Even if you’re just going on a short hike, it pays to be prepared. You never know if you’re going to get lost (or come across a bear). If you're wondering what to bring on a hiking trip, the following items are essential for your safety, comfort and survival.
1. Map and Compass
Wherever you go hiking, it helps to know where you’re going. A map of the area can help you make sense of trail markings and determine where you go. A compass can get you back to where you started if you get lost. Of course, you’ll have access to GPS via your smartphone in many areas, but lots of hiking trails are off the beaten path, and you might not always get a signal. Don’t rely on electronics for navigation.
2. Sun Protection
Sunscreen is necessary no matter what the season. Especially if you’re at high altitudes, being outside all day can take a toll on your skin. A hike is no fun when you’re sunburned. Sun protective clothing helps protect you from the sun while keeping you cool. The quick-drying fabric helps keep sweat away from your skin, and when you wear clothing with UPF 50+, you don’t have to mess with goopy lotions that will feel icky as you perspire. Don’t forget the lip balm, hat and sunglasses.
Even if you’re heading out during the day and plan to be home well before dark, bring a flashlight and batteries. If you do get lost, the last thing you want is to be stuck in the dark woods overnight.
4. First Aid
A basic first-aid kit is important. You never plan for accidents, which is why they’re referred to as accidents.
A good first-aid checklist includes:
- Antiseptic wipes
- Antibacterial ointment
- Adhesive bandages (the fabric ones stick to sweaty skin better)
- Butterfly bandages/sutures
- Gauze pads
- Medical tape
- Pain relief medication
- Safety pins
- Bug spray
- Blister-relief kit
- Eye drops
- Hand sanitizer
- Elastic wrap (such as an ace bandage)
Stash matches, a lighter and fire starters in a waterproof container. You can also add some newspaper, or if you brought toilet paper with you, that can help start a fire in a pinch.
You probably don’t need too many tools while hiking, but a knife and a multi-tool can come in handy. Some extra rope can be useful if you find yourself in an emergency.
7. Trash Bags
You have to pack out whatever you pack in. Keep your garbage contained by bringing a trash bag or two. If you’re bringing your pooch along with you, ensure that you have bags to collect waste.
8. Food and Water
It goes without saying that you should bring snacks and water along on your trip. You might want to pack a water treatment kit just in case you get stuck somewhere and run out of water. Your body can last longer without food, but bring more than you need. Chances are you’re going to work up an appetite.
9. Emergency Shelter
If you do get trapped somewhere overnight, you’ll need shelter. A nylon tarp, a rope and some stakes can create a makeshift tent just about anywhere.
If you are in danger or need to scare off a bear, a whistle can be valuable. Keep it with you, but don’t let the kids have access to it if you want a peaceful hike.
This might seem like a lot to pack for a few hours in the wilderness, but those few hours can seem like ages if you’re not equipped. If you’re hiking with friends, you can split some of the items between you. Plus, they'll be impressed that you know what to bring on a hiking trip. A high-quality backpack will give you plenty of space to pack and stay comfortable while you hike.