Summiting mountains can be one of the most powerful experiences that nature can give us, but we need to make sure we are prepared for anything she throws our way.
So, take a look at our hiking essentials to make sure you're ready for any circumstance. Maybe you've already prepared the perfect camping checklist, and you're ready to wake up and tackle a big hike in the morning. From fire starters and water supplies to a way to navigate, there are numerous things that could save your life. But, there are also a myriad of things that can make your walk in the woods simply more enjoyable. So, while we will talk about the life-saving gear, we will also hit on hiking essentials that will simply save you energy and time.
Getting from here to there takes planning and knowledge. So, whether you've done this hike a thousand times or it's your first time out, solid navigation easily one of our hiking essentials. First off, look at a map of the route you are heading out on. Take note of elevation changes and look up the weather for the area you're heading too. During this, double check your groups' ability to finish this hike well without complications. If you're hiking alone, make sure you've told someone exactly where you're going and when you'll be back.
Once you're assured that the hike is well suited for your abilities, bring the navigation with you. If you know how to use a topographical map and simple compass, then by all means please bring that along. However, if you are less methodically inclined, invest in a GPS will solid battery life that you can easily charge in the car. The Apple Watch Series 3 is a great option for our tech-savvy friends who also love to get out in the woods. If you're using this technology, make sure to drop a pin where you parked your car. So, stay on the trail and have your navigation ready, and you have your first of many hiking essentials in the bag.
2. Protection from the Elements
Sun, rain, water, wind. They each let us do a variety of marvelous activities, but each can bring their own complications and disadvantages. So, quality protection from nature's wrath is next on our list of hiking essentials.
Let's start with the sun and wind. Gear up with a solid sunscreen, 30+ SPF, before hitting the trail. If you know you're going to be exposed, bring a travel size along with you in your pack. But, the sun can be harsh. So, if needed, invest in a solid sun shirt or light windbreaker to keep both invisible yet powerful natural occurrences from causing you harm.
Lastly, and perhaps most the important of our protection hiking essentials, is a rain jacket. Its an old tale that whoever forgets their rain jacket is the one that made it rain. Don't be that guy or gal. Invest in a solid rain layer that will keep you dry. If you're going to be hiking in potentially warm rain, make sure the jacket has vents to avoid overheating or dehydration. These will quickly turn your outdoor adventure into a terrible day.
The sun setting is the most predictable thing that happens every day. This being said, many hikers still don't see the need to bring a flashlight or headlamp with them. Your cell phone light is not enough. If you're needing to use that for light, you probably need to save your cell phone battery for calling for help. So, toss in an extra flashlight or headlamp with fresh batteries. This could be the reason you stay on trail when the hike takes longer than you think. It is also one of the easiest ways to find someone in the dark! So, having a light source is absolutely mandatory for our list of hiking essentials.
Does anyone like being cold? No. That's what I thought. So, there is no reason to not be prepared on a hike. When you are hiking, you're generating plenty of body heat and sweat. The second you stop, whether to rest or because you summited that mountain, your body will go to work cooling you off. This quickly can turn into the shivers. So, bring a warm, non-cotton layer that will keep reflecting your body heat back to you, even if its wet.
The other form of warmth that is often forgotten is fire. Fire can lift spirits and create a glorious atmosphere. So, even if its a simple pack of matches or a lighter, this is one our hiking essentials. A fire can keep you warm through the night or provide a needed pick-me-up if you're lost.
5. Food & Water
Whether you have a DIY trail mix known by all of your friends or you grabbed a few snacks at the gas station, food is essential to your hike. Simply walking burns calories quickly, and you'll want them replenished before you completely deplete your energy supply. So, bring along high-protein snacks like nuts and high-carb snacks like sandwiches. These hiking essentials will keep you going when you feel like slowing down.
More important that food, however, is water. Our bodies are mostly made of it, so we need to keep a steady flow in. Whether you prefer reusable water bottles or hydration packs, this is a necessity. Make sure to bring more than you think you'll need, as hikes often take longer than you think. If you know there are rivers and streams along your path and want to pack lighter, consider a water purification system. It can be as simple as a few chemical drops or your own hand pump. Either way, clean water is my favorite of our hiking essentials!
6. Solid Gear to Carry these Hiking Essentials
With the outdoor industry constantly upgrading and innovating new gear, there are so many options for your hiking essentials list. The two most important pieces of gear we recommend for your hike are good shoes and a good backpack.
Your feet are what do most of the work on your hike. Between balancing, running, and helping grip rocks, you need to protect your toes! Hiking shoes can give incredible ankle support, firm grip on the trail, and arch support so that you can go further with less aches. If you're investing in a new pair of hiking boots, be sure to break them in before the big day. If you don't, you may have some gnarly blisters by the end.
A good backpack should lift the weight of your hiking essentials off of your back and place it on your hips and legs. Make sure whatever pack you choose has a comfortable, adjustable waist strap to do this. Comfortable shoulder straps are also essential to prevent chaffing on a long hike. Depending on what other accessories you tend to bring, you can pick a pack to accommodate those.
The last of my hiking essentials is for those of us who are beginning to realize we're not as young as we once were. Trekking poles can mean a world of difference for your knees and balance. Having an additional point of contact with the ground allows heightened balance, decreasing your risk of falling. This in turn lowers the chance of injury, which you obviously do not want. Going downhill, the hiking poles can put the weight more onto your arms, giving you both a more well-rounded workout while providing less stress on your joints.
From gear to preparation, there are numerous hiking essentials to put on your list. But, with a little thinking ahead of time, you can have a spectacular, safe, and enjoyable hike.
With this list, you can feel confident to tackle even the most adventurous hikes out there. Whether you're heading up to hike in Glacier National Park or hoping to trek in Europe, these hiking essentials can be universally applied. So, pack that bag and hit the trailhead with confidence, knowing you are ready for any situation that comes your way.
Related Article: Best Hiking Sandals for Your Adventure