When we go hiking, its important we have the right gear to get us through. There is nothing like getting on the trail and not having what you want or what you need to break the mood pretty quickly. Let’s go over some of the items that are most important. Not just for emergency purposes but just the essentials as well.
5. Correct clothes
The thing about hiking is that you HAVE to be comfortable. If you aren’t comfortable you will just be hating life. One rule of thumb I use is that you want to be able to wear light layers. These are not bulky so you can move around better, and they are easy to get on and off if you need to. A good rule of thumb is that you want to wear clothing that doesn’t have a high percentage of cotton in it. Cotton may be breathable, but its not the best in terms of sweat or water. Once it gets wet, it takes longer to dry. A good tip is in the summer you want to wear loose cloths made of a poly material. However, in the winter, you want to wear tighter clothes that are made of wool or a poly material. So just think ahead before heading out that you have all the layers you need. I always like to take into consideration the brands that I am buying from as well. Quality over quantity is a motto I use often. I can’t always afford the highest quality gear due to the cost, but I have no problem shopping for used gear from a high quality source such as Patagonia’s Used Gear.
Shoes are one of those things that can really make or break your trek outdoors. Obviously, you want shoes that are comfortable and that fit correctly. It’s also a great idea after you buy a new pair, to wear them a few days in a row so you work them in a little before going out. When picking your shoes, you want to take into consideration where you are going to be hiking most often. You want strong soles and a good grip with the ground (i.e. good traction). Some people prefer to have ankle support (high-tops) while others prefer to wear shoes that are lower around the ankles. When you try them on at places such as R.E.I. They have the ability for you to walk up a little imitation mountain to try them out. This is ideal so you can feel how it works going up hill. My best advice is to make sure you get quality shoes (yes that probably cost more money) so that you don’t regret the purchase three hikes down the road when they fall apart. And my husband, because he is a mountain peak climber, the loose rocks do a number on his shoes so making sure they are trail rated for your particular interest is important. Another point to consider is the time of year. Some people like to wear shoes that are completely enclosed all year round but others that are hiking where they aren’t worried about the conditions they are trekking through will choose a open toed variety that can be good for all terrain and even going into the water. Just check out all these option from the R.E.I. website. While there are tons choices to consider, a little research goes a long way to proper fit and comfort.
Backpacks come in many styles and shapes. Some people like sling packs that go over your shoulder, while some people like support from both shoulders in a traditional backpack. Yet others like to wear packs on their waste to take pressure off their shoulders. Once you decide the comfort you need, you have to take into consideration what the pack will do for you. Does it hold everything you need it to hold for the duration of your trek? Since we aren’t talking overnight packing here, its safe to say that you don’t need a huge backpack. Backpacks that double for water pouches work great but the water takes up a large space of the compartment. My favorite backpack is Camelbak’s 70oz Hydration Pack. They come in many sizes and they fit snug to your body. When you try the backpack on you want to make sure that the straps are tight enough that they keep the pack close to your body. Nothing is worse than getting home and finding a bruise or a sore you didn’t realize you had all because your strap was jostling too much on your back. Making sure you have room for your other gear is an important consideration so don’t forget to check the capacity outside the water pouch. Another bonus with most backpacks intended for hiking is that you can usually get them with a whistle in the straps. Whistles help in emergencies and are very useful for kids packs if they get lost on the trail. Don’t for a moment think that kids should not be carrying their own gear. Water and snacks are easily cartable to the toddler who can trek on their own. My absolute favorite kids pack is one where they can have their own water pouch and fit snacks in it as well like Camelbak’s Mini MULE Hydration Pack
2. First Aid kit
First aid kits come in all sizes and shapes. We know this. There are some that are great for your bathroom cabinet that include all the necessities for a home. But when you are hiking, there are just some minor things you need to consider. Typical injuries on hikes are things like blisters (from improper shoe sizes/fittings) and scrapes from branches and such. So bandaids of a few different sizes can be helpful as well as antibiotic cream and a maybe an alcoholic wipe or two. Depending on where you are trekking off to will depend on the other things you may want but honestly its a rarity to need these things so just keep in mind the weight you will add to your back if you decide to bring those extra items. Some people also like to grab a whistle if their backpack doesn’t have one attached to the straps. Also, don’t forget your sunscreen so you don’t get burned. Even on winter days, sun screen can help with burns from light you don’t even notice is bothering your skin.
Water is by far the most important thing you want to bring with you on a hike. Second to that is food. Dehydration/Starvation is one of the worst things that can happen to you while out in nature. Even if you aren’t planning on taking a 5 hour trek through the woods, its important to have sustenance with in case you need it. Some things to consider with your snacks are making sure you have a source of protein and a source of quick energy (sugar). The protein allows us to have sustainable energy throughout the duration of the hike while the sugars give us the quick energy we need in a pinch. This is why trail mix is so popular. Chocolate pieces combined with dried fruit and nuts are just the combo to keep any hiker going on the trail. An easy solution for carrying water is to get a backpack that is combined with a water pouch. The tube comes out and is easy to open and close for water access without taking off your pack. If you aren’t going on a long hike, consider taking an insulated water bottle. My favorite is the 20oz EDDY®+ VACUUM STAINLESS STEEL water bottle by Camelbak. These carry less water for small hikes, they are easy to carry and they keep water colder in the summer for longer periods of time. Check out this nifty Hydration Calculator to tell you how much water you should be drinking and how much you need to carry with you.