A variety of things can go wrong when out in nature, so it helps to be prepared for any situation…or at least as many of them as you can!
So the time and money invested in the right gear in planning your trip in the wilderness is well spent…even if you don’t need it, you might next time!
The first stage is to plan out your hike. Even if it is a hike you know well, there are always things that can go wrong.
So don’t fall foul of the old cliche about failing to plan to be akin to planning to fail!
Plan Your Route
If you are going on anything other than very well-signposted routes, you are going to need to do some planning.
This is where good guidebooks really come in hand, especially if you don’t know the area. Not only that but they will help you find the water, camps, and ranger outposts along with the must-see spots along the way.
Let Others Know Where You Are Going
Before setting off make sure someone is aware of the intended route and proposed return time. Always make sure friends or family members are mindful of the intended action, especially if hiking in the less populated areas.
In the event of an emergency the rescue services can be given guidance on the likely location.
Getting a weather report on the day of the hike is a practical step to avoid issues with bad climates, especially if hiking in mountainous areas. Use the forecast to help determine the right clothes for the trip.
But, in the extreme cases of weather it usually benefits to safely retreat and return to base. Avoid the dangerous weather and return when the skies aren’t blue and clear.
If you are a bit rusty with this analog technology, then it might be worth signing up for a course prior to exploring the more difficult trails.
Here are nine must-have items to include on a hiking supply list, starting with food and drink.
Food and Drink
This is the kit that you need to prepare for each hike, you can’t just leave this in a bag for next time after all!
Start The Day Right
While Keto and other low carb diets are all the rage, for long days on the trail, a carbohydrate-rich breakfast is ideal. Look to old favorites like cream of wheat, oatmeal, or similar is certain to help with filling the body with energy to complete the trail.
On The Trail
Obviously you need to pack enough food to last the duration of the hike. Without the proper intake of fuel, it will be difficult to complete the longer trails.
So focus on high energy foods to maximize the amount of energy from the weight. We talk more about high energy food in this article >>
Also make sure you pack some snacks to give an extra boost should the body start to tire later in the hike. I like to have a good bag of trail-mix for my “on the go” snacking and then something more substantial well boxed up.
If I am looking at overnight or longer camping trips, then I will look at taking along things I can cook too…even if it is just some tea or coffee to warm up with!
Energy and Protein bars
Include plenty of easy to get down snacks to stay energized for the entire length of the trail. Energy and protein bars are particularly good for this (home-made or bought) but make sure you take the wrappers home with you and dispose of them properly.
Use a hydration pack or water bottle to carry enough fluid to last the entire length of the hike. As a rough guide, adults should take 2 cups (about 0.5 liters) for each hour of hiking. Naturally, this will increase if the temperature is higher or the hike is harder, but use this as a base for any calculation.
Get a readily available supply of water with a hydration system. Hydration packs are simply bags of water (packed inside a backpack) with a tube attached to make it easy to get liquid refreshment on the go. Hydration packs are great for the trails that have minimum H20 stops. Most of the large size systems have enough space to not only accept the water bladder, but also extra gear and food supplies.
Sometimes you cannot realistically carry enough water with you, but there will be places along the way you can get water from streams, lakes, etc.
However, this is not guaranteed to be clean, so you will need some sort of water filter to ensure you don’t get a dose of diarrhea or worse!
There are several types of water filter, which we have covered here >>
First Aid, Creams and Sprays
A first aid kit should be mandatory for any hike that is heading out into the wilderness. The other creams and sprays are also important, some for comfort, some for health.
First Aid Kit
A well-stocked first-aid or survivor kit is an essential piece of equipment to include in the list of hiking supplies. A pre-packed or custom kit can include:
- Button compass
- Emergency blanket
- Fire-starting materials
A first-aid kit should come complete with enough supplies to keep the injured party warm and dry in the event of an unexpected incident on the hiking trails.
We go into a lot more detail on first aid kits for hiking here >>
On the health front, don’t forget hand sanitizer. There won’t be anywhere to wash your hands on most trails and you will be eating, so make sure you pack (and use) hand sanitizer regularly.
Unless you are at high altitude, you will be visited by a wide array of pesky critters. These are most likely to be airborne but don’t forget land-based perils like ticks and fleas.
So get yourself a good selection of repellent and regularly check yourself for ticks (and make sure you have tweezers or tick removal tools in your first aid kit!)
We go into more detail on bug repellent here >>
Sun cream is a must-have item to pack on the trails, even if you are not hiking in the blazing hot sun. Even cloudy days will still see your skin receive enough UV rays to do damage.
So before you leave, make sure you have it well applied and top it up as recommended.
Use an anti-chafe cream with plant-based, natural ingredients to help protect the sensitive areas of the body from the constant rubbing or movement.
Proper use of the anti-chafe cream will stop the development of sore skin or blisters while out hiking. The anti-chafe or friction cream should be applied before the skin is rubbed raw because it can be painful to apply to the already damaged skin.
Aside from good hiking boots there are other items that you should take with you.
We can’t predict the weather, even when you check the forecast, it changes often. So make sure what you take is suitable for all climates. Remember it can get really chilly after dark, especially at altitude.
Ensure you have the right amount of insulation, waterproof kit, etc. for the predicted weather. Also, obey the old advice of layers – lots of thin layers will trap warm air better to keep you warmer and gives you more flexibility if you get warm.
Ideally get proper hiking clothing that will wick moisture away and dry fast. You don’t want to take cotton clothes that absorb moisture easily and take a long time to dry.
Finally, a good hat is essential. Get one that will keep the sun off your face and shoulders as well as being waterproof to keep the rain off. I like a Boonie style, but there are several other styles, although I would avoid baseball caps as they do not shade as much of your head as those with a rim.
Starting at the top, wear a hat!
In the sun, it will help beat the constant heat. Don’t wear a baseball cap, get one with a rim and a 50 plus UPF rating to help give extra protection on sunny days. A hat in the heat will also give you a simple method to stay cool by dipping it in water before placing it on your head.
In the rain it will keep water out of your eyes and when it gets cold it will keep your head warmer.
One of the most practical and versatile pieces of hiking supplies is the bandana. The multi-functional bandana can be used as a bug mask, potholder, scarf, headband, hat, etc. It can help to keep the hiker cool if dipped in water before tying in place.
Headbands come in plenty of fashionable designs and styles to give a great performance on the hiking trails. A velvet lining is a great addition to help provide a non-slip and comfortable grip. When it is hot and sweaty, it will certainly help to push the hair back from the face.
If planning a hike, it makes sense to play safe and pack a waterproof jacket. A sudden downpour leaving you drenched on the trails is never any fun.
Most are lightweight and easily fold up to ensure minimal space is taken up in the backpack. They only weigh a few ounces and are more than enough for rain showers so it makes sense to take one with you.
Hiking Gear and Accessories
Now for the other gadgets and bits of kit you should take with you on the trail.
GPS, Guidebook, Map, and Compass
The map and compass are the first essential thing while you’re going to hike. It is used to identify the location “where you are” and “how long you have to go”.
While a good GPS device is invaluable, always pack those old-school favorite navigational tools; a compass and map.
Navigation items are essential in hiking, not only when you’re lost but also to guide you to your location.
Even though the latest technology (smartphones, GPS, etc.) can be helpful on the hiking trails, make sure to back-up the electronic devices with a traditional compass and map.
The last thing you want is to run out of battery or drop your GPS and find yourself with no clue where you are or where you are going…
Plus, a waterproof case is a must-have piece of hiking kit, especially if hiking in rainy regions.
While not everyone is convinced by hiking poles, a high-quality pair of hiking poles will relieve a lot of strain on your ankles and knees on the more difficult trails. Most backpacks are designed with straps to hold the poles when not in use too.
We talk more about the best hiking poles here >>
Multi-Tools, Knives & Swiss Army Knives
A multi-tool or fold-up knife is a practical addition to the hiking kit and provides more than just a blade.
The number of times I have had a knot that I could not get undone with my fingernails or other little fixes. So having a good quality tool is always a recommended addition to your pack
You can read more about Swiss Army knives here >>
Along side being able to cut things, you will also need to put things back together again.
A simple roll of duct tape can be useful in a variety of situations such as the ability to repair a rip in the tent or the strap on your pack.
I have even seen it used to patch up a boot when the sole started to come away.
Any good quality duct tape should do the trick, but all-weather tape will give you that extra peace of mind.
Sungalsses are pretty obvious, but very easy to overlook, especially if you think the weather is going to be bad. They are light and do not take up much space, so I just take them…
We have some recommendations for some good choices for hiking sunglasses here >>
Flashlight or headlamps
Hiking essentials should always include a practical light source like a or headlamp. Even if your day-hike is expected to finish before the sun goes down, things can go wrong and you get delayed.
Modern flashlights are powerful, robust, small and lightweight, so there is no excuse not to take along a good light source.
Don’t forget a spare set of batteries – there is nothing worse than carrying the right tool, only to find it is out of juice!
We talk more about hiking flashlights here >>
Bivy sacks (short for Bivouac sack) are lightweight sleeping bags designed to keep you warm if you get stuck on the trail.
It is amazing how quickly your core temperature can drop when you are not moving and exposed to wind and rain and these offer an additional layer of insulation.
They are designed as a windproof layer around a sleeping bag, but they fold up so small, that taking them on a day hike, especially a longer one, makes perfect sense, just in case you become incapacitated.
Binoculars provide a variety of benefits on the trails. They give you a better view of landmarks when navigating, plus the ability to watch nature from a safe distance.
Alongside this, they can be used for signaling for help if lost or distressed.
Alongside something to signal for help visually, a LOUD whistle makes a very useful low-cost survival tool. Blowing on a whistle while in distress in the wilderness is an effective method to alert other hikers that might be in close proximity.
Avoid leaving behind trash when out in the backcountry because there are no trash pick-up services in this part of the country.
The only thing that should be left behind is footprints, so take something with you that you can stash your trash in until you can dispose of it properly.
Bar the water, these items are all small and lightweight and can be kept together and ready-to-go.
Water can be heavy and cumbersome, which is why we like to take a good quality hydration pack as this is by far the easiest way to both carry and consume water.
Matt Green, is an avid hiker and lover of the great outdoors. He is always planning his next big trip or hitting the trails for a solo hike.
He’s traveled extensively to many remote regions and has plenty of experience exploring various terrains, and stories to tell.
- 1 Preparation
- 2 Food and Drink
- 3 Drink
- 4 First Aid, Creams and Sprays
- 5 Clothing
- 6 Hiking Gear and Accessories
- 7 Trash pick-up
- 8 Summary