Embracing hiking as your favorite sport is not an easy commitment. If you want to have everything go just as you thought it would and let it be a smooth sailing adventure rather than a bumpy road, you’ll need to prepare your body and mind appropriately and diligently. Trust me, I know!
And when that’s done – you can start enjoying it!
If this is your first hike and you’re still overwhelmed with expectations and excitement, you’re probably way too confused to think straight about what essentials to bring and what things to focus on. Fret not! As someone who’s been successfully hiking for years now, I’ve put together a list of essentials you want to pack in your rucksack and have close by at all times.
Compass and map
Even if you’re just hiking in an urban park (although I don’t really think that’s the case?), you want to learn your hiking trail and manage to find your location based on the landmarks and trail junctions marked on it.
The first thing you need to learn is how to find North. Often, this is the only thing you need to learn, as this knowledge comes helpful in cases where things turn around. Relying on Cellphones and GPS Receivers is not a part of your backpack essentials, so focus your attention on learning that map.
Sleeping bag and tent
You can’t really go on a hike unless you’ve brought a quality sleeping bag. Well, you can – but that’s only if you are planning on coming home later that day. You’ll bring a tent if you plan on camping somewhere for a few days, otherwise it’s not an essential.
Whether you are packing your first aid supplies for yourself or other people you are hiking with, it’s important to bring a few essentials. To avoid forgetting something, buy a small personal first aid kit (rounds at about $15-20). You can customize that kit with some personalized supplies like allergy shots, lenses, etc.
I usually drink a quart of water or half a liter prior to my hiking expedition and then an additional quart after every two hours. Water gives you strength and clarity, so it’s unbelievably important to keep yourself hydrated. Further, water will help you digest meals or snacks, and eliminate waste. I always carry a water filter or Chlorine Dioxide tablets when I am going for an all day hike, because that way I can purify water from a lake or a stream when I run out.
Hiking is exhausting! To keep your body going, you need to eat properly and hydrate as much as possible, especially if you’re hiking for more than a few hours. Hiking foods are slightly different to what you’d normally bring to a picnic or some other outing. Always have some healthy snacks handy and make sure they’ve got a good balance of fat, carbohydrate and protein. You may also bring a sandwich if you plan on hiking all day.
The amount of extra clothing to bring depends on whether you are hiking in the backcountry, the mountains, at the seaside, somewhere near the city, and of course – whether there’s a chance you might get stuck outdoors at night. However, it always advisable to bring an insulated sit pad, sweater, an insulated jacket, hat and gloves along just in case you’re out after sunset. Also, make sure your footwear is comfortable, regardless of where you’re going.
It’s always a good idea to carry sunscreen, however always opt for a brand you normally use, since summer is not the time to experiment. To prevent sunburn, I always go for the face and body creams by Clarins Australia in combination with a fashionable hat, lip balm and sunglasses. Sunglasses are very helpful both during summer and winter time. Consider wearing special sun-proof clothing if you’re very sensitive to the sun.
No matter for how long you’re going away on the hike, always carry a flashlight or a headlamp and some extra batteries. You can never be sure how quickly it’ll get dark, and you want to have enough light to walk freely or set up camp if you’ve been delayed.
I honestly hope your first hike goes smoothly and that you’ll enjoy every last bit of it!