Hiking in the Okanagan Valley, especially during the summer, can be a great experience for people of all ages. Our dry, semi-desert climate allows for lots of outdoor adventure, with very little chance of rain during the summer months. The semi-desert ecosystems are also a pleasure to explore, but they can also be dangerous if an explorer is ill-equipped.
Depending on what type of hiking you're looking at doing, whether it be day trips, hour walks, or multi-day tours, footwear is probably going to be your biggest advantage, or your worst nightmare. The first step to choosing proper footwear for a hike is to determine how long you'll be hiking for, and what kind of terrain you'll be travelling through. Because our climate is mostly dry during the summer time, and the mountains around Westbank area are sometimes rocky, a medium-weight hiking boot is recommended for most day-long, or multi-day trips. Before any major hiking trips, it is recommended you break in your boots for at least 30 kilometers to work out any 'hotspots'. Blisters and sore feet are a hiker's worst enemy, so taking measures to avoid them are a good idea.
For a hike that only lasts a few hours, say if you're looking at hiking along the Kettle Valley Railway Trestles, a light runner or light hiking boot is appropriate, as those trails are level, often used, and great for mountain bikes. Properly insulating your shoes with the right socks, usually done in two layers (a wicking layer and a warmth layer), can greatly reduce the friction on your foot, and helps to prevent blisters. When buying hiking boots, its good to look for something leather, or with some sort of water-proof coating, as this cuts back on the amount of waterproofing you'll have to do later.
When it comes to hiking all year round, layering your clothes is any hiker's key to success. Start close to the skin with a wicking layer (a layer of clothing that draws sweat away from the body) like polypropelene, which will help keep you dry and cool. Don't put cotton right against the skin, as it holds sweat close, and that can begin to chafe (especially under backpack straps!). After the wicking layer comes your basic t-shirt. This can be cotton, which is light and breathable. For colder weather, add another layer like fleece for warmth, and a water-proof outer-shell if it looks like it's going to rain.
As far as pants goes, the long-leg zip-offs are brilliant for hikers, because the pants can shorten to shorts in a flash. Make sure to travel in something light and compact, especially for multi-day trips, because you'll likely have to stow the zip-offs at some point. Hiking in jeans isn't advisable, because they don't dry quickly, and are fairly stiff, not to mention HEAVY!
Socks and shoes are key, refer to the footwear tip in this section for more details!
Hats: shading your head, especially on hot days, is extremely important, even if you're travelling through a heavily forested area. Sunstroke is caused by overheating, so be sure to keep cool with lots of water. A great way to keep your head cool is to soak a bandana or some sort of cloth and line your hat with it. Use a hat with a wide brim all the way around in order to keep the sun off the back of your neck as well as your face, this will prevent burns.
Block: Make sure you slap on the sunscreen, especially here in the Okanagan where the days are long, hot, and the sun is high overhead. Sunburn isn't fun, and while you're sweating and drinking lots of water to keep cool, it may be hard to notice sunburn on your arms or legs until it's too late.
When going out on multi-day trips, or even day-long trips, carrying a compass and map is a good idea. Know the terrain you're getting into a head of time, so there won't be any nasty surprises along the way. If you don't know how to use a compass, take an orienteering course at your local outfitter's store, or travel with someone who knows. Always use some sort of backpack, beltpack, or (yes) fannypack to carry things in. If you're going on a multi-day trip, make sure things like snacks, compass, waterbottle, and repair kits are quickly and easily accessible. It's a good idea to carry several waterbottles on longer trips and refill constantly. The important thing while hiking is to keep your hands free, just in case you trip (it happens to the best of us).