Hiking can be a great way to experience nature, learn about your surroundings, and exercise. While these extra factors make hiking more fun than a walk around the block, they also add complications. Before you start out on a hiking trip of any length, it’s important to suit up for the task.
The first and arguably most important tool in a hiker’s arsenal is knowledge. Take the time to do your research before you head out into the woods. Start by researching the area where the hike will take place. Public trails will appear on most map services, as well as forest preserve or county websites. Decide on the length and course of the hike and, if possible, the approximate time it should take to walk. Print out the map or pre-load it onto your phone, and double-check the maps provided on the trail. Be sure to also check the weather for the day, and always bring a buddy. Ideally, choose someone who already knows the trail you’ll be hiking.
Once you understand the terrain and weather you’re heading into, the rest of the essential gear for all your hiking needs becomes easy to assemble. What you wear really matters when you’re outdoors. It involves more than just wearing a coat if it’s cold and a t-shirt if it’s warm. Consider adding a chilled bandana, sun-blocking hat and sunscreen, or even an umbrella, depending on the intensity of the heat. For cold weather, experiment using multiple layers of clothing, adding gloves, scarves, and hats, and consider wearing hand and feet warmers for longer trips.
Footwear is also key. Naturally, you won’t want to get your favorite kicks covered in dirt and scratches. Not to mention, most casual shoes are unable to provide proper comfort and protection for wilder terrain. There are a lot of sturdier shoe options, but some varieties of hiking boots will cover most terrain. In general, you will also want to add backup clothes to your backpack, including a lighter option, as well as a heavier one, extra dry clothes, and rain gear for unexpected weather shifts.
The final part of the essential gear for all your hiking needs is general items. This includes things such as plenty of food and water. A healthy snack will keep your energy up on the walk and provide a good excuse to take a break. More is always better when packing water, so never skimp, even if you are afraid it will make your bag heavy. It’s better to burn a few extra calories carrying extra water than to go thirsty and risk feeling sick. Depending on the location or the time of your hike, a flashlight might be a good idea as well. Lastly, pack a compass to check directions and a whistle to signal your buddy or warn away wildlife. It is always better to overpack than to underpack when it comes to safety and comfort. Check over your hiking kit, keep it stocked, and always plan ahead.