Whether you’re heading out on a short 1-mile, or long 20-mile day hike, here’s a list of essential items to bring:
What to Take on a Hike
WATER – Your absolute “Must have!” on any hike! Use a system that keeps your hands free and body balanced. Hydration backpacks (from companies like CamelBak or Osprey) are fantastic. Their insulation helps keep liquids cool (a big Yes!! in a hot climates). And their flexible straws make for super-easy, hands-free drinking. Extra pockets and the ability to switch-out the inner bladder to match your water needs, are added bonuses. For hikes under 3-miles, belts with removable bottles (from companies like Everest and Camden Gear) are perfect. On long or remote hikes, bring a water purification straw or tablets (from companies like LifeStraw or Potable Aqua), just in case.
Be sure to check out our H20 Guide to figure out how much water to bring.
FUEL – Yay! You’ve reached the summit. Time to take a break, absorb the scenery and replenish your fuel. Bring enough healthy, calorie dense snacks to replenish yourself. Great options include bars (from companies like Kind or Clif), mixed nuts, trail mix and dried fruit. Oranges and apples travel well and help replenish lost liquids and vitamins. On hot or strenuous hikes, a sodium and potassium tablet helps replenish salts lost through sweating. Be sure to bring a small zip-lock bag to carry out wrappers, peels and cores. Leave no trace y’all.
COMMUNICATION – Bring your cellphone (doh!) just in case you need to reach out. QR code reader apps allow access to map urls provided along some trails. Employing airplane mode saves power – especially where service is limited. For long hikes, bring a phone battery. And always let someone know where you’re hiking and when you expect to be back before you head out the door. Phone service isn’t always be available on the trail!
SUN PROTECTION – Apply sunscreen, even under your clothes, before hitting the trail. Throw a travel-sized tube into your pack and reapply as needed.
LIGHT – Carry a flashlight or headlamp (from companies like Foxelli or Black Diamond) in case you end up being out longer than expected. Lumens are the key to quality and brightness. Shoot for 150 or above . Check the batteries every few months.
BASIC EMERGENCY SUPPLIES – Including a whistle, multi-tool knife with tweezers and pliers for removing thorns (Leatherman is a quality company), compass with reflector mirror, Paracord bracelet, hand sanitizer, multi-sized band-aides, tissues, lip balm, waterproof matches, cheap plastic poncho and mylar blanket. These items are compact and light-weight. Once you’ve put a kit together, leave it in your pack so you can grab-and-go! You’ll be glad for the supplies if a situation arises. For hiking in the desert, a hair-pick is crazy-good for extracting cholla spikes. Oh! And don’t forget your ID!
HIKING POLES (Optional) – If you’re less steady on your feet, or have sensitive knees, hiking poles are a worthwhile investment. Poles deflect pressure and impact from the lower to the upper body and help prevent injury. Look for sturdy, collapsable poles, with ergonomic grips and a quality interior shock system (from companies like Black Diamond and Denazo).