Hikers, in general, are an eclectic lot. If you asked 15 different hikers what kind of hiking gear you need for a comfortable day hike, chances are that you will get 15 different answers. Of course, some of these answers will have a few items in common. You know, things like don’t go hiking in your flip-flops. So preferably, the first piece of gear you will need will be good old-fashioned hiking shoes. Others will tell you that all you need is your mind and natural instinct for survival. These are the kind of hikers who believe the universe provides and that you can fashion yourself a knife using a very pointy stick.
Others will tell you to carry everything! Sleeping bags, tents, bug repellent and if possible, you should have a 911 response team shadowing you. These are the cautious kind of hikers. Maybe they have been through some kind of wilderness in their life and as such are all too aware of how badly things can go in the blink of an eye.
Personally, I fall under the ‘SANE’ kind of hiker. I believe there are some essentials that you need to have with you when you go hiking but you do not need to bring every possession you have. In fact, a great deal of the world falls under this category; the kind that knows you do not have to haul the whole world with you when going on a hiking day. But that does not mean that you should be unprepared. Hiking is not your regular couch potato’s cup of tea. Aside from your fitness and health, there are several other hiking essentials that you need. Here is a quick list of what you should always bring with you.
Depending on the kind of hike you have in mind, there are different options to choose from as far as footwear is concerned. If you are just going to hike across town; in which case you will only be roughing the concrete jungle, then you may just need a pair of good quality sandals.
If you are going to be wading through water, then you may want to carry a pair of open-toed river shoes. These allow you to get a good foot grip on slippery riverbed rocks. But if you feel as if these open-toed river shoes look a little silly, then you can decide to go the natural way and walk barefoot for the distance. However, if you are going to go up a few hills, through a few trees and maybe run into a deer or two on your way up there, then you should consider carrying a sturdy pair of good quality hiking boots. These boots should have proper ankle support and comfortable soles. You will not believe how easy it is to hut your ankle when roughing it through rocks. Ankle support is crucial.
Walking Poles or Trekking Poles
Hiking poles are a highly essential piece of hiking gear. For the experienced, there simply is no trekking without a proper hiking pole. Not only do they help propel you forward, but they also reduce the impact the hike has on your feet, legs and ankles. Additionally, they come in great handy when you have to swat away those pesky backcountry nuisances like spider webs and thorny bushes.
Bug repellant is essential for your safety and comfort. With the Zika virus going around, you do not want to end on the menu for your local bug community. One of the main reasons as to why people go hiking is so that they can have a good time sojourning with nature and, more often than not, so they can brag to and torture their friends who just aren’t outdoorsy enough. Bring bug repellent. It is essential. You should also use a hammock mosquito net if you are going to be sleeping outside.
The scary truth is that you can survive about 3 weeks without food but only 3 days without water. Being that you are most likely just going for a day hike in your local neighborhood woods, you might not have to worry about this, but that does not mean that you should not carry water. Pack as much as you can without making the load too heavy for yourself.
People who go on longer hikes carry purifiers, iodine piles and a life-straw. This is mostly because you might need to find a local water source and drink from it. But that is not something on which you should fully rely. You might not be able to find a clean water source and as such will have to ration whatever it is you brought with you.
I know, this might sound rather rudimentary seeing as GPS, various SPOT locator devices and Google Maps exist. But unless you are hiking within the city, you might stumble upon sections of the wilderness that have no service. You might even lose your GPS. What then will you do? The ability to read a map is a skill that you might never need, but will be exceptionally thankful should it ever be called into action. Learn how to correctly read a map and bring one with you when you go hiking. It’s just safer that way. Plus, it doesn’t really significantly add to your load.
Although many of the items in this list may not be considered absolutely crucial for a day hike, if you are going on a weekend hike or something that falls within that kind of duration, you might consider bringing them along. These extras include:
- First aid kit
- Duct tape
- Toilet paper
- Pocket knife
Other than tangible gear, there are some other essential that you will need to bring with you. These include an instinct for survival (I know, turns out those guys weren’t wrong); you need the time; you need to know when to turn back and you need to have at least basic fitness. Hiking is fun; a great way to enjoy the beautiful outdoors with friends and family. But, even for something as enjoyable as this, you need to be prepared when going on a hike.