With spring finally here, are you ready to explore the great outdoors, but don’t know which items you should take on a hike? Whether you're gearing up for your first day hike or you're veteran explorer, there are several essential items I always recommend having before wandering off into the great outdoors. While climate, length of the trip, and activities will dictate the specific gear you will want to have with you, these basics will help keep you safe, and make your trip something that is looked at with fondness as opposed to regret. After all, the memories of your hiking trip should be of great views, overcoming physical challenges, and bonding with the people hiking with you…not of the severe dehydration you suffered from not packing enough water. That said, here's my short list of the items you should take on a hike.
Water is the number one item on my list of essential items you should take on a hike. Research how long your hike is, it’s difficulty, and the weather for the day to calculate how much water you need to pack with you. The worst thing I see with inexperienced hikers is dehydration due to them packing an inefficient water supply. A fresh, safe water supply is not guaranteed in most places so always pack more than you think you will need. A water filter is a good emergency option, but should not be your choice for a primary source of water.
I cannot stress good footwear enough. Please no flip flops, or low tread shoes for hiking! Chose well-fitting shoes with a high tread and proper ankle support. Be sure to break them in long before your first serious hike. The last thing you want is brand new shoes giving you blisters that you will have to suffer through during hours of hiking.
Just like water, you are usually limited to the food you bring so pack smart! Pack foods that are high in nutrients and will give you sustainable energy like dried fruits, dried meats, nuts, and protein bars. The goal is something that eaten easily on the go, that is non-perishable, and doesn't weigh you down. It is best to get your body accustomed to these type of food prior to the hike, otherwise you can face some not so pleasant bathroom surprises come the day of your hike.
Layering clothing is essential to keeping yourself protected from the elements as you hike. Weather can change suddenly in certain terrains so make sure you look up your area’s weather forecast and plan accordingly. Avoid cotton clothes as they tend to hold on to body’s sweat and instead opt for fabric that wick away moisture. A tank top under a light weight long-sleeved shirt and lightweight jacket are my staples for hiking in temperate climates. This allows me to adjust as needed as the day warms up or cools down.
You may not realize the extent of the damage done until you get home, but spending a day hiking without sun protection can be one mistake you will not likely make more than once. Be sure to pack and use a sweat proof broad spectrum sunscreen of at least 15SPF, preferably 30SPF, on both your face and body. Get extra protection by wearing a hat and sunglasses. Utilize lightweight layers if the weather permits.
Don’t count on your GPS device to work everywhere you hike. Be prepared for the worst by familiarizing yourself with reading manual maps and using a compass prior to hiking in new areas. Take both the printed map of the surrounding areas you will be hiking in and a compass so that if you do get lost you can navigate your way back. If hiking all day be sure to bring a flashlight or head lamp to help navigate trails safely in the dark.
Many outdoor store sell pre-made emergency kits, but you can also make your own to take with you on hikes. Be sure to include matches or a flint as a way to start fires. You will also want to include basic medical supplies such as bandages, sterilizing agent for wounds, an antihistamine, and a pain reliever/ fever reducer. A space blanket is another small but useful item to pack if making your own emergency kit.
While there are many other items that you can and should take with you on hikes, these are the seven basics that I always make sure are with me before venturing into the great outdoors. How many of these items do you take with you already? Do you have any basic hiking favorites that didn't make the list? Share in the comments section!
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