Whether you’re an avid hiker, or just getting into the outdoor activity, making the most of each and every hike is important. Even the most experienced hikers can sometimes forget, or miss out on some serious essentials that can make each hike easier, and more fulfilling. Hiking can include anything from trekking up a mountainside, to taking a lengthy stroll through a local wooded area, but no matter where you go, or how far you travel, having the right essentials on you can keep you safe, and out of any possible trouble.
Before you go on your next hiking adventure, consider these eight essentials, and make sure you have them packed in your backpack, or fanny pack before you hit the trails.
These may technically be three different items, but for this category, they are essentially serving the same purpose. It’s important to always be aware of which direction you’re traveling in while you’re hiking – especially if you’re in an unfamiliar location. A map will lead you down the right trails, and a compass (either handheld, or a compass used via your smartphone) will lead you in the right direction at all times. Getting lost can be a terrifying thought for any hiker, so make sure it doesn’t happen by using accurate, useful resources.
2. Food & Water
Even if you’re on a short hike, terrain can take a lot out of your body – sometimes, more than you even may realize. Water is definitely the most important thing you can carry with you to rehydrate your body. You don’t want to be without water on a trail for very long, so keep a reusable nalgene-style bottle with you. In many cases, you can attach these bottles to the outside of your hiking bag. If not, just slip it in a side pouch and take a drink as needed.
As far as food goes, you’ll need high-energy, dense snacks to refuel your body with the right kind of nutrition. Trail mix, protein bars, dried fruit, and even beef jerky are great options that will give you a burst of energy, and keep you feeling satisfied so you can head back on the trail and continue your adventure.
3. A Flashlight
No matter what time of day you might be hiking, a flashlight is essential for all of the ‘what ifs’ that can pop up at any given time. Unfortunately, accidents can happen, or you can lose track of a trail, which could leave you out past dark. If you’re planning on hiking to a campsite, a flashlight is absolutely a necessity. The last thing you want is to be left out on the dark on an open trail, or even lose sight of that trail somehow. The hope, of course, is that you never actually have to use the flashlight (especially if you’re on a day hike), but it’s always a better idea to be prepared, in case anything does happen that isn’t according to plan.
4. A Way to Start a Fire
When you’re out in the elements, you might be surprised at how many different random objects can actually assist in starting a roaring (responsible) fire. But, it’s always a good idea to be prepared, no matter what. With that in mind, keep a few different firestarters in your bag. It’s important to have more than one solution, in case one fails, gets wet, etc. Waterproof matches can get expensive, but are a great investment. A small fire-starter kit, and a lighter are also great, lightweight options you can carry with you. Anything that is safe to haul around, and won’t weigh you down is usually a good bet, and can get you out of a bind, should you need to start a fire at some point.
5. Insect Protection
Insects are certainly more prevalent in some areas than others, but the bottom line is, they’re out there – everywhere. And, it’s important to protect yourself, especially when some insects can carry different types of diseases. Thankfully, there are a few different ways to protect yourself, from insect repellent clothing, to sprays, etc. The best thing you can use is DEET – Either pure, or in an insect repellent spray. DEET works to keep away everything from mosquitos to ticks. When you get into deeply-wooded areas, or anywhere close to water, you’ll want a repellent with DEET to keep you as protected as possible.
6. Sun Protection
Even if you’re in heavily-wooded areas with a lot of shade, you’ll want to protect yourself from the sun. This includes wearing the right clothing (hats, long sleeves, etc.), and utilizing sun screen, protective lip balm, and anything else that can protect your exposed skin from the rays of the sun. You may not think it’s beating down sometimes, but after a long day of hiking, you can be at risk for sunburn. Don’t go through that kind of pain (and potential harm!) if you don’t have to, by using the right kind of protection from the sun.
7. First Aid
This may seem obvious, but that’s exactly why it’s worth mentioning over and over again. Never go hiking without some kind of first aid kit in your bag. Your kit doesn’t have to be anything extravagant, as long as it has the basics covered. Most standard kits are less than $20, and contain everything you need should anything happen. From cuts and scrapes, to medicated wipes, and everything in between, injuring yourself on the trail should never be something you ignore, so take care of yourself, and be sure to have a first aid kit on hand.
8. A Multi-Tool
Space, and weight are two very important things to consider while you’re hiking, so it’s not exactly practical to take along a huge tool kit, a big knife, etc. Instead, find a solid multi-tool (like a swiss army knife) that can work for you in many different situations. Most include things like a pair of scissors or a small knife, which can be a huge accessory. A small sewing kit, or duct tape, can also be useful in a number of situations, in case you need to repair a sleeping bag, tent, or blanket. Rips and tears happen, and can make all the difference in your shelter and safety, so be prepared to repair.
The Importance of Hiking Preparedness
Realistically, there are dozens of individual items that could have made this list, because there are plenty of hiking essentials everyone should consider before hitting the trail. However, these essentials are what you need most for safety, which is the most important thing when you’re hiking. As long as you stay safe, and take care of your body, you can keep enjoying nature for all it’s worth.
Hiking is not only a great way to get outdoors, but it’s excellent exercise, and can introduce you into a whole new world of nature and outdoorsmanship. By utilizing all of the hiking essentials listed above, you can be sure your next excursion will not only be safe, but extremely enjoyable. Use these essentials to your advantage, enjoy the comfort and confidence they’ll give you while you’re on the trail, and get out there and take a hike!