Spring Hiking and Basic Gear
Spring has sprung, and it’s time to hit the trails. Before heading out for that inaugural first hike of the season, take time to organize your day hike and backpacking essentials. Never head out for any hike without the right gear.
What to take hiking
Whether striking out for a short or long hike, every hiker should carry basic essentials. These include:
- A first aid kit
- Compass and a map
- Water, plus a way to purify water
- Extra clothing plus rain gear
- Sunscreen, sunglasses and hat
- Multipurpose tool and/or pocketknife
- Flashlight with extra batteries
- Fire-starter and waterproof matches
- Cell phone
Your first aid kit should include more than just basic bandages and aspirin. Be sure to have supplies to treat burns, punctures, bug bites and injuries such as twisted ankles. Always include cold packs, tweezers and even a snake bite kit.
Never solely rely upon a cell phone GPS as a guide tool. A quality compass is an essential tool all hikers should carry and know how to use. A compass doesn’t need a power source or satellite signal to work. Likewise, it’s smart to carry a topographic map of the area where you’re hiking if you need to find a water source or return route if you end up off the original trail.
Being prepared for all eventualities can save your life when hiking. Always carry water and a way to purify water from a natural source if the occasion requires it. Water purification tablets are lightweight and easy to add to your day-pack. If you find the taste of water from park pumps or fountains not so palatable, consider carrying a water bottle with its own filtration device, such as Brita’s soft-sided water filtration bottle.
Hiking apparel and shoes
Your hiking supplies extend beyond your day-pack or backpack. Look for hiking boots that offer support and comfort not only for your feet but also for your ankles. Hiking along uneven trails without supported ankles is a recipe for a twist or sprain. Before buying new hiking shoes/boots, consider the type of trails you’ll be traveling and if you plan to be out in wet and/or cold conditions.
Layers are important when hiking. Avoid cotton because it lacks insulation properties if it gets wet and also does not wick moisture away from your skin. Instead, look for synthetic blends, including thermal wear for hiking in colder weather. Wool and fleece are other great options for layering, and don’t forget a waterproof outer layer. Socks are a critical item and should offer comfort and breathability, as well as help protect feet from blisters. Opt for socks designed specifically for hikers to ensure a comfortable fit.
Other hiking must-have items
Depending on the size of your pack and the length of your hike, you may also consider adding items such as insect repellent, gloves, an emergency blanket (look for the reflective kind that folds up into a small square) and even a roll of duct tape, which can come in handy for a variety of emergency repairs to shoes, backpacks and more.