Hiking is a wonderful way to get outdoors and experience nature at any level of athleticism. It is often experienced while participating in other activities like camping or rock climbing. Anything in the outdoors, whether it be climbing, backpacking, or mountaineering, has a base in hiking. As with anything, a good foundation lends itself to a greater enjoyment of the activity, and being prepared for your hiking excursions gives you a one up on participating in outdoor activities.
Whether you are solely hiking or adding in backpacking and climbing, there are several essential items needed for your enjoyment outdoors. Basic items include hiking footwear, water, a pack, appropriate outdoor clothing, a first aid kit, hiking poles, and food. Depending on the length of trip or the purpose of your hiking adventure some extra equipment may include shelter, extra clothing, extra food, camp shoes, a headlamp, and a different bag. Below is a list of hiking equipment with necessities and additional equipment that come in handy.
Your bag will define your adventure. For basic hiking, a simple day pack will be effective. Anywhere from 10 to 20 liters of space (bags and packs are often measured by volume), day packs are great tools to hold everything you will need for the day and extras. If you have a hydration bladder, the pack that comes with the bladder will most likely be effective for a day pack. For longer hikes, you will need to size the bag appropriate to your venture. Typically, backpacking bags run between 45 and 60 liters and will be efficient for all of your needs.
Safety is no accident, and treating injuries in the field will be difficult without the appropriate resources. The goal of the hiking first aid kit is not to treat every problem that presents itself, but to be able to treat minor injuries and give professionals time to get professional aid. Your first aid kit should include simple items like bandaids and ace wraps, but other considerations are medications that anyone in your group or you need (epinephrine, inhaler, ect), sting relief swabs, and gauze bandages. Lastly, consider adding triangular bandages, as they are multi-use medical items.
Food should have priority in your bag depending on the length of the trip. Food needs to be 1.5-2 pounds per person, per day. This is a bigger issue on long trips, and leads to calorie dense food consumption and choices. For day trips, snacks tend to be enough, or rather a planned meal that will not spoil! Snacks with carbohydrates and protein can quickly refuel your energy while on a trek.
Your footwear choice is very important. Hiking shoes will work, but do not provide the same insulation or ankle support as boots. Your footwear choice needs to match your activity, and longer hikes tend to require more structured footwear. Your shoe should be made of water resistant materials that let water drain from them so your feet do not become injured.
Hiking poles are hiking aids for more difficult hikes or for individuals who have injuries/disabilities. Hiking is not only for the young and perfectly healthy, and hiking poles help everyone hike more safely.
A map of the area in which you are hiking will provide you with a base of how and where you are going and what you are seeing. It will help keep you on course by letting you see which way the turns in a trail are and what the trails are blazed with. Knowing how to read a map will save your life, and keeping a map around will keep you on track.
The appropriate outdoor clothing depends on the type of activity being done. At a basic level, your clothing should be fast drying and comfortable for all day wear. Cotton drys extremely slowly, so the phrase "cotton kills" has been coined for outdoor wear. Wool, or wool alternatives such as polyester, are good choices for fabrics. Additionally, dry fit or water wicking fabrics are appropriate as well.
If a hike turns into an overnight venture, extra clothing is necessary. Generally, two or three pairs of pants and shirts, and a pair to sleep in is where you should start. There should be extra underwear and socks which should also be fast drying such as wool or polyester. If you pack extra clothing, you can have all of your main pairs be wet, and still have a pair to sleep in and a pair to wear the next day while your wet pairs dry. If you have to wade in a creek or river, you need to change your socks ASAP, as this can lead to painful blistering and injury.
Generally, you should have at least two liters of water for a day hike. For longer hikes you should have more than that. Typically individuals will carry a bottle or two in addition to a hydration bladder.
Nalgenes are a staple in the outdoors for being efficient and environmentally friendly. Typical nalgene bottles are a liter, and are hard plastic. Drawbacks of hard plastic bottles are that if it gets below freezing then the bottle will freeze on you and it will crack.
An alternative to the nalgene hard bottle is a soft bottle. Soft bottles are thin plastic that fill and expand out similar to a hydration bladder, but on a smaller scale. These bottles will not break if the water freezes, and they will be able to be compressed and roll up if it is empty.
A hydration bladder is a thick walled but pliable rubber or plastic sack of water that will be able to be filled and reused without worry of freezing. The drawback is there are hoses and seals that could break and cause a leak into all of your other equipment.
If you are hiking into an overnight trip, you do not want to be wearing your hiking boots around camp. You want to air out your feet and let them rest. Camp shoes are typically lightweight shoes that are worn around camp, such as Chakos or sandals. They are comfortable and not meant to be worn for long periods of time.
A headlamp will keep you safe and allow you to see around your campsite. If doing a day hike it may not be necessary but is there in case you need it. Additionally, if your trip goes overnight, then you will be able to use your headlamp to use the bathroom, collect firewood, and walk around your camp safely.
Shelter is essential. It's unsafe to wander on trails or through uneven terrain at night, and so shelter should be an option if your hiking trip runs overnight. Shelter includes a tent, a rain fly, and a footprint for that tent. The tent should be appropriate to the weather and the number of people in it, the rainfly is a waterproof covering for that tent, and the footprint prevents rain from seeping into the floor of the tent.
Soap is an overlooked essential component of every backpack. If you use the bathroom, you will want to wash yourself and your hands thoroughly. Concentrated soap such as camp suds will allow you to dilute it into soap and will last longer!
Overnight hiking trips will require an individual to replace the water that they have lost. This means finding a water source, but also making sure that water is potable. Means of this are chemical filtration, boiling, and gravity filtration. Each means of filtering is efficient, but there are types of bacteria or harms that are missed by each. The typical recommendation is that you use two types of filtration!