As I sat here, looking for inspiration to write the day hiking feature for this issue of Outdoor Adventure Canada, I was transported back to some of my first long day trips. One of these was a long hike that took us up a very steep trail to a wonderful lookout. The day was one of the hottest of the summer and I noticed that there were people on the trail who were ill prepared, one couple did not even have water. This made me aware that not all of us think ahead when it comes to packing for a day hike or geocaching adventure.
Water is the number one essential! To avoid becoming dehydrated which can happen easily, especially in hot weather. I recommend ½ litre for every hour. Of course, this will vary depending on your personal needs, the temperature and the difficulty of the trail. Be sure to take sturdy water bottles such as Nalgene or Camelbak. They are better for the environment than non-reusable bottles and won’t leak if the lid is on securely. I like to use two smaller water bottles. A water filter or purification drops are a good idea if you are going on a long hike and will need to refill your bottles.
Layer clothing when hiking in the shoulder seasons and in winter. A waterproof breathable outer shell is great for wind and rain. Polar fleece makes a nice layer over your inner layer of regular clothing. Wear a long sleeved shirt under the fleece in cooler weather and in warmer conditions a t-shirt. In the summer, pack the outer shell or a poncho in case of rain, even if the forecast is good.
Good footwear is crucial. For most hikes a high quality, sturdy walking or running shoe or cross-trainer will suffice, however in rugged or rocky areas you may want to consider a shoe or boot specifically designed for hiking. You might even a want a light backpacking boot if the terrain is particulary rough and difficult. Hiking socks are important. These help prevent blisters and tend to keep your feet more comfortable than an everyday sport sock. There are many types of hiking socks that will aid in wicking moisture away from your skin. If you are prone to blistering a liner sock may be a good solution. Bring an extra pair of socks and and perhaps even spare laces.
Other essentials may include a map and compass or a GPS, and first aid kit. Mine has bandages, moleskin, Compeed™ (for blisters), electrolyte replacement crystals and ibuprofen or tylenol. A flashlight or headlamp, bandana and a pocketknife are useful as well. Sunscreen is a necessity and you will want bug repellant or netted bug clothing in late spring when the mosquitoes and black flies are biting voraciously. If you own a cellular phone, take it with you in case of an emergency.
Your body needs fuel so food is an important part of your day hiking essentials. If hiking in cold weather you may want to bring a backpacking stove for a hot drink or hot lunch. If you don’t want to carry a stove think about filling a thermal bottle with your favorite hot beverage before you leave home. Your only limit is your imagination when it comes to lunch, not matter what the season. If the weather is very hot and perishables are on the menu just use a cooler bag and ice packs. I like those ones that you can refreeze. You may need eating utensils such as a mug, plate and spoon depending on what you decide to eat. Bring snacks to keep your energy levels up during the day. Things such as GORP (good old raisins and peanuts), fresh or dried fruit, veggie sticks, jerky, homemade energy bars or granola bars are all good choices.
Put all of this in a good quality daypack. Something with a hip belt and is more comfortable and I like having an outer pocket or two. I keep my full water bottle and outer shell at the top of the pack where I can access them easily.
Someone once said, “take only photographs and leave only footprints“, so remember your camera. It is a good idea to place it in a dry bag or waterproof camera bag when you aren’t taking a photo especially if there is inclement weather in the forecast. Don’t forget to bring an extra set of batteries. If it is wintery out, keep those spare batteries in an interior coat pocket—it can keep them from being drained because of the cold.
I don’t always use every item in my pack but for the one or two times when I have needed them, I am thankful for the little extras I pack. There is a certain peace of mind in being prepared for the unexpected. Packing properly for a day hike you will make your excursion more enjoyable.