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Whether you are going on a one-day hike or a multiple day hike, it is critical to prepare. Nothing can ruin the fun of a hiking trip like an unexpected and unplanned for event. Examples of such events can range from needing a band-aid for a blister and not having one, to getting lost and stuck out in the wilderness for days.
Certain items, like tents and coffee pots, you would only need to bring along if you are going on a long, multiple day hike (unless you are a caffeine addict and need your coffee wherever you go). However, there are five essential things to take hiking no matter the duration of your trip.
First, we will explore what you should wear when going hiking, and then dive into the handy gear you always bring along and why it is important to have.
This section is not so much essential thing to “take” hiking, but essential things to “wear” when hiking. You may be wondering why we decided to include this section, but it all comes back to the idea mentioned above: that being unprepared can ruin your hiking trip. Our goal here is to prepare you.
So, with that said, you should always wear:
Proper footwear can make or break a hiking trip. Since you will be on your feet for several hours at a time, having a pair of hiking boots that are comfortable is essential. Hiking boots need to be well made, so you may have to spend a bit more to get good quality.
If you trip over a rock and the sole of the boot starts to come off, you will have a tough time walking and finishing the hike. Good hiking boots also should be waterproof so you can go across streams and splash through puddles when needed.
Many hikers also prefer high-top hiking boots because they provide much-needed ankle support. Here is a quick visual guide to hiking boots.
To go along with your hiking boots, you also need a good pair of socks. Thicker socks tend to provide more friction resistance and help prevent blisters. Some athletic style socks are also designed to provide arch support and have extra padding on the ball of the foot.
If you live or like to hike in areas with high temperatures, long pants may not seem like the best option initially, but long pants can be a lifesaver. Long pants help protect your legs from the sun, getting scraped by surrounding brush, and snake bites. Wearing long pants instead of shorts while hiking can save the look and condition of your legs.
The last item you should always wear when you go hiking, even for a day, is a backpack. If you do not bring a backpack, how else are you going to carry all the essential things to bring hiking that we are getting ready to cover?
If you're stuck on what you should be wearing on a hiking trip, you can always subscribe to a few outdoor subscription boxes to get some of the latest hiking apparel.
This list is by no means a comprehensive list of all things to bring hiking, just the most critical items. Please use your discretion when choosing items to bring along because each person may have special considerations and needs.
Staying hydrated is probably the most important thing when doing any physical activity. Even a short hike can result in the loss of fluids. Becoming dehydrated can result in lethargy, headaches, muscle cramps, and even heat exhaustion.
The type of hike and location makes a difference in the type and amount of hydration you should bring along. If you are hiking in a shady area, less water is needed than if hiking in direct sun. Also, if you are doing a lot of uphill hiking, sometimes the addition of electrolytes is required, so bringing along a sports drink as well as water is a good idea. Cairn box typically includes a hydration item that will be perfect for a hiking trip in each of their monthly deliveries.
Above we mentioned the scenario of getting a blister, but not having a band-aid handy. Bandages are just one of the many handy things found in a first aid kit. You can purchase first aid kits meant for hiking and camping that fit will into a backpack and do not take up much space.
Most travel size first-aid kits will have bandages/gauze, gloves, a wash cloth, antiseptic wipes, antibiotic ointment, small scissors or utility tool, pain reliever and antihistamine. Adding a whistle, glow stick or flare, an ID card, and safety pins are also great things to add to a first-aid kit. For a basic first-aid guide, click here.
You should always have snacks with you. Even the most seasoned hiker can have unexpected blood sugar drops.
If you are going for a multiple-day hike, make sure to pack enough food for every meal for every person, plus some extra. If you were to become lost, a natural food source might not be possible, so it is good always to have extra in case of an emergency.
Non-perishable foods are best like trail mixes, freeze-dried foods, snack bars, and MRE packets. Since hiking is a physical activity, it is important to focus on high protein and high carbohydrate foods for stamina.
All of the items on this list come in handy during an emergency situation, but one item you can bring along to help prevent an emergency is a navigation tool. Getting lost while hiking is one of the most serious events that can happen during a hiking trip. So, always bring a map, guide, compass, GPS or a combination of these items.
Much like a navigation system, a communication method can help prevent an emergency situation or lessen the severity of one. Cell phone service can be spotty or even non-existent in some areas.
Backcountry communication devices such as satellite phones, radios, locator beacons and devices that use the military COSPAS network are just some of the communication devices available for the outdoorsman/woman. These devices can sometimes be a bit pricey up front, but since these devices could save your life, it is an expense you cannot spare.
As mentioned before, this list of things to take hiking is not extensive, and there may be additional items you wish to bring along on your hike. Flashlights, rain jackets, sun protection, and fire starters are all great items to have along if you have space in your backpack or if you are taking a multiple-day hike.
Also, be sure to bring along any medications or special equipment you may need. The goal of this article is to get you thinking about and preparing for your next outdoor adventure. Preparation is key to a wonderful hiking adventure. Preparation is key to a wonderful hiking adventure.