Vacations are amazing because they offer us the much-desired chance to ditch our boring or stressful routine, pack our bags, and go on an adventure.
Studies suggest that spending time outdoors can reduce stress, boost your mood, lower blood pressure, and even improve the cardiovascular functions.
When talking of vacations and outdoor adventures, hiking is the first thing that comes to mind because no other activity provides as raw and natural of an outdoor experience quite like hiking.
The idea of hiking may intimidate some people at first but, in reality, it is one of the easiest outdoor activities. After all, essentially, it’s just walking.
One other factor that calls for hesitancy regarding hikes is the preparation that comes before it – especially if it’s your first hike.
It’s natural to have plenty of questions about where to go, what to wear, what to pack, and most importantly how to stay safe lest something goes wrong.
This article covers all the essentials you must have in your backpack, whether it’s your first hike ever or one of many.
But first, you must decide on your hiking spot. Your hiking trail directly affects the type of gear you’d want to carry with you.
For example, if you plan to hike on the Smoky Mountains Trail, around the Gatlinburg cabins, it’s best to pack an umbrella or a tarp in case it starts to rain – a weather phenomenon common to that area.
Now that you know the impact of the location of your hiking trail has on what to carry in your backpack, let’s get right into the general must-haves you should bring on the hike.
It may seem like a no-brainer to pack a water bottle, or several, for your hike, but you’d be surprised at the sheer number of people who over or underestimate their water intake requirements during a hike.
If you bring more water bottles than you need, it can put a damper on the quality of your hike, which was meant to be meditative and fun.
Bringing less, however, can prove to be even more worrisome, and sometimes even perilous. Water not only quenches the thirst but without enough hydration a bright and sunny hiking day can turn into a survival-in-the-wild episode.
So, what is the right amount of water to carry on a hike? As a rule, pack a liter of water for each hour spent hiking.
On long hikes, mark water sources on your map beforehand and carry compact water filters or purification drops with you. That way, you can stay sufficiently hydrated throughout your hike.
Always carry reusable bottles that come with a hook – that way, you can hook them to your backpack.
Hiking is all about exploring the outdoors and immersing yourself in nature, but there is no reason to turn it into fasted cardio when you can have a fun little picnic out in the nature.
For hikes that are less than five miles, you can essentially pack a snack of your choosing, without having to worry too much about their nutritional value.
For hikes that last multiple days, consider packing food that is rich in nutrition, non-perishable, dry, and easily packable. Nutrition bars, dry fruits, trail mix, and lean meat are some of the best-hiking food options.
Map And Compass
You’d be surprised at how easy it is to get lost on hiking trails, especially if you are hiking through unfamiliar territory.
Losing your way can be one of the worst-case scenarios to happen to anyone while hiking. If you somehow deviate from the planned route or the official trail, you run the risk of being stranded, mauled by a wild animal, or end up with no food and water.
A paper map and a compass are of invaluable importance while hiking, but they are futile if you do not know how to use them.
Before going on a hike, make sure to take the following steps:
- Download maps of the hiking trail so that you can use them offline
- Fully charge your phone
- Learn how to read a map and a compass
- Familiarize yourself with the hiking route beforehand
If your navigation skills are not up to par yet, consider sticking to a well-known trail. That way you’ll be much more likely to encounter other hikers frequently.
First Aid Kit
Always pack a first aid kit for your hike, no matter how short your hike is – you never know when the need may arise.
Your first aid kit should include, but not be limited to, the following items:
- Hand Sanitizer
- Alcohol Wipes
- Multipurpose Elastic Wraps
Each year, sixty thousand people die of malignant melanoma, which is caused by the sun’s harmful UV radiation. Your skin is exposed to all sorts of external factors including unfiltered sunlight during a hike.
That is why, sunblock is an essential accessory on a hiking trip – it can save you from serious sunburns and other, far worse, health issues.
Always apply a generous amount of sunblock half an hour before your hike and reapply throughout the day as needed.
Means To Start a Fire
Starting a fire has been synonymous with human survival. A well-lit fire can mean the difference between suffering out in the cold.
Fire does not only provide warmth – it can also be used to heat food, purify water, and signal for help.
Always pack a couple of lighters and waterproof matches in your backpack. On long hikes, carry a camp stove along.
Knife Or a Multitool
An outdoor adventure means encountering unexpected circumstances. You never know what might come up, so it pays to be well-prepared.
You may think a knife might be overkill, especially on a short hike, but it can come in handy in numerous ways. From slicing food to cutting up sticks, knives and blades can be your best friends during a hike.
Other Useful Items
The above-mentioned items are highly essential, but these are not the only items that you should pack for a hike. Shelter, extra clothing, a high-quality torch, and toiletries are just some of the items you should consider carrying in your backpack. Always wear appropriate attire and hike-appropriate shoes. Learn all there is to know about the trail, so you don’t end up with surprises along the way, and enjoy a much needed time out in the open outdoors.