what to bring on a hike

What To Bring On A Hike?

One of the many things hiking has (slightly) taught me is how to pack light. I cannot, for the life of me, do so. I guess that is one of the hazards when you are allergic to so many things - you always need to have a medication on you for each type of allergy. That’s just how life is if you want to survive.

After my first hike, though, I learned to determine which things I could do without and which ones I should always have on me. As I went on more hiking trips, I have added and removed things to my list to make sure that I get to trek with as much ease as I could have while hiking. If you want to know what a person (who generally does not like hiking, but does it anyway for the health benefits it provides) should bring to all his hiking trips, read on.

1. Map and Compass or Global Positioning System (GPS)

A map, really? Yes! Long before technology became our “crutches”, maps and compasses were the only things you could rely on for direction. This combination won’t fail and won’t run out of juice. Imagine getting stuck in the middle of nowhere, out of battery, with no means to call someone or pinpoint where you are.

map and compass

If you have a map (that is fully protected - meaning waterproofed) and a compass, these will not only tell you where you are and how far you have to go, but also help you find campsites, water, and an emergency route in case of an accident. GPS units are very useful and way more advanced, but it is always a wise decision to carry a map and a compass with you at all times.

2. Rain Gear and Extra Clothing

One of the perils when hiking is the unpredictable weather. When you set out, it may be sunny, but there’s no telling how the winds shift and change the weather. It is of grave importance that you pack rain gear, extra clothing, extra underwear, and an extra pair of socks. You will never know when you will need them. It is also always important to bring something that will keep you sufficiently warm at night if your hike is an overnight affair.

3. Water… and then More Water

It is a simple truth - people need water. But more than that, especially for those of you who will be hiking for the first time, not hydrating enough is a major contributor to altitude sickness.

drinking water

What is altitude sickness? The symptoms include headache, nausea, fatigue, and trouble sleeping due to a lack of available oxygen. Usually, ibuprofen, Tylenol or aspirin can help ease the headaches, but it takes 24 to 36 hours to acclimatize. If symptoms persist, the hiker should seek medical attention right away.

Moderately drinking more water than usual helps hikers to adjust to the climate more easily.

4. Food

As hard as you plan to get back to the main campsite by a certain time, this almost never happens. A number of things could keep you longer like getting lost, an injury, or a particularly challenging terrain. Food is always a good idea when we feel like we are running low on the energy department and always keeps a pack of hikers happy.

5. First Aid Kit and Necessary Medication

Accidents are cannot be foreseen. It doesn’t matter where you are; that’s why it is called an accident. First aid kits is an essential you should never forget to pack. If you want to take your hiking skills to another level, can also take a first-aid class.

first aid kit

If you also have special medications, please do not ever forget to bring them. Picture this: You about to set out to hike only to discover you forgot your medication. I implore you to turn back and stay behind. Do not risk it.

6. Safety Items: Fire-starter, Flashlight, and Whistle

Fire-starter, flashlight or lamplight, and a whistle. These three should never be without the two others.

Fire is a source of warmth (and also makes s’mores) and an effective way to signal for help if you get lost. But wait, I have to stress this part - please be responsible. There have been many reported incidents of forgotten fire or other portable cooking devices that have accidentally started a fire. Please make sure that after every use, you put out the fire or keep the cooking devices properly. We are only visitors in the places we hike in, but there are creatures that actually live here. They graciously let us into their homes, let us not destroy it by negligence.

flashlight and whistle

A flashlight or lamplight is my best friend when hiking. I have difficulty seeing at night, so I always need light to know where I’m going or what I’m walking on.

I hope you’ll never need this, but whistling is a way more efficient method than screaming your lungs out to call for help - three short bursts, that’s all it takes.

7. Tent and Sleeping Bags

You will only need these if you have to spend the night on the trail, but if the hike is just a daytime affair, you can forego them. Keep in mind, though, to choose a tent and a sleeping back that is weather-appropriate to ensure your comfort and safety.

8. Knife or Multi-purpose Tool

When trekking, you will never know what you might encounter. There may be grass or small branches that may need to be cut down so you can pass through. There may also be things that need repairing or cutting. It is always practical to have one on you.

9. Sun Protection

The sun is harsh and merciless, but thankfully, humanity has come up with many ways to protect us from it. You have your traditional sunscreen and SPF-rated lip balm. Walking under the blistering heat of the sun can cause sunburn. It is guaranteed you’ll be tired after the hike; there’s no need to leave burnt, too. You can also choose to wear headgear to add another layer of protection.

10. Backpack

Duh, of course! You’ll want something that is durable but lightweight, with a smart design that will let you hike smartly and comfortably. I also recommend bringing a rain cover just in case. The things inside won’t matter if they’re all soaking wet, right?

hiking backpack

Hiking will absolutely draw you out of your comfort zone. It will either be extremely hot or algid, tiring, and you won’t have Internet access or cellphone reception all the time. In a time where everything is digital and online, I think this is probably the biggest “discomfort” we, non-professional hikers, deal with.

But I’ve learned that it is good to take time off, turn off those screens, and reconnect with nature. There is something almost spiritual once you reach your destination. I also encourage you to form strong bonds with the people you hike with. I personally think hiking alone is pointless. Something (someone) you should never forget to bring - an awesome set of people to embark on this journey with to learn from, push you when the going gets tough, and share these memories with.

About the Author Stephen

My first hiking experience was a disaster, but I have committed to pushing myself to get out there and make each hike as enriching as possible. Hiking means going out to see what’s beyond all the screens we always face.

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