are both durable and easily cleaned.
The lightly padded and hydration compatible Flash 18 pack has really evolved from when I first picked one up at an REI Garage Sale. Though the older models were great, the technology is constantly improving. Frameless, comfortable and weighing in at only 10 ounces, this ultralight 18-liter backpack is perfect for short hikes and everyday use.
After years of absent-mindedly melting chocolate bars deep into the crevices of my backpack, I finally discovered clean, delectable chocolates in a waterproof pouch. Sustainably sourced from organic growers in South America, and processed by swiss chocolatiers, these bags of deliciousness are ultimately imbued with energy-boosting nuts, berries, and herbs, by Chonanga Chocolate in Colorado. Google searches for “how to remove chocolate from fabric” are a thing of the past. For extra fun, bring pretzels or a baguette. Then, when the sun leaves your chocolate gooey, you’ll have a luscious batch of dark chocolate fondue for dipping. Bon appétit.
The views at St. Mary’s lookout are magnificent and easy to get lost in. If you’re off to a late start it’s easy to catch darkness on the way down. You’ll be happy to have one of these stashed away in your day pack. This headlamp, in particular, has a night vision that won’t prevent your eyes from adapting to the darkness.
Your rain jacket is essential to both keeping you dry in torrential downpours and com Montana’s sometimes-blasting wind speeds. Exposed to gales and frigid temperatures atop St. Mary Peak summit, you’ll be stoked to have your expertly engineered Norrøna freeride ski shell jacket. From powder slopes to spring hikes in the alpine, your versatile, lightweight and breathable Lofoten shell will keep you dry and protected from whatever the elements may throw your way.
Ready to Hike St. Mary Peak?
Be at the ready as you enter the ancestral lands of the Bitterroot Salish, a tribe of the Flathead Nation. You’re hiking to the 9,351-foot granite pinnacle of one of their most sacred peaks. Winding up the eastern slope through lodgepole pine lined switchbacks and whitebark pine tree forest near treeline, you’ll be glad you brought extra layers!