What Are the 10 Hiking Equipment Essentials?
After you’ve selected the perfect location for your day hiking adventure and decided on what the duration of your trip is going to be, you may be wondering what you should bring with you to minimize weight and maximize utility. Whether you choose to embark on a brief or a lengthy day hike, you can consult this list for the essential day hiking gear! While day hiking appears to be a breeze, it’s best to protect yourself and your party by being prepared for any emergency situations that could occur. Here, I'll cover all the essentials you’ll need to embark on a safe and fun journey into the wilds.
With the general consensus being that most humans can only survive three or four days without water, it is crucial that you and your crew stay hydrated and have a surplus of water in case of emergency. To protect yourself in a hot climate: plan your trip near a body of water and bring a water filter or water purifying chemical tablets in case of an emergency. If there is snow available, consider bringing a lightweight pot and a stove (that functions in cold weather/high wind conditions) to make water in case of an emergency. On the off chance that your excursion is not planned near sources of water, remember that you’ll need about one liter of water per two hours of activity and plan accordingly. Last but not least, make sure to check the weather conditions before you depart and err on the side of inclement weather!
The second, but not the last, -tion on this list is Navigation. Must haves on any day hiking trip are a topographic map of the trails or area in which you plan to hike, a physical compass that will help you navigate what you see on said map, and lastly a downloaded smartphone GPS app. Depending on your phone's battery life, the duration of your hike, and whether you prefer digital or physical, the topographic map or the GPS app will be your go to for any navigational needs. Regardless of the medium you choose to use, it's important that you remember to mark out the trail you’ll take in a fashion that’s eye-catching and easy to understand. Finally, tell your family and friends exactly what you plan to do and where you plan to hike. Share the marked up map you created and protect yourself and your party in the event that something wild does happen.
Similar to the need to stay hydrated, you also need enough energy to power through any unfavorable happenings. In addition to any protein/snack bars and packed lunches you’ll bring with you, bring around 3 extra meals worth of food per person. Great options to bring are energy dense bars, nuts, dried fruit, dried meat, and even unpeeled raw potatoes (can be cooked through a variety of methods in case of emergency). While you are hiking you should make sure to take pauses to check in with yourself and how you feel about your food intake for the chosen ascent.
Inclement weather conditions can leave you stranded and at mercy of the elements. To protect yourself from high winds, freezing rain, or a sudden drop in temperature, pack extra layers that more-often-than-not will seem unnecessary at the beginning of the trip. A compact rain jacket and rain pants will protect you from sudden rain or snow, and long underwear will help your body preserve its heat during sudden temperature changes. Additionally, gloves and a hat will protect your extremities from freezing out and keep your whole body warm and comfortable without costing much weight. Remember that it's always better to be too hot and take off layers than to be too cold. Dress in layers if you are hiking in a snowy area, and protect your eyes as well with ski-goggles or sunglasses. On the other hand, if it’s extremely hot, consider packing a bandana or other cooling cloth that you can soak in water and keep on your forehead.
Regardless of your destination, all day hikers should bring a first aid kit. Included should be gauze, a blister kit, a splint or stretchable support/tourniquet, antiseptic, insect repellent, and sunscreen. Depending on where you are hiking and the weather conditions for that day, the need for insect repellent and sunscreen will differ, but the rest of the items are a must have. Additional items that will likely prove to be useful are toilet paper, hand sanitizer, a multi-tool, duck tape, and zip ties. While the latter three don't seem fitting, they will be the first defense against the physical deterioration of your gear.
There’s nothing worse than being stuck in a foreign area, at night, and being unable to see any of your surroundings. The easiest solution to avoid that tragic event is to pack a headlamp or flashlight in an easily accessible pocket. A benefit to taking a headlamp as opposed to a flashlight is that your hands will be free. While seemingly trivial, the fixed point of reference for light emission coupled with the ability to use your hands for balance and stability makes headlamps a hiker’s potent tool. Make sure to bring extra batteries for your technology, and make sure to plan your trip around the hours of natural light! Give yourself extra time to rest and relax during your day hiking trip, and plan the route so that there’s minimal chance of you or your party being stuck out in the dark.
Heat and Shelter
Last but not least, you should make sure to pack potential sources of heat and a space (safety/thermal) blanket. While the space blanket can be rigged between trees or wrapped around yourself to protect you from the elements and preserve your body heat, the ability to boil water or start a fire will be beneficial in a variety of environments. The optimal fire starters are heat nuggets or dried tinder you bring with you. Rugged matches will serve you well, as will flint and steel if you are seasoned at starting a fire with them. If you have space in your pack, consider bringing a mini stove in the case that the need arises to cook food, or, bring the exoskeleton for a natural fuel stove that will help you aerate your own fire.
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