What better way to spend a summer day than exploring nature? But before you hit the trails, think carefully about all those little essentials you’ll need to take. Hiking boots are an obvious one, but depending on how far you’ll be hiking, the remoteness of the area, and the type of weather you have in store, there are a few other things you really won’t want to be without. Get your hike off to the best possible start with these top ten hiking essentials.
1. A Hiking Backpack
Unless you have big hands and even bigger pockets, you’re going to want something to store all those hiking essentials in. A backpack that’s large enough to store all you need, without being so cumbersome or heavy as to load you down, should be on every hiker’s “must-have” list. Make sure your goods don’t end up soggy or mildewed by looking for a bag made from a sturdy, waterproof material like Ripstop nylon or Cordura.
2. Navigation Equipment
If you’re heading into unexplored territory, don’t rely on your sense of direction to get you through. A compass and a map are essential – although you might want to brush up on how to use them before heading off, particularly if it’s been a while since you last used either one. GPS devices and phone apps also make great traveling companions, but consider them more as a complement to a map and a compass than a replacement – devices that run on batteries have a terrible habit of dying just when you need them most.
3. Sun Protection
Unless you want to return from your trip with more than just a rosy glow, don’t forget to pack sun protection. Keep chapped, burned skin at bay with a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, and a high SPF sun cream.
4. First Aid Supplies
Try as you might to avoid them, accidents can and do happen. Forewarned is forearmed – invest in a pre-packaged first aid kit for a lightweight solution to those little emergencies.
5. Food and Water
If you’re heading on a short, easy hike, you’ll not need to take much more than water. If, on the other hand, you’re planning on a lengthy hike in a remote location, packing plenty of grub is going to be vital. Most hikers prefer calorie-dense, lightweight options like jerky, trail mix, and protein bars that won’t take up much space in a bag, nor go stale in the heat. Peanut butter sandwiches and bananas also make good options.
If you’re planning on a multi-day hike, you’re sure to already have some form of shelter in your backpack. If you’re preparing for a shorter trip, plan on taking something that’ll serve as an emergency shelter in case the hike takes an unexpected turn. Weather conditions can change dramatically (and often without warning), as can plans – protect yourself from the elements by bringing alone a lightweight blanket or bivy. Neither one will take up much space in your backpack but in times of trouble, they can be life-saving.
7. Appropriate Clothing
Even if the sun’s shining, don’t think you can get through a hiking trip in just a t-shirt and shorts. Look for multi-purpose clothes in breathable materials that can be adapted to suit any number of different terrains and weather conditions – and always, always think in layers.
8. A Multi-Tool Knife
A multi-tool knife will get you through many a tight spot, letting you cut through undergrowth, open cans (assuming you’re on a multi-day hike and living on more than jerky or bananas), cut bandages in case of an accident, and even help you construct an emergency shelter if the need arises.
9. Hiking Footwear
Proper footwear is a must, even on a short hike. Forget what’s fashionable and look for a well-fitting, comfortable shoe or boot that’s built to take you the distance. And don’t forget to break them in before you leave – finding yourself halfway up the mountain with a foot full of blisters and a bleeding heel is even less fun than it sounds.
10. A Torch
If you’re planning a multi-day hike, having some form of illumination is essential. Not only will a torch let you see what you’re doing come nightfall, it can also help signal rescuers in the event of an emergency. Look for a device with LED illumination – LED bulbs will run for thousands of hours without needing backup (and when you’re about as far from a power outlet as it’s possible to be, that’s really something to be thankful for).