What you take on a hike largely depends on the kind of terrain you’re hiking, the length of the hike, the weather conditions and time of year. Whether it’s a summer hike in Joshua Tree or a fall hike in Sequoia, there are some essentials you’ll need every time.
Water – The importance of water cannot be overstated, even on short hikes. Since you sweat anywhere from ½ to 1 quart of fluid every hour in the heat, you’ll need enough water to replenish what you lose. Two liters is enough for a day hike.
Maps – Having a trail book or topographical map will help ensure you know where you are at all times. A compass is also helpful and can make it easier to follow the map.
Sun Protection – If you’re going to be out in the open, exposed to the sun, be sure not to forget sunscreen, sunglasses, a hat and even lip balm.
Food – Take snacks that provide high energy such as dried fruit, granola, peanut butter, power bars, fruit bars, trail mix and beef jerky. You’ll need at least 300 calories an hour, and more if navigating uphill terrain.
Hiking Boots – You’ll need comfortable, supportive hiking boots for navigating rough terrain. For even terrain, trail shoes should be sufficient. In wet conditions, consider boots with waterproof material.
Socks – In warm weather, socks should be lightweight with sufficient cushioning. You’ll need heavy hiking socks when wearing boots. Extra socks are helpful just in case you step in water. Not having proper socks can result in painful blisters.
Shirt – Although a cotton T-shirt should suffice for short hikes, shirts made of polyester or nylon help keep you drier on longer hikes. Long-sleeved shirts are advisable to protect against sun.
Rain Gear – Even if the possibility of rain is slim, you’ll still need rain gear such as a foldable poncho, although you’re better off with a waterproof jacket even if it’s a lightweight windbreaker. A wet hiker can easily become hypothermic.
First Aid – a small first aid kit will come in handy for any accidents along the way. It should include bandages, sterile pads and tape, gauze, allergy cream antiseptic and aspirin. (ems)
Other helpful items include a small flashlight, a Swiss Army Knife, waterproof matches, water treatment tablets and insect repellant. For longer hikes, you’ll need extra food and water, a powerful flashlight, a change of clothes, a sleeping bag, tent and even a camping stove.
Don’t forget a comfortable backpack for everything you carry, although a fanny pack should be sufficient for day hikes. When prepared, the easier it will be to enjoy the wilderness in all its beauty.