While you may be tempted to just put on a pair of sneakers and go, it’s a good idea to put a bit more planning into a hike and bring along some gear, even if you expect to be hiking for just a few hours. It’s better to be safe than sorry, so pack a backpack with a few essentials and make sure to dress appropriately. Also, be sure to let someone know when you leave, where you’re going, and when you expect to be back.
If you’re not a seasoned hiker, it is a good idea to build up to harder hikes. Those who have never been hiking may want to try walking around the neighborhood while carrying a backpack of about the same weight they’ll be using on the hike. (This can be a good way to break in hiking shoes or boots as well.) Then try a relatively short and flat hike and gradually work up to steeper and longer hikes over time.
The weather is known for being unpredictable, so even if the forecast is for a mild and sunny day, pack at least a light rain jacket. Bring a hat to keep the sun off your face and sunscreen to cover exposed skin and limit the risk of sunburns. You’ll also want to dress in layers or have extra clothing in your bag in case the temperature increases or decreases unexpectedly.
Don’t worry if you can’t stand heavy hiking boots. For a day hike that isn’t on a very technical trail, you can wear lighter trail shoes or trail-running sneakers. Just be sure to break them in before the hike, or else your feet could end up extremely uncomfortable by the end of the day.
Maps and Other Navigation Aids
Check out your route online, but also bring a map of the trail to make getting lost less likely. Even better, bring along a GPS (or a compass as long as you know how to use it). A navigation tool will help you find your way if you accidentally end up on the wrong path.
Food and Water
Bring along plenty of easy-to-pack, nutrient-dense food, like energy bars, nuts, dried fruit, and trail mix. Having enough for the day (and perhaps the night) will ensure you won’t go hungry if you get lost or something happens to keep you out on the trail longer than expected. The same is true for water. Pack enough for the day and carry a water-purifying method in case you need more.
Bring a first-aid kit, a multipurpose tool (or at least a knife), a whistle, a way to light a fire, and a headlamp or flashlight. Some experts also recommend bringing an emergency shelter or at least a reflective blanket. Emergencies and accidents can happen at any time, so it’s a good idea to be prepared.
Other Handy Supplies
A cell phone or walkie-talkie can be handy for notifying someone in case of an emergency, and trekking poles can help make the hike a little bit easier, especially if there are a lot of uphill sections on the trail. A garbage bag provides a place to put all the junk you brought with that shouldn’t be left behind, such as food wrappers and other trash. Toilet paper, a trowel, and hand sanitizer are essential if you’ll be hiking for a considerable amount of time.
If you need any hiking supplies, check out those available at Peace Surplus. We can outfit you for longer hikes as well once you’re ready to move on to backpacking and the extra challenges longer excursions entail.