10 Hiking Essentials

Written by Haley Cottey
Every hike requires preparation. Most of the time, you will only need your clothes, shoes and some snacks and water. However, just in case you get lost or a big storm blows in and you’re miles from the trail head, you want to be ready. Many hikers will refer to the “10 essentials” when hiking. Well what are they? (Preorder your set of 10 hiking essentials reminder cards here)
Will you have to pay a fortune for them? Thankfully, no. These items most people already own and if not, they are easy to come by.
Will they fit in a small day pack? Yes, they do not have to take up much space at all. To limit your anxiety about a day hike, be sure to have these 10 essentials with you.
You want to have proper insulation (clothes) and shoes appropriate for the weather. This will depend on where you are and where you are hiking. You always want to take one extra layer than you think is necessary. While it may not seem likely, it’s always a good idea to have an extra layer for the evening in case you are stuck out overnight. You also want to always have a rain jacket on you in case of a surprise rainfall. There are many rain jacket or poncho options that can pack up nice and small to fit in your day pack.
Just as important, if not more important than clothes, is water. Hydration is necessary for a comfortable hike. Dehydration is always a concern during outdoor activities, and especially so while out hiking away from water sources. A water purification method is also a necessity to bring with you on longer hikes if you run out of water. Iodine tablets, filters or other purification systems are small and easy to take on any hike. While some water purification devices out there can get a little pricey, the tried-and-true method of iodine is safe, effective, and very cheap.
You will also want to have nutrition regardless of how long your hike is. A few granola bars, some trail mix and jerky are always a good idea for a day hike. Take a bit more than necessary in case you get lost and are out longer than planned. Hiking on an empty stomach is a good way to put a damper on an otherwise perfect outing.
No matter where you hike, sun and bug protection are ALWAYS a good idea. Bring a small bottle of sunscreen, sunglasses, a hat and bug spray with you even if you don’t need them at the start of your hike. The last thing you want to remember your hike by is a sunburn or tons of bug bites.
Another essential is fire, or rather, the ability to produce a small fire or warmth if needed. While fire safety in the wilderness is a whole other topic worth knowing, being able to boil water or create a small contained fire on a cook stove or makeshift pit can, in dire situations, make the difference between life and death. Waterproof matches or a flint and tinder are tiny, cheap, and can make all the difference. Also, a hot meal on the trail is always more satisfying than a cold one.
In case of an emergency, you will also always want to have a first aid kit with you with all the essentials. You can check any outdoor store for a small hiking first aid kit. Make sure it has mole skin to use in case of blisters and add some if it doesn’t! You also will want a knife and/or multi-tool that has a myriad of uses.
Two other small essentials are illumination and emergency shelter. A small flashlight or, my preference, a head lamp, and a small tarp or emergency thermal blanket are enough. Getting stuck overnight or somewhere dark could become uncomfortable without these two small, cheap essentials.
Lastly is navigation. Bring a map of the park you are hiking and a GPS if you have it or take a short class on triangulation – a simple technique once you learn and practice it. There are also a few good apps you can download to your phone. My favorite is AllTrails. The AllTrails app will show you on the GPS where you are on the trail and is a great app to find fun hikes in your area. Plus, it’s free.
Everyone always thinks that the worst will never happen to them. If it does, though, you will want to be prepared. Being lost, hurt, or stuck overnight on a hike would not be fun, but if you are properly prepared, it could be a bit more comfortable than expected. Or at least manageable. Pre-Pack all these things in your day pack so you are ready for an adventure at any time! The likelihood of using most of these items is very low but it’s better to be prepared. Just like your dad would always tell you to “bring a jacket,” it’s better to have it and not need it, rather than need it and not have it. Happy trails!

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