It’s doesn’t get much better than a peaceful hike in a lush, scenic forest. The sights, sounds and smells of nature abound. Maybe there’s some vegetation you’ve never seen before or the spotting of a cute critter.
All this beauty and enjoyment can quickly take a turn for the worst if you take a wrong turn or if the weather heats up or cools down. Even if you are just planning to do a short day hike, there is hiking gear that you don’t want to be caught without for safety and comfort’s sake.
10.) Hiking Boots
If you’re going on a hike, your usual trainers just won’t do. You need to get your hands on some hiking boots. Hiking boots provide the right ankle support and are waterproof. Looking into the right boots for both terrain and weather conditions is the smartest thing you could do.
You shouldn’t scrimp on hiking boots as you’ll regret it when you’re in the middle of your 5 hour hike. Make sure that you purchase boots from a trusted brand so your feet and ankles don’t suffer.
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So you’re ready for your hike and you’ve bought all your hiking gear but what will you carry it in? You could potentially use any bag that’s big enough, but hiking backpacks are designed with a specific structure that provides support and comfort throughout a long day of hiking.
Get a list together of all of your needs and assess the backpack that’s right for your journey.
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8.) Emergency whistle
An emergency whistle may seem a bit extra but if you’re hiking alone, the signal on your phone is gone and you’ve fallen off the trail, you’ll wish that you packed this very inexpensive survival tool. It really does save lives.
You can even learn the mountain emergency distress signal so you know exactly how to communicate different scenarios with just your whistle.
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Some sort of multi-tool is always handy. Just make sure that it includes the tools that are actually useful for you, otherwise, it becomes an unnecessary weight. Would a multi-tool with a bottle opener be useful for you or one with wire cutters?
Multi-tools almost always include scissors and knife which is always helpful. Depends on if you will be staying overnight on your hike as well.
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6.) Sun Protection
We all know too much exposure to the sun will cause sunburn but even on a cloudy day, you’re at risk of being sunburnt. Make sure that you slather yourself in high-factor sunblock and pack extra to top up with.
Also, wear sunglasses with good UV sun protection as the sun can cause real damage to your eyes especially if you are hiking around snow. Hats can also protect your face and ears from sunburn.
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5.) Extra Socks
We’ve listed some hiking gear for 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.
It’s also important to wear the right socks for hiking. If not, you’ll end up with blisters and bruises by the end of the day. They need to be high enough to protect the ankles and extra cushioning under the foot. Cotton socks retain moisture but socks with Merino Wool, for example, are a lot more breathable.
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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 and caught out longer than you anticipated. 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. Many hikers will pack matches in a film canister, a cigarette lighter and magnesium sparker. The magnesium lighter may weigh quite a bit but it works when wet. Waterproof matches aren’t the most reliable source of a fire.
The most reliable way I’ve found to make a fire is to use a fire steel, which is a flint-like device that throws lots of sparks, and a fire-starter like cotton balls that have been covered with vaseline.
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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). An injury or bad weather can easily keep you out through the night.
Always be prepared with a light source, such a flashlight or headlamp in case the sun sets on your hike. LED headlamps are very bright, very small, inexpensive, and last a long time. It doesn’t hurt to also bring along extra batteries.
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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. You could also navigate with a GPS and Altimeter. However; these should not replace your map, compass, and navigation skills since they have limited battery life. Nothing is more reliable than a map or compass.
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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. It’s best to always bring more water than you think you will need and drink often and early. 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.
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These 10 hiking gear essentials are for general hiking but if you are hiking in extreme conditions or longer hikes, you will need to consider adding to your kit. Don’t be one of the people that has ‘all the gear and no idea’, make sure that you know how to use the kit that you take with you.