Intro To Hiking Essentials
Hiking has rapidly become one of the most popular things for people to do on a nice day. Due to a variety of factors, it makes a lot of sense. It’s cheap, if not free. You can genuinely enjoy the natural world that we live in. You can do it in large and small groups or even alone. And a spot to hike is available pretty much everywhere in the country. No matter where you do it or how serious you take hiking, there are still some solid hiking essentials you should have on hand.
No matter how serious you are about hiking, you need to be prepared. A common saying I’ll always appreciate; “hope for the best, prepare for the worst”. Hiking, as accessible and fun as it is, needs to be taken seriously. No doubt, you can have a beer or a White Claw, but you have to be responsible.
Do your research and prepare properly prior to embarking on your adventure. Don’t ever think nothing can go wrong. Generally speaking, that’s usually when things do. Some of the essential here are intended to create the most enjoyable experience possible, while others ensure you are prepared for the worst-case scenario.
Deciding On Your Hike Location
Your first step to a responsible and safe hike, is to locate a trail or hiking spot that is within your skill level. If you have never gone on a hike before, don’t make the mistake of thinking you can handle an 8-mile, 5,000 footer. This is an imperative part of ensuring your hike is an enjoyable one.
Needless to say, I made this mistake and found myself wishing someone would pick me up on an ATV and drive my ass down to the bottom. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen, and I spent the next few days drowning my joints and muscles in a CBD salve.
If your located in the city, it is very easy to locate a spot relatively close to you, however you may find yourself driving 30+ minutes to get to a reasonable location. I use an app called All Trails. This app has been a game changer for my hikes since I started several years ago. It will help you find a location close by but will also provide you with necessary information for each trail. How long is the trail? What is the difficulty? What is the incline? What do other people have to say about the trail?
8 Hiking Essentials
A bag to carry the rest of your essentials in is a pretty obvious item. A backpack or a pack designed specifically for hiking is what I would recommend. More specifically I recommend an REI pack. Their gear is top quality and will last dam near a lifetime. However, REI gear can get somewhat expensive. So, if you are in search of a more affordable option, you can check out their used gear or find some affordable options on Amazon.
When looking for the right pack for your hiking adventures, there are a few important things to look for. First, the weight of the bag. You don’t want to be lugging around a bag that weighs 10lbs before you put anything in it. Second, the size of the bag. This has a close relationship with the weight. A bulky bag will interfere with even the most experienced hikers trek. However, too small of a bag, and you won’t be able to carry all the gear you will likely need. And three, always check out the reviews. Believe it or not, customer feedback is well beyond valuable. People who have purchased the bag before can express the benefits and pitfalls of the product.
I’m sure that may not sound too imperative, especially if you are going on a 1 to 2-hour hike. But food is always necessary to have on you. If you are going on a shorter hike and feel an entire meal is too much, grab yourself a solid snack at the very least. Trail mix, Nature Valley bar, or a peanut butter and jelly are my go-to trail snacks. They don’t need to stay cool, they provide a solid amount of protein and energy, and they curve any appetite you may pick up on a short hike.
For those longer hikes you plan on going on, real food is definitely one of your primary hiking essentials. Even the most experienced hikers run out of gas and need to re-energize. Especially if your trekking up a mountain with a 20lb pack on your back. Plus, referring to rule number one; hope for the best, prepare for the worst.
You don’t ever want to find yourself lost in the woods, needing to scavenge or attempt to hunt small game for food. Remember, you want to bring food that doesn’t require refrigeration. You would probably feel pretty bad about your decision making if you were to bring all of this food with you and have it end up spoiling in your pack before you have the chance to utilize it.
The Right Shoes/Boots
Personally, this is one of the most important factors for me. And in my opinion, another one of the most important hiking essentials. Having the right hiking boots makes an exponential difference in the quality of your hiking experience. Your feet and knees take the majority of the beating on your hike. The right hiking boots can cut down on the toll your feet and knees take.
The right hiking boots will also keep you from rolling an ankle or slipping and taking a heavy fall. The last thing you want to happen when you’re out in the woods, is end up crippled and unable to make it back. And to top everything off, the right hiking boots will keep your feet dry.
It took me a while to find a pair I actually like and just as long to break them in. Hiking boots are generally expensive, if you are looking for a pair that you want around for more than a single season. I wear a pair of North Face Ultra Fastpack IV Mid Futurelight. I recommend before ordering a pair of boots on Amazon, you go to your local outdoors store and try on a bunch of pairs.
Water is one of the main required hiking essentials. Another obvious one, but we absolutely cannot leave this out. You want to pack enough water, that you will not run out if something were to happen. But you also don’t want to pack so much, that you add an extra 20 pounds to your pack.
You can kill two birds with one stone buy purchasing a hiking pack that has a water bladder built into it. But those can get a little pricey. If you do decide to go down that route, make sure you keep the water bladder clean. I can not stress that enough!
If you’re carrying a water bottle, I always recommend a reusable one. No reason to add more plastic to our already polluted planet. I recommend an insulated metal water bottle. But if you’d prefer to travel lighter, you can always carry a reusable plastic one. Water is water, ice cold or lukewarm.
Everyone keeps their phone in their pockets these days. Beautiful thing about modern technology, it makes it near impossible to get lost. Unfortunately, based on where you’re hiking, the service may be inaccessible leaving your phone useless. In a scenario like this, you are going to want a GPS. They can get fairly expensive, but they are much more useful than a compass or a phone with no service.
If you’re feeling like a true adventurer, you can always go down the compass route. I find it useful to know how to use a compass, regardless of how old you are and how often you hike. I grew up using a compass. And multiple times, I have found myself deep in the woods, with nothing working except for the compass on my phone.
If you’re hiking a heavy traffic trail, you don’t have to stress too much about this factor. Trails are generally marked well and if you’re lost, there are usually other people you can ask for directions.
Survival Kit/First Aid Kit
A basic survival kit is easy to find and pretty affordable on the good ol’ internet machine. A survival kit is pretty straight forward. You want to make sure that the kit you purchase has these basics: A first aid kit, knife, fire starter (flint), compass, emergency blanket, flashlight, whistle, fishing hooks & string, and some rope.
You can find kits with more items in them which I highly recommend, but these are what you need to ensure are in your kit. Even if you are going on a short mile long hike on a heavily trafficked trail, you should have a survival kit in your pack. I purchased this affordable emergency survival kit on Amazon and I’m very happy with the contents of it.
If you are of the proper age and take the proper steps, I recommend carrying a legally obtained and owned firearm. This isn’t something you NEED. But if you are going on a remote hike in areas populated with dangerous wildlife it is a good idea. I cannot stress enough about taking the proper steps to ensure that this is done safely. Go through your states legal process, train frequently and always be responsible when carrying.
I highly recommend carrying a CBD salve when you hike. I suggest a Venture Greens Nutrition CBD Salve which is used by many athletes and adventurers across the US. There are several variations: menthol, lavender and citrus. You can thank me later for this suggestion! Why did a CBD salve make it into my list of required hiking essentials? Because CBD has, by far, made one of the biggest differences in the quality of my hiking experiences.
I always keep a menthol salve on me. I have been a lifelong athlete and my knees have taken a serious beating over the years. Regardless of how long my hikes end up being, I always slather the salve all over my knees and lower back before and after my hikes. Applying it before keeps me feeling fresh throughout my hike. And using it after allows for a faster and more comfortable recovery from the strain of the hike.
This one is somewhat relative to the season and location of your hike. If it is winter in New England, where I am from, you should absolutely bring layers. But if it’s summertime in Arizona, you may want to fill that space with extra water.
When I say layers, I am not just referring to extra pants or sweatshirts. I am talking about socks as well. Regardless of where you are and the season, extra socks are imperative. Nothing sucks worse than stepping in a puddle and having to walk around in wet socks. It is uncomfortable and can lead to issues down the line. This can be avoided by wearing waterproof hiking boots, but there are no guarantees that puddle you step in will be shallow.