Hiking is much more enjoyable when you are not weighed down with a heavy pack. However, traveling with a lightweight pack means carrying only the must-have supplies in place.
However, we know how important it is to be well-prepared for a hike. So it can be difficult to know what should make the shortlist of the kit you carry.
To make this a little easier, here are nine of the most important hiking essentials to stay safe on the trails:
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 being akin to planing to fail!
Let others know
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.
Guidebook, map, and compass
The map and compass is 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”.
Not only that but they will help you find the water, camps, and ranger outposts along with the must-see spots along the way.
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.
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.
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.
After that, maintain your energy levels by eating nuts and fruit throughout the day…and don’t forget to drink plenty of water!
Use a hydration pack or similar to take a good supply of water on the hiking trails. You will want to drink a lot more water when exercising, ideally 2-quarts per person per day.
A well-hydrated body is certain to function that much better when out in the open.
You need to take a good supply of food, both for eating on the move and when you stop. 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!
Now let’s look at the kit you need to take and prepare.
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.
So 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 absorbs 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.
Flashlight or headlamps
Hiking essentials should always include a practical light source like a flashlight 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!
First aid kit
An all-inclusive first aid kit should include basics like pain relievers, antibiotic ointment, squeeze bottle, gauze, adhesive tape, and adhesive bandages. Also, a sling or cravat bandage is a useful addition.
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.
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.
If you have duct tape you are going to need something to cut it with. So, since you have a knife, why not make it a good multi-tool or Swiss Army knife? You never know when you might need to get a stone out of a horse’s hoof after all…oh yeah and all those other things!
Sunscreen and Sunglasses
Pretty obvious stuff, but very easy to overlook, especially if you think the weather is going to be bad. They do not take up much space, so just take them…
We have some recommendations for some good choices for sunglasses here
The final thing in our list is trekking poles. Not all hikers like them, but they greatly reduce the stress from your knee, hips, and joints, and overall gives you stability on your hike.
You can also use these poles as part of some lightweight tents. If you are looking to get a pair, these are our picks of the best hiking poles.
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.
- 1 Preparation
- 2 Food and Drink
- 3 Equipment
- 4 Trash pick-up
- 5 Summary