5 Extra Socks
We’ve listed some items essential to survival. Now here’s one for comfort. As Lieutenant Dan told Forrest Gump in the movie, extra socks are of the utmost importance. “Keep your feet dry,” was his advice. If during your hike you go through a stream or slosh through a puddle, your now wet feet could make for an uncomfortable—and squeaky—rest of the hike. A spare pair in your pack will allow you to continue in comfort.
4 Fire Source
Even if you have a great sense of a direction and are armed with a decent map of the area, you could still end up in an emergency on your hike. Be prepared for this rare-but-plausible scenario by bringing along matches or a lighter in case you’ll have to start a fire for warmth or signaling.
3 Light Source
You never know when your plan for a day hike will turn into an excursion that ends later than expected (read: you make a wrong turn). Always be prepared with a light source, such a flashlight or headlamp in case the sun sets on your hike. It doesn’t hurt to also bring along extra batteries.
2 Navigation Materials
“Backpacker Magazine” once wrote, “Not all dotted lines are made equal.” With that said, a simple map that outlines where to park and where the trailhead starts might not always be the most effective guide. If you are going a bit off the beaten path, consider a topographical trail map that illustrates features such as rivers, streams, peaks, ridges and mileage. There are plenty of guidebooks available with detailed maps of trails in a certain geographical area. Visitor centers, bookstores, and outdoors-related websites are a great place to start. Carrying a compass can also come in handy when you get a bit disoriented, and we’re not talking a smartphone app.
Water. It’s a necessity of life—and a hike. Each hiker should bring at least a quart of water, maybe more if you are hiking during warm weather. Bottles are great, but consider a lightweight hydration system that allows you to sip right from the hose, without going in and out of your bag. Check ahead of time if there are places you can replenish your water supply along the trail. You might also want to bring along a water filter or water purification tablets in case you need to refill from an uncertain source.