Hiking Essentials for Beginners: What to Carry & What NOT to Carry!
Nothing possibly can describe the amount of excitement boiling inside of you right now. You are finally going on a hiking day trip, and you simply can’t wait!
You can’t wait to walk along forested trails, breathe a breeze of fresh air, marvel at the beautiful sceneries, and take a few Insta-worthy shots. You are entirely ready for it, and all you are yet to do is to pack your hiking gear, a few essentials, and hit the trail.
But do not celebrate just yet
As a beginner, walking for miles, admiring the breathtaking landscapes around, might seem the most uncomplicated adventure outing in the world. It may appear deceptively simple, especially with the endless fun and thrill promised. Or, the beautiful stories narrated by those who have been on hike entourages before.
Yet, it’s far from it.
The greatest mistake nearly every novice hiker makes is packing less or more than what is necessary. Some underestimate the challenges promised and end up giving along the way. Worst of them all is those who ignore words of wisdom from veteran backpackers and later pay for their ignorance.
And so, before you set out for a day hike, here are some things you ought to know:
Essential gear to carry on your backpack
Your day hike checklist should be well organized and must only contain items that are absolutely necessary for the trip. It should have several weather-appropriate clothing, plenty of food and water, a full first-aid kit, a multi-tool, or a simple pocket knife and navigation tools – preferably a map and a compass.
Choose a decent pair of hiking boots and try them on a few days before the actual trip. That way, you will tell whether they are comfortable and fit for a full day’s walk. Your choice of trail-ready clothing should include light and breathable tees, shirts, and jackets, especially the quick-drying ones.
If you must, then have a hat and a pair of sunglasses as well. If it’s a spring day hike, don’t forget your sunscreen, a sanitizer, and anti-mosquito spray. However, pants instead of shorts are still perfect.
Let nobody fool you, walking sticks or trek poles are an absolute necessity, and you must bring at least one. They offer extra support on tricky surfaces and also when the going starts to get tough. Getting one is not hard as almost every store selling hiking gear has several quality ones.
As for the best choice of food to pack, plenty of dry snacks, energy bars, fruits, and nuts are highly recommended. It’s still acceptable, though, if you bring a sandwich for lunch. Ideally, there is no particular dish we could say is the best to pack for hiking, and so long as it is light, energy-giving, and shelf-stable, easily-packed, pick it.
You must stay hydrated before and during the actual hike. As a beginner, and probably someone whose body isn’t used to long, tedious walks, several liters of water should be available. Typically, a universally accepted rule of thumb is to plan for two cups of fluid after every hour.
As you pack a couple of liters of water, don’t forget to include several bottles of your favorite energy drinks. However, it’s better to avoid caffeine drinks such as coffee and colas and any alcoholic drink because they may cause rapid dehydration.
Of all hiking essentials for beginners, one particular item you shouldn’t forget is your navigation pack. A compass could be enough, although having a map makes the entire trip a lot easier to cover. Don’t rely on the compass that’s on your phone – what if you run out of charge?
Lastly, have a complete first aid kit. Ensure it has a handful of adhesive bandages to be used in case of cuts, bruises, and blisters, an anti-bacterial sanitizer, a whistle, and several prescription medicines. You can shove your toilet paper inside or pack it alongside your first-aid kit.
Pre-trip planning; very important!
Since it’s going to be your first hike ever, don’t think this exhilarating activity is all too blissful. Without prior preparations, your endurance could be tested to the limit. And you may suffer and perhaps even end up abandoning the entire trip.
So, get your body ready for it by working out a couple of days ahead. Go on a short out-and-back route around your neighborhood every day, taking a few hours per trip. If possible, choose a path that offers near-similar challenges as those that your preferred hike trail promises.
Study the trail keenly and be familiar with every detail
Your biggest challenge will not be the pace of your fellow hikers. It will be how you balance the thrilling experience and the challenges posed by the trek. Thankfully, if you know what to expect at every turn, you will enjoy the entire outing.
Therefore, carefully examine the trail and get familiar with every point of interest along the way. Some of the most important features to look out for are waterfalls, hills, spring blooms, stream crossings, and other beauties on the trail.
Remember to choose a beginner-friendly trail. When selecting one, go for a trekking route that suits your fitness level and promises the best sights and sounds. Ideally, some other factors to consider when choosing a trail are the estimated trekking time, distance to be covered, its elevation gain, and perhaps how challenging it could be.
On the big day, DO NOT hike alone – trudge with a partner
At a bare minimum, find someone with whom you can conquer the vast miles. It could be an active hiker, a newbie like you, or someone fairly experienced in it. There are several active backpackers on social media and you can link up with them.
The main reason why you shouldn’t hike alone as a beginner is because this activity is quite unpredictable and anything can happen. Imagine being alone in the wilderness, miles away from home and you get an accident, run out of supplies, or get lost along the way.
With a partner, you will have someone to cheer you up throughout the experience. An expert trekker will hold your hand and also useful experience to guide you, especially when you encounter an obstacle.
It is perfectly acceptable to carry a camera and a pair of binoculars along with your phone. However, make sure they all have quality protective cases. As for a headlamp or flashlight, you may include one – just in case.
It is not important to carry your credit card, DL, and other unrelated documents when hiking. Having your ID is enough. Lastly, keep the trail clean and free from any dirt, including used food cans and water bottles. Don’t litter or disturb the environment around you.