There are dozens of benefits to taking up hiking and outdoor exploration. This fun and exciting hobby is a great way to get exercise, reduce stress and appreciate the beauty and fresh air of the great outdoors. It can also be the perfect way to connect nature or to others, and the sense of accomplishment when completing a journey can be inspiring. However, it’s important to be prepared for expeditions big and small in order to stay safe and enjoy the journey. If you’re a new outdoor adventurer, start with a high-quality backpack and fill it with the essential gear you need for every trip.
Appropriate Shoes and Clothing
A good pair of hiking boots is necessary to keep your feet safe and supported. Make sure you break them in before wearing them on a big trip to avoid painful blisters. Choose clothing based on environmental conditions and current weather. Research the area before every hike to make sure you’re dressed appropriately. Always pack some extra clothing and include moisture-wicking or quick-drying options and long sleeves and pants in case of cold, excess sun, or insects. Don’t forget to add extra socks, a jacket, a hat, and sunglasses.
Most people carry their cell phones with them on their outdoor adventures, but a dead battery, poor signal or water damage could leave you stranded. Include a map of the area and a compass to help you find your way if the trail becomes unclear. If you plan on embarking on long trips, it may be wise to invest in an altimeter watch that can help with navigation essentials. Some models even measure barometric pressure and can alert you if a storm is approaching.
Ample Water and Nonperishable Food
Pack more than enough food in case of emergencies and to keep your energy up for your trip. Choose non-perishable options or snacks that have a long shelf life so you don’t have to worry about things spoiling on your trip. Trail mix, protein bars, jerky, and granola are excellent lightweight choices that can give you the energy you need to keep going on a long day. Include ample water and a travel filtration system to stay hydrated.
First Aid and Emergency Items
Accidents happen on the trail, so keep a well-stocked first aid kit with you at all times. Always take the essentials to help treat blisters and minor wounds, and supplement with extras based on the area you’re exploring. Keep some basic medications, such as aspirin, pain relievers and allergy medicine in your kit. Include a bottle of high SPF sunscreen to prevent sunburn, and don’t forget environmentally safe toilet paper and hand sanitizer for bathroom breaks. Finally, make sure you pack your ID, a credit card and some cash in case you end up in an unexpected destination.
Even if you plan to finish your hike before nightfall, pack a headlamp with extra batteries to help you find your way in the dark. This allows you to keep your hands free while navigating at night. A multi-tool is a must for outdoor explorers and can be very helpful in clearing obstructions on the trail, repairing damaged gear, preparing meals and handling unforeseen emergencies. Some type of fire starter kit should always be included in your hiking backpack. Finally, pack a whistle designed for camping and hiking. If you find yourself lost or stranded, it could help alert others to your location and save your life!
Some Form of Shelter
Every hiker should carry some form of shelter in their pack in case of inclement weather or emergencies. While a tent is a good idea for overnight trips, especially with a partner or group, you don’t have to pack one for a journey that should only last a few hours. Instead, keep a bivy shelter in your pack at all times. Many options are very economical and compact so they won’t take up too much necessary space.
Before every outdoor adventure, notify a friend or family member of your plans and itinerary, and be sure to check in with them when you start and end your journey. In addition, keep a copy of this information in an obvious location in your home and vehicle so that others can easily find you in an emergency. With the proper gear and planning, you can be prepared for a safe and enjoyable hike every time.