Use this warm and cold region beach hike packing guide to be better prepared for your next beach hike. Whether it’s an energy bar, drinking water, parking pass or head lamp, you’ll find it here!
Start with the 10 Essentials (from the Mountaineers.org)
- Map. A paper map is best if you don’t have cell service, a dead phone battery or lose your phone. Waterproof maps are available of diy it.
- Compass. Again, a handheld hiking version should always be carried as a backup to no cell service or a dead or lost phone. Learn how to use it prior to your trip.
- Sunglasses. If sunny, beach sand and water will be reflecting into your face all day! And reducing glare can prevent you from stepping in the wrong place or could prepare you from an incoming wave.
- Extra Clothes. In hot or cold climates, use synthetic quick drying clothing.
- Headlamp. Essential when hiking at dusk or dark or for an unplanned overnighter. Leave with full batteries and take an extra set.
- First Aid Kit. NRS has great mini kits, or make your own. Add Blister Care products. See blister care video from REI. An ACE bandage is a another addition, from personal experience.
- Firestarter. In case of wet clothes, an accidental swim or an unplanned overnighter, a quick lighting fire will save the day.
- Matches. Same as above, more quick warmth options the better.
- Knife. Use to repair gear, get out of a jam, free beach life from plastic fishing rope.
- Extra food. Extra energy bars and gels are so easy to carry there’s no excuse for not having them. Pack more than you need. Local foraging skills are also a plus! Don’t like energy bars? Make your own.
Extra Essentials to Bring
- Water. Hydration bladders are easiest to stay most hydrated. Throw an electrolyte tab to stay properly hydrated.
- Water Filtering Device. If you lose your water or need extra, don’t trust that brackish pond. Life Straw or a small pump kit will do.
- Shelter. A bivy bag packs in easy and will keep you warmer and dry during short breaks or unplanned overnighters. Some are quite light.
- Camping Pad. Get an inflatable or foam pad to sit on to keep your bum warm or more comfortable on sharp rocks. Or to add warmth under your bivy for a planned or not planned overnighter. Cut in pieces to share with friends or to save space.
- Hiking boots. Make sure to break them in before your hike.
- Super Feet or similar sports / active insoles for boot comfort.
- Sandals with a good sole for high tide wet hiking or to relax your tired feet in camp.
- Gaiters to keep sand and water out of your boots.
- Walking stick(s). Two are helpful for stability in rough areas or climbing up a steep headland.
- Day or overnight backpack. Try before you buy and pack full for short walks before your hike to make sure it’s the right one. Get a rain cover for wet regions. A waist belt is a smart choice to avoid sore shoulders.
Safety Gear – Don’t Get Lost and Stay off the News!
- Emergency Beacon like a Spot Tracker.
- Laser flare. Make sure it’s charged 100%.
- Reflector mirror. Even the mini plastic ones are super reflective.
- Whistle. Storm whistles are super loud and small.
- Phone. Make sure it’s charged and you have a charger and waterproof bag.
- VHF Radio. Ideal for areas where there’s no phone reception. Get 24hr live weather forecasts, use it like a 2-way radio with friends or call the Coast Guard (Channel 16) who will call local authorities if not on the coast. Standard Horizon and ICOM have lightweight hand-held waterproof units. Tether to your pack. Double for use in paddling.
- Solar phone charger
- Waterproof case, soft or hard.
- Shock proof protective case for drops.
- Check out this water bottle solar charger!
Cold or Cooler Weather
- Sunglasses retention strap
- Wide brimmed hat for sun breaks
- Toasty warm hat for cold days. Get a polar-tech, poly pro or wind proofed hat.
- Down or synthetic insulated puffy coat. A hood works wonders.
- Fleece jacket to wear alone or under your puffy.
- Rain shell jacket to keep your down coat dry or for lighter days to wear over your fleece. Get a bright color to be seen easier.
- Neck gaiter if you get cold.
- Rain hat if you’re expecting heavy rain.
- Synthetic long underwear to wear under shorts or rain pants. Essential for cold days or nights.
- Rain pants. Essential for wet areas or with that chilly coastal layer that sets in at night. Also cuts wind.
- Fleece or similar gloves. Get a pair with some grip.
- Poncho. A great old school alternative to the rain shell. Can also go over your backpack, or to keep your gear dry when taking breaks.
Warm Weather or Season List
- UV protected synthetic clothing. Covering up is often smarter than adding a ton of sunblock.
- Wide brimmed hat
- Sunglasses retention strap
- Add to First-Aid kit treatments for reef cuts and/or bug bite remedies.
- Rain shell or poncho
- Light fleece or synthetic warm jacket or shirts. The tropics can get chilly.
Permits, Parking and Such
- Parking fee cash or pre-paid Discovery Pass
- Recreation Permits – Check-in at Oly NP for coastal hikes.
- Tide Chart. Use for hiking in coastal and inland waterway beaches. NOAA has a great app as does Tides Planner. Get the mini tide packable book from Evergreen Publishing.
- Driving map (paper) in case your phone can’t get reception.
- Waterproofed wallet on tether in your pack.
- Have a good hide-a-key plan. And backup key.
- Road & Trail Status. Check with the park and regional roadway website to be aware of any trail or road closures. In WA, WSDOT is best for road alerts. Olympic National Park has updated trail and park road status info. Also orgs like WA Trails Association can be helpful here.
Weather Apps & Sites
- Wind Alert – Get live wind data anytime and forecasts.
- SailFlow – Same as WindAlert, different interface.
- NOAA Marine Weather
- Windy – Watch wind flow through the region, cool app.
- Accuweather App– Not a pro outdoorsy app, but I use it!
- Google Maps and Google Weather
- Shoreline Photo Viewer – Dept of Ecology site. Shows every inch of coastal and inland shoreline in WA for several time periods. Fun to browse!
Hiking Guides –
Walking the Beach to Bellingham – Harvey Manning (Mountaineers Books) Out of Print. *My all time favorite Puget Sound beach hiking guide:
Day Hiking the Olympic Peninsula – Craig Romano, Mountaineers Books.
Day Hike! Olympic Peninsula – Seabury Blair – Sasquatch Books
Urban Trails Kitsap County – Craig Romano, Mountaineers Books
Day Hiking the San Juan Islands – Craig Romano, Mountaineers Books
Afoot and Afloat Series by Marge and Ted Mueller – Mountaineers Books (Covers Puget Sound, San Juans, Strait of Juan de Fuca, etc..)
Coming Soon: Backpacking Packing Guide for Beach Camping.