4 Pieces of Essential New England Hiking Gear for Fall
Don’t go peeping without it.
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As a relative newcomer to New England, my first leaf-peeping season blew me away. For a former Pacific Northwesterner, the colors are jaw-dropping—except for a few glorious stands of golden larches in Washington State, there’s precious little autumnal color in the evergreen Pacific Northwest, where I spent the last decade. But fall in northern New England requires its own specialized kit to stay safe, dry, and stable on your journey to take in all the sugar maples and quaking aspen you can handle.
Mud is a springtime inevitability in New England. What no one tells you is that fall is also mud season. Blustery season-changing storms mean slick rocks and tree roots, deep muck, and saturated ferns. My usual breathable trail-runners aren’t up to the task. The Keen NXIS EVO Mid WP, however, does a great job of keeping water from soaking my feet thanks to a waterproof-breathable membrane and airy synthetic upper, while grippy, 4mm lugs keep me from slipping and sliding. Bonus: it felt great right out of the box.
Blaze Orange Apparel
October and November are deer and turkey hunting season in Vermont, my new home state, as is immediately apparent thanks to the constant sound of gunfire. Hunting is a major sport for Vermonters, and most of the state’s lands are open to it. The best way to stay safe? Wear some blaze orange. Any old orange hat or beanie will do, but we like the Flexfit Delta Cap from Kuiu, which wicks sweat away from the forehead and sheds light-to-moderate precipitation. If you’re really concerned about staying visible, the brand also makes this Precision Hunter Vest, which has great stretch and adjustable magnetic buckles.
A Packable Windbreaker
Blustery fall days are a given in places like Vermont. Even in sunny, mild weather, I bring a backup layer. The Black Diamond Alpine Start Hoody, which packs into its own chest pocket and weighs a scant 7.4 ounces, is one of the lightest, most breathable softshells I’ve ever worn. It still manages to hold up to bushwacking and overgrown trails without scrapes or tears. Most importantly, it’s a surprisingly impermeable barrier in heavy wind, and holds well in unexpected downpours thanks to a PFC-free Ecorepel Bio finish.
Contrary to popular belief, Lyme disease-carrying deer ticks do not die off in colder weather; in fact, they stay active throughout the fall in New England. Apart from wearing light-colored clothing and performing tick checks after hikes, the best line of defense is to spray your apparel with permethrin, an insecticide that kills biting creepy-crawlies on contact. Sawyer’s 24 oz. spray bottle can saturate four sets of clothing, and lasts 6 washings or 6 weeks before it needs to be re-treated.