Hiking is a great way to experience nature in a deeper and more fulfilling way. Whether you are going to a summit or to a beautiful waterfall, knowing what to bring is crucial to your success and safety.
What do you do when things go wrong on a hike? You have to be prepared when that happens and you should have essential items in your backpack that will help you.
If you’re a first-timer, it’s easy to overpack and under-pack at the same time. Overpacking can easily tire you as you have to carry a heavy load. Sometimes, even with that heavy load, there might be some essential things that you’ve forgotten to pack.
Let me help you avoid that with this list of essential items for a day hike.
The first thing you need to have is your good old reliable hiking backpack. If you aren’t going very far, you can use any durable backpack you have. However, if you are really seriously getting into hiking, investing in a hiking backpack will be better.
Hiking backpacks are more comfortable to carry plus they are more durable.
For day hikes, a backpack with a 20-35 liter capacity would be enough. Hiking backpacks vary and they have different features too. One with a sleeve for your hydration pack is the best to get because it helps you easily drink water while you are hiking.
Additionally, one with a hip belt helps put the load on your hips and not just on your shoulders. Sternum straps are also great because they make sure the backpack is in place and won’t shift while you are hiking.
Also, choose the backpack that fits you well. Take note of your torso plus your body type to find one that suits you. Try wearing them before buying them to make sure.
Another important thing to think about is what you wear on your hike. Wearing layers isn’t only done during the colder months, it is done in all seasons to keep you safe and comfortable.
For your base layer, you should select something that is moisture-wicking and breathable. It can help regulate your body temperature.
Avoid cotton because it doesn’t provide much insulation especially when it is wet. Furthermore, it also isn’t great in the heat as it traps warmth. For warm summer days, a shirt that wicks moisture is great. If you want further sun protection, you can choose a long-sleeved one.
Adding mid layers is an option if it is a bit chilly or if you’re going to be there for a longer period of time. A fleece jacket will work well especially on a summit where it could be cold.
Additionally, temperatures in the morning, noon, and evening could vary and you may need something to shield you in the cold. This extra layer in your backpack is a lifesaver as it isn’t fun feeling cold while hiking.
The outer layers are your protection from other weather conditions such as rain. You may pack a raincoat, some gloves, or a hat if it is chilly. A buff, which you wear around the neck, is also a great way to protect your neck from the sun or wind. You can also use it to easily wipe off your sweat.
You also need to carefully select the footwear to use. Hiking boots and socks provide protection in all kinds of terrain. If you’re just on an easy or moderate trail, lightweight trail shoes will be enough. However, move up to those that have thick soles and ankle protection if you are hiking on more challenging terrain.
Sunscreen that won’t come off when you sweat and has an SPF of at least 30 would help protect your skin. Bring the bottle with you as you need to reapply it depending on how long you plan to take the hike.
Sunglasses and a brimmed hat that’s breathable are also great to take during hot and sunny hikes. In the snow, you’d still need to protect your eyes from the sun. The snow will reflect the sun’s rays and could cause sunburn too.
Your smartphone is a great navigational tool. With it, you can download apps to find trails of the best hikes in the US. Downloading the trains on your phone and making sure you switch the GPS on allows you to see and track your location in real-time.
However great they are, it is still best practice to have a backup. There are places where there aren’t any WiFi connections or cell reception. A compass and a map are great alternatives just in case something happens to your phone.
Unless you are highly familiar with the trail and have already hiked it before, it is best to bring a waterproof map and compass to avoid getting lost.
Water is essential to the body and hiking is a tiring activity. You need to make sure you are not dehydrated during and after the hike. In that case, you should bring water and lots of it. Staying well hydrated prevents your body from getting sick or feeling unwell. It also makes the body function efficiently.
As we’ve mentioned, there are hiking backpacks that have a hydration pocket that makes it easy to attach a tube and drink water. Apart from the water you bring, you may also want to bring a water filter if you are going for long hikes.
Keep your energy up by making sure you bring enough snacks to last throughout the day. Make sure they are packed with nutrients so your body gets what it needs. There are trail mixes, granola bars, nuts, and meals that you could bring.
While hiking, you’d be burning more calories than your usual daily activities so make sure you have enough food.
First Aid Kit
There are first aid kits that are lightweight and portable. You should always have one in your backpack during hiking. Although we’re all hoping that we won’t need it, it is best to have it in case something happens. Such emergencies may include minor cuts, blisters, or cramps. There are prepackaged emergency kits available.
It is also wise to bring a pack of waterproof matches or a lighter for your first aid kit just in case your day hike extends through the night. It can help you create a fire for heat and light at night. It can also help you become more visible in case of an emergency.
I know that you are hiking in the day but lights, whether a flashlight or headlamps can help you in case you’re still on the trail at night. It can also help you easily see through caves in the trail that you’d want to explore. Just make sure they are charged or with new batteries.