With a friend or a loved one, hiking provides a respite from the stresses of city life. It also revs up the body as you push out toxins out and take in nature’s glorious bounty. When thinking of going on a hike, it is only fitting that you prepare essential gear and items other than just clothing and a good pair of boots. To get you started, here’s an excellent day hiking gear list to consider.
Navigation System. Most trails nowadays provide engagement activity prior to sending you off to a day hike– and often, a map comes for free with your entrance fee. While you may have a handy map with landmarks or trail junctions, a compass will help greatly in finding your way around it. Using a compass is no rocket science though. You need to learn basic orienteering skills. Compass like the one below is more reliable than GPS or smartphones though as it doesn’t rely on batteries, internet signal, and electricity.
Eyeskey Multifunctional Military Army Aluminum Alloy Compass with Map Measurer Distance Calculator Great for Hiking
When you are packing your backpack, remember to keep map and compass either on your person or in an easy to reach place in your backpack. It won’t be of any use if it’s buried at the bottom of your rucksack.
The habit of being aware and keeping track of where you are is a very important skill to have while correlating what you see on the map you are with what you are observing on the ground.
If you are a beginner with respect to using a map and compass, it’s best to start your hiking adventures with an easy to follow trails, one which doesn’t stray too far away from civilization. As you grow more confident about your navigational proficiency, gradually increase the difficulty factor of your hiking excursions.
Sun & Insect Protection. Toddling a lip balm and sunscreen may help prevent sunburn and chapped lips but it’s also wise to use arm sleeves like the one from ShinyMod. Aside from UV protection, it also provides needed insulation and protection from insects. Feel free also to buy a sunblock with integrated insect repellent like the Bullfrog to ensure well-rounded protection.
If you choose late fall to early spring, insects and bugs will not that big a concern, as you will really enjoy hiking more. But as the summer progresses, these blood-sucking critters can really be a nuisance if you are not hiking to higher altitudes.
Wearing a long-sleeve buzz off shirt like this one will keep you safe from tick or mosquito bites. It’s best to wear light color clothes as it makes it easier to notice the insects while they are still on the outside of your cloth. Don’t forget to tuck your pants in the socks to keep anything crawling inside your pant legs. Wearing a hat will give you protection from the sun and also keep insects out of your hair.
Insulation/Emergency Shelter. Though it’s just a day hike, the possibilities are endless in the wild. You can get lost and finding your way in the dark will only worsen the situation. With this, it is wise to always have an Emergency Mylar Thermal Blanket stashed in your backpack. This can be used as cover from the cold, wet or dampness of the night or as an emergency shelter. It also serves as a reflector for search teams to easily locate you. Chose a product that can be effortlessly folded and stashed in your backpack.
Here are some other options that you may want to consider:
A bivy sack like this one is very lightweight will keep you a warm and very good option for winter hikes. But if you are not comfortable about sleeping in a tight space this may not work for you.
A tarp like this is handy for its waterproof feature. You can simply use it to make an A-frame that will provide decent space and protection. But when it comes to insulation from cold this will not be of much use.
One of the best options for winter hikes could be using parachute fabric to make a zoot suit like the one below.
It would provide you a very warm shelter while sitting for a food break or map reading etc.
Illumination. Even though it’s just a day hike, there might be a chance that the dark sits in long before you hit home base. Keep in mind that night is longer during summers hence, it can get dark pretty early. This reminds you to toddle along a headlamp or a flashlight. This solar-powered headlamp from SGODDE is quite handy as it harnesses power while being worn on a day hike.
Here are some tips to optimize your night hikes:
Choose a headlamp for night hiking that has a red-light setting in addition to the standard white-light setting. This is because our eyes are less sensitive to the longer wavelengths of red light so your natural night vision will be less affected by it.
Ensure the headlamp fits comfortably on your head without bouncing.
If you are a beginner to night hikes, choose a full moon night to start out. This way you’ll be able to see much more and learn to use your natural night vision without depending completely on your headlamp.
Hiking at night can be intimidating. Never go for solo night hikes especially if you are new to this.
First Aid. Anything can happen in the wild. You can trip or fall, get stung by a bee, or cut by unassuming thorny plants. If you are purchasing you can get a first aid kit like this waterproof pack from Oziral.
You can, of course, make your own hiking first aid kit at home. Just ensure, you have the following in your kit:
- Assorted bandages of different sizes for small cuts, blisters, etc.
- Butterfly closures for closing big wounds.
- 4” by 4” sterile dressing pads that are used to apply pressure to a wound for bleeding to stop.
- Gauze roll tp hold dressing in place.
- Multi-use tool that includes a knife and scissors.
- Tweezers to remove splinters, ticks, or removing debris from wounds.
- A digital thermometer and spare batteries.
- Cotton-tip swabs for applying antibiotic ointment.
- Resealable plastic bags which can be used to put in ice for a swollen joint
- Antiseptic towelettes for cleaning small wounds.
- Antibiotic ointment to apply to wounds.
- Aloe vera gel for relief of minor burns.
- Pain relievers, including aspirin and Ibuprofen:
- Immodium 2 mg capsules for relief of diarrhea.
- Antiacid tablets
- Oral rehydration salts for the treatment of dehydration, heat exhaustion, or loss of fluids from vomiting or diarrhea
Firestarter. Again, things can happen without warning and you can get stuck in the middle of nowhere. Since it’s more dangerous to find your way around during nightfall, a fire starter can come handy for you to make fire to heat water or food as well as provide warmth. Fire also helps ward off insects and predators away.
To build a fire you will need a combination of tinder (dry grass, leaves or pine needles) which provides the initial spark. Small twigs are also required as kindle to raise the flames and larger big pieces of wood will consolidate the fire and keep it on.
Always look for tinder and kindling that are dry. If you are on a trail that will have wet conditions, it would be wise to keep an eye and keep collecting tinder along the trail much before making camp. You will find them underneath hanging rocks or logs and at the base of large trees.
This Ralix Survival Fire Starter is quite economical as it comes with a compass and a whistle.
Don’t forget to extinguish the fire before you go to sleep.
Multitool. While there’s no bike or equipment to fix, a multi-tool like this Victorinox Swiss Army SwissChamp Pocket Knife can be quite helpful. It contains various tools for you to use should the situation demands you to cut, dig or patch something.
Food. Always remember to pack extra hiking food even when it’s just a day hike. First-timers will be amazed by their sudden burst of appetite when on a hike. If you want to keep going, your body will need food as fuel to energize your steps. Your best bet is to tag along energy bars or pre-made sandwiches. A no-cook high-calorie meal like this one from Greenbelly also makes an excellent choice.
Plan and organize your food and food bag based on the length of your trip, the food and beverages you will carry, food-related tools you will need and whether you will be carrying a cooler.
Remember that more you stash in a backpack, the harder it is to hike, so it is best to opt mainly for non-perishable foods that are relatively lightweight and nutrient-dense, like Trail mix, nut-based bars or nut butter packs, Fresh, whole fruit that doesn’t require refrigeration, dried or freeze-dried fruits and veggies, energy bars, chews or gels. Other things that you may like to carry during a single day hike are Granola or granola bars, ready-made tuna salad pouches, tortillas, dried jerky.
Remember to wash hands often including before and after eating. In case you are unable to wash your hands, use a hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol to help reduce bacteria and germs.
Hydration. Water is life– and you’ll most likely be reminded when on a hike. You can survive days without food but without water? Nah, you’ll be disoriented with just a few hours of thirst. Aside from water stashed in your backpack, it is wise to bring along chlorine dioxide tablets or a Lifestraw to allow you ease of access to safe drinking water whenever wherever.
Before starting on the hike, ensure you drink one or two cups of water at least. You will feel thirsty only when the water level is already low, so you shouldn’t wait for the body’s “thirsty” signal before drinking while on a hike. Keep your water level from dropping in the first place by hydrating pre-hike.
Do not consume alcoholic drinks prior to hiking. In fact, it should be absolutely avoided as they will significantly contribute to dehydration.
For longer, strenuous hikes, pack electrolyte tablets. Sweating causes loss of electrolytes, which can make hiking difficult. Adding electrolyte tablets is an easy way to stay at the top of your game.
The Right Hiking Backpack
Choosing the right backpack should also be considered when prepping a day hiking gear list.
While choosing a backpack for hiking ensure it has these basic features:
- Spacious main compartment for storing the majority of your gear
- Mesh pockets where you can stow something quickly and is easily accessible
- A good comfortable hip belt that can transfer weight without slipping.
- Shoulder straps with comfortable padding.
- Hip belt pocket to carry snacks, lip balm, sunscreen, etc.
- It should be waterproof to protect important things like clothing, electronic items, sleeping bags etc.
You need something light yet functional and efficient like the Teton Sports Oasis 1100 to help carry your essentials. Learn also how to arrange hiking items according to the level of needs on the trail. As always, it is essential to weigh your hiking gear options vis-a-vis the kind of terrain you’ll be pursuing on a first-day hike.
A hike, when done in the right way, taking care of the necessary safety and precautions, has several medical benefits such as reducing the risk of diabetes, colon or breast cancer, osteoporosis, and heart attacks. It is also good for decreasing disability risk and increasing overall physical function. And of course, the biggest attraction for most of us is a sense of adventure and a rush of adrenalin we get from being amidst nature and discovering new places, which is wonderful for mental health and well being.