While you’re planning for your adventure, certain creature comforts, tools and gizmos will make you more prepared to expect the unexpected. Be sure to keep handy these 13 essential items in your backpack.
You may trust that you can just follow the trail and end up where you want to be, but carrying a map will let you know exactly where you are and how much further you need to trek. Be sure your map includes campsites, water locations and an emergency exit route in case there is an accident.
Find your way through unfamiliar terrain and stay on track, especially in bad weather when you can’t see landmarks, with a good compass.
Water (and a Way to Purify It)
Don’t count on the water you find along your hike to be drinkable. Bring along drops to purify your water if you can’t carry your own or invest in a steripen. Drinking plenty of water on your hike keeps you hydrated and helps prevent altitude sickness and hypothermia.
Bring along some extra food such as carbohydrate-rich fruit, energy bars or trail mix. You never know when a hike may take longer than you estimated, you get lost, you are injured or you encounter difficult terrain. A little extra food will keep up your energy.
Rain Gear and Extra Clothing
You never know what the weather will really be like until you get out on the trail. Bring extra layers that you can peel off, avoid cotton that retains moisture and wear a hat. A slicker in your backpack will be appreciated if rain suddenly falls.
Firestarter and Matches
Both can help you in an emergency. A warm fire can prevent hypothermia, especially if you get lost, and can help act as a signal.
First Aid Kit
Look for a prepackaged first aid kit that contains at least the basics.
Army Knife or Multi-Purpose Tool
These nifty tools can repair gear on the go, remove the random splinter, fix your broken sunglasses or open a can while you’re hiking.
Flashlight and Extra Bulbs and Batteries
Again, if you get lost, a flashlight can help you find your way in the dark or signal for help.
Sun Screen and Sunglasses
Sunscreen with prevent inevitable sunburn, especially if you’re outdoors all day. Reapply every two hours. Sunglasses shade you from the sun and prevent snow blindness.
Determine what type of terrain you plan to hike on and plan your hiking boots accordingly. Choose sturdier soles for rocky terrain and trail-walking shoes for gentle inclines on flat terrain.
Smaller day packs are intended for day hiking without an overnight stay. Most range in capacity from 1,500 cubic inches to 2,000 cubic inches. Added features include side pockets, daisy chains for strapping on extra gear, internal frames, padded backs and waist belts. Your day pack should be light, water-resistant and have outside mesh pockets for easy access to water bottles, maps and compasses.
Hiking poles can make a slippery or steep hike a little easier on your knees and thighs. Modern hiking poles are lightweight and collapsible, so they easily fit in your day pack.