Just imagine if today was going to be your first hike. Actually, depending who you are that is reading this, it could be. How cool would that be? Me, having some input into what you take on a hike as a beginner! Out of this world eh? Ok, back to reality.
This is going to be a steer in the right direction for less experienced hikers and total newbies. If you’re an experienced hiker, who doesn’t need tips like this to hand out or to or pass on to others, move along now, nothing to see here. LOL.
This is not intended as a complete kit-list, it’s just a guide to get you thinking along the right lines so that you stay safe and prepared.
Backpacks, Daysacks or Daypacks?
The terminology differs but these are are basically the same thing. The most important item you will take on most if not all hikes with you is a good quality comfortable daypack or backpack to carry your bits and pieces in. There are few things to keep in mind when choosing the right backpack.
Wider shoulder straps tend to be more comfortable than narrow ones. Look out for one with comfortable padding on the straps. You don’t want string-like straps cutting into your shoulders all day long. Also ensure the pack is fairly lightweight when it is empty in order to keep the overall weight down once you have added your essentials.
I personally prefer packs that have attached belts that goes around the waist and chest. This can help tremendously to support the weight of the pack and stop it from jiggling around too much when you are hiking.
Apparently Size Matters
Make sure you get a pack that is big enough to carry the items you have chosen to bring. For a Daypack I always take between a 25 and 35 litre capacity. This will vary from person to person depending on you propensity to risk, and therefore how much safety and “just in case” stuff you want to take with you. Obviously take this into account before spending your hard earned cash.
Look for a pack with quality material that will hold its shape. The use of modern waterproof and quick drying lightweight materials are incredibly popular in daypack manufacture nowadays, so you may have a large selection to choose from. I also find that having multiple compartments is a bonus for keeping thing separate and easy to access.
You want to purchase something sturdy enough and with secure fasteners that can be put through airport baggage handling without falling apart or setting all of your essential items free on the baggage carousel or into the luggage compartment of a bus.
Water is not an optional item.
You should carry enough water to last for the whole duration of your walk. Most modern daysacks have an inbuilt compartment for a Camel Pack type bladder and hole and fasteners for the hose built into them. Unfortunately as we all know, water is fairly heavy and bulky, reaffirming the need to get a sturdy pack. This is another reason to get a large enough capacity, comfortable backpack that has room enough to hold your water and other items.
We recommend that your food is kept in a separate compartment of its own somewhere in your pack. This is both for ease of access, and to stop your banana from coating your wooly hat when you accidentally sit on your pack!
Food for thought…..
The Food that you bring will depend on your individual tastes and the nature of the walk you are planning. The idea is to try to keep down weight and size while ensuring it is calorie rich enough to sustain you. High energy snack foods are popular because they are light and carry well in the pack. Others are salty foods, like salted peanuts, trail mix, hard candy and electrolyte powder or drink.
What Clothing should I take on a Hike?
When it comes to clothing, the answer is simple. Dress for the hike you are going to go on that day and be prepared for something a little worse, such as a storm, temperature drop or other sudden changes in the weather.
The key is lightweight layers so that you can adjust easily to changes in weather and temperature. For the inner layer, avoid cotton as it absorbs moisture thereby keeping it close to your body. There are so many modern microfibre high performance new materials on the market nowadays that you are spoiled for choice. These generally take moisture away from your body and can be incredibly warm for their weight and packing size.
On the bottom/legs, I almost always wear shorts, no matter when, even when it is pretty cold. However, you may want to take windproof trousers too if you aren’t wired the same as me, which is highly likely.
Always includes extra socks. There is nothing worse than walking all day in one wet sock when you have accidentally stepped in a puddle or river at the start of the day. A spare pair of quick drying anti blister socks takes up almost no room and weigh just a few grams.
The outermost layer should be windproof, splashproof and preferably breathable. If you are well kitted out and properly prepared for all eventualities, walking in the rain can be a wonderful and liberating experience.
If you want to get ahead, get a hat.
Always take a beanie hat. These can be extremely useful when a sunny and cool stroll suddenly turns to cloudy, damp, and cold battle through the elements. The majority of your body heat will be lost through your head, so cover it up with a beanie, they look cool too. Or is that just my opinion?
Plan for the possibility of things getting worse than they were when you set off, but don’t be too pessimistic. After all, we do this for fun. So don’t let a little bad weather discourage you. Think of it as an adventure. Every hike will have its own trials and tribulations. A little wind and rain will make the next beer stop that much more enjoyable.
An absolute essential is to invest in a good pair of walking, trail running or hiking shoes that do not pinch or rub. Be sure to break them in before venturing out onto a hike. There is nothing worse than blisters half way through a long walk.
Beware of the Sun
A baseball cap, aussie style hat, a bandana or even a sombrero (if you are a little more out there) will help keep you cool and protect you from the sun, especially if you are a Baldy like me.
Sunglasses help you look cool, and I believe they have a practical use too. Speaking of the sun, it’s wise to take some factor 50 sunscreen too if you are prone to sunburn.
Walking Sticks/poles are optional, but I have started taking my telescopic collapsing poles with me lately and they are a great help in taking some of the strain off my knees, especially on the steep downhills, they are small enough to store into a side pocket too.
Safety is Paramount
That just about covers it Ladies and Gentlemen. That’s the basic list of pretty much everything I take on daily hikes, and you won’t go far wrong if you follow suit. Now get yourself outside and take a hike.