Gear We Used to Hike to Half Dome

half dome subdomeBy Heather

Much of the hiking gear I own now was mostly purchased in anticipation of hiking to Half Dome and beyond that.

Here’s a roundup of the stuff that helped us get to the top!


Clif bars. This was my first hiking venture eating Clif bars instead of my usual Kind bars, and I’m glad I switched. Kind bars are really tasty, but I found myself wanting a snack every hour, especially on tougher hikes. Clif bars are much more nutritionally dense, but a little bit gritty. They gave me so much more energy and I didn’t need to stop to snack as much.

Jolly Ranchers. Any flavor but grape! I had often heard that hard candies of any kind come in handy when you’re getting tired and really need to focus and push, and it’s true. Bring your favorite kind!

PowerAde Zero. I drink PowerAde primarily for the potassium to prevent cramps, but also because it’s yummy. It keeps me more motivated to drink and stay hydrated.


Hiking, especially in high elevations, requires lots of layering. Depending on your elevation gain and start time, you may see several big temperature changes.

Workout top. My first layer was one of the tops I wear for working out at the gym, since they’re built to wick moisture and they’re really comfortable when it’s hot out.

Base layer. The base layer I wore was an Everlast top that I found at Kmart. It was cheap, but it totally works. It keeps me warm, dries quickly and has thumb holes to keep my hands covered.

Vest. I wore my Land’s End down vest for some extra warmth for the start of the hike, since going up the Mist Trail gets a little wet and gusty. The vest kept me warm enough that I didn’t need any other layers.

Pants. I love my Danskin capris, which I found at Wal-Mart of all places. They’re cheaper there on Amazon, too!

Hiking boots. I wore the Keen Targhee II Waterproof Hiking Boot, and they were wonderful in every way. Comfortable, totally dry, great grip while going up the cables. I love them!

Insoles. I have plantar fasciitis that flares up from time to time. A friend suggested that I toss the insoles that come with hiking shoes and get nice new ones to help prevent plantars from bothering me on the trail. I found Sofsoles at Sports Authority (their foot measuring thing told me I have a neutral arch, which was a surprise – I would have guessed high). They’re noticeably better and more comfortable than the Keen insoles!

Hiking socks. I wore my trusty Thorlos. They’re really thick, comfortable and great at preventing blisters. The money they cost is well worth it. Between the shoes, insoles and hiking socks, my feet were just a little sore when we got back to the village. You really don’t want to cheap out when it comes to your feet.

Water bottles. My water bottles were four 1-liter collapsible water bottles. They have their pros and cons. The pro is that they save space; the con is that they’re difficult to dry out. But I still love mine and plan to keep using them until they become disgusting.

Water filter. We never ran out of water, so I didn’t have an occasion to put the water filter to use. Maybe there will be an opportunity on Mt. Whitney!

Hiking poles. My hiking poles were my trusty Cascade Mountain Tech poles. I’m really, really happy with them. They’ve gone with me on many hikes at this point and have never been a letdown.

GlovesI used rubberized fishing gloves for the cables. They’re cheap and effective and you can’t go wrong with them.


Aside from the usual survival things you need (first-aid kit, emergency blanket, etc.), I’ll highlight two that are important on this hike:

Whistle. It sure came in handy when we had to scare off that coyote that was following us. Yikes! I already loved this whistle, though, because it also has a compass and a thermometer. Handy.

Poncho. I didn’t have to use mine, but it’s a good idea to bring a poncho for the Mist Trail section of the hike. We didn’t get soaked, but it may have been because the falls weren’t at full strength.

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