Hiking is an excellent way of exploring what nature gave us and getting plenty of exercise in the process.
You can do this solo, or you can head off in a group with family or friends. The great thing about hiking is you can head off deep into the mountains, follow rivers or stay close to home.
There is no stipulation where you can go, but there are some things you need to consider. What to pack for a day hike can isn’t only to keep the weight down, it is to make sure you have all you need to cover every eventuality.
This doesn’t matter if it is a half-day hike or a full-day hike, there are some essentials you need to make sure you can have the best time possible.
Before taking a look at your day hiking essentials, we will have a quick look at why hiking is so good, and a few things you need to consider before setting off.
Why Should I Go Hiking?
Many people think hiking is just walking, but by definition, they are very different. When you walk, you cover a shorter distance, and in many cases, these are in urban surroundings. Hiking is defined as long, vigorous walking along trails and paths in the country.
More often than not, these encounter rough terrain at the bottom of valleys or mountains.
Both require very different equipment, and some of this you will see on your what to take on a hike list.
Here are a few things why hiking is so popular and so good for every individual to take part in.
- Hiking allows you to do something different and explore new surroundings
- Hiking can cost hardly anything to get started
- Hiking is often used as a great bonding tool
- Hiking can make a great date (the partner does need to enjoy hiking)
- Hiking is free
- Hiking quickly reminds you of the spectacular world we live in
- Mental and physical fitness levels increase through hiking
Hiking for Beginners
Here are some considerations to think over before you begin packing your hiking necessities. These are what need doing before every hike and will never be on any list.
It can be good to hike alone, but for an element of safety, it is better to have someone else tagging along. If there is no one who wants to go, there are many hiking clubs you can join to be safe.
Hiking routes will dictate what you need to take with you. There are some bare essentials you will need outside of your gear (listed later).
Any hiker who sets out without following the basics can be asking for trouble because circumstances can change in a matter of minutes.
When choosing your location, there are many ways you can do this, and guidebooks and the internet are just some of them. What you do need to know is the following:
- The overall trail length and difficulty, and does it lead back to the starting point?
- The direction it takes and is there elevations (up or down)
- Are there water sources along the trail
- What features are on the trail
Allotted Hiking Time
Do you plan on setting off for a few hours, or do you plan on a longer hike that will take most of the day?
This determines trails you can hit, and which you need to leave for another time. This can also differ if you are hiking as part of a camping expedition. You will either be taking all your gear or in many cases, you need to end up back at your camp.
Levels of Fitness
Fitness levels can be very often underestimated, and this can work in both ways. It is safer to not overestimate your capability because hiking isn’t like going for a casual walk.
One thing that can be affected by fitness levels is how far you can travel. The average hiking speed is around 3 mph on level terrain.
If you are going uphill or downhill you can average speeds less than this, as can the weight of your backpack. It is also at this stage you will realize you need to wear the right shoes for hiking across rough terrain.
If you are on a trail that ascends or descends by 1,000 feet in a mile or under, this is considered steep. This kind of steepness can add 1-hour plus to your hike. Trekking poles are ideal here as they can help take some of the pressure of the legs will facing an incline.
There are plenty of trails that are open at specific times of the year. If it is in the winter, many can be closed because of snow. At these times, there is also snow blindness to consider if you are in the right surroundings.
Aside from seasonal weather conditions, local weather can change in minutes, and it is entirely possible it goes from sunny conditions to stormy weather in no time while in the outback. Finally, days get shorter in the fall and winter, so this does need to be allowed for.
Footwear and Clothing
Footwear and clothing choice is crucial. Feet can take the most abuse, so some hikers like to wear lightweight trail running shoes for shorter trips, but serious hikers who venture out for days or over rough terrain prefer high-quality hiking shoes or above the ankle hiking boots.
Clothing can quickly make you feel clammy or uncomfortable, so you need to wear clothes that are quick-drying and moisture-wicking. Sweat will evaporate and leave you feeling dry.
Cotton should be avoided, and the best two types are polyester and wool for colder times. Layers are also vital, and there are four layers hikers need to consider.
- Skin layers – these wick sweat away from the body.
- Secondary layers – these will include hiking pants, sun shirts or t-shirts and sun hat protection.
- Insulation – this will depend on the time of year or the location. Lightweight puffy vests or jackets should be chosen.
- Rainwear – a good lightweight rain jacket is essential at any time of the year. If you hit wet weather, all your other clothes will be weighed down and can slow you down considerably.
When you are looking what to bring hiking, you should never skimp on the choice of backpack. This is what will be holding all your hiking gear, so it does need to feel comfortable.
For a day hike, you can use a smaller day pack that can hold around 20 liters, but for trips into the wilderness, you do need to be looking at a backpack that can carry approximately 30 liters.
Food and Water
Things to bring when hiking that can have the most significant impact is your food and water. Foods need to be full of carbs for continual energy, and they also need to be light and can be eaten with little or no preparation.
Trail mix is an excellent example as it is light and full of nutrients. This can also give a boost in energy throughout the day.
The heaviest thing you will have is your water bottle, and this is why it is vital to know beforehand if there are any water sources on your route.
Carrying sufficient water to last a full day is heavy, and you can use up as much energy carrying this as you receive from drinking it and nibbling on your high-energy snacks.
6 Day Hike Essentials
Knowing where you are while in the outback is crucial. Maps and compass are the two essential elements for this.
The main reason these are advised above GPS is they are highly reliable. Travelers have been using them for thousands of years without a problem so they will stand any hiker in good stead. GPS systems can easily lead you off track and also suffer from the signal loss.
Maps should be covered in plastic bags or map sacks to keep them dry if the weather does turn nasty.
No matter what the weather conditions, it is vital to take some sun protection. The bare essentials of this are sunglasses, lip balm, and sunscreen.
Even if you are in snowy conditions, you can still be hit by the same rays as a sunny day. In some cases, this can be even more so as snow reflects the sunlight so it will be focused on you more even if you are wearing a wide-brimmed hat.
What might appear to be a beautiful day before you set off, can quickly change if you are in mountain regions? There is no saying what kinds of weather you will hit, and even a raincoat might not be sufficient.
At the very least, you do need to take an emergency shelter. These can be in the form of a single sheet that can be connected to almost anything with some thin ropes. While they don’t give full protection, they can make all the difference in a sudden downpour.
If there is the chance you might be caught out by failing daylight hours and it isn’t safe to head back, you can take an ultralight tent.
These can weight next to nothing, and they do offer sufficient protection from the elements.
Sleeping bags are also advised. Some can pack down to next to nothing and are ultra-light. So if you have wet clothing, at least you can wrap up warm while your clothes are drying.
First Aid Supplies
You can purchase a ready-made first aid kit, or you can make up your own. At the bare minimum, these should contain plasters, bandages, mosquito repellants, sterile dressings, eye drops, tweezers, safety pins and much more.
These should be able to cover most of the minor ailments you may encounter. You should also include some form of pain reliever or medication if any of the hikers do need to take pills.
It is safer to bring extra of these than find you are short or they have become lost or damaged throughout the day.
There will always be the need for lighting at some point on one of your hikes. Headlamps are light and easy to carry while delivering ample light. Small flashlights with extra batteries should also be packed along for backup.
In case you think batteries might not be sufficient, you can even purchase a small dynamo light. These can be wound up and used as required.
Repair Kit and Fire
Along with your first aid supplies, this can be a lifesaver. You should always carry a multi-purpose tool and some basic repair supplies. These can include a roll of duct tape that can be used in many repair situations.
A ripped tent can be patched, or in the case of something more serious, a branch or a trekking pole can be taped to a leg as a splint.
Items for making fires are also crucial, if you are caught out and need warmth, or you need to improvise and cook food.
Matches or lighters can be taken and should be kept dry. However, these shouldn’t be relied on, so you should look at purchasing something better constructed for the job.
Stormproof matches or fire starter cubes can be used, or you can buy a flint fire starting kit for when everything else fails.
One final thing you should include in any survival kit is water filtration tablets. You never know when you will be without water, or how you are able to sterilize it when you do find it.
All of the above might appear to be a lot of things to take on a hike. However, many things are small and lightweight so they can easily fit in or strapped to your backpack.
None of the above items are luxuries, and at best are the bare essentials any person who is heading off on a day hike should be taking with them.
One final thing which isn’t on any list is to let friends or family know where you are going. You never can tell when you will be caught out and are not able to call for help.