Whether you’d like to explore stunning national parks or simply enjoy a relaxing activity close to home, hiking is one of the most delightful ways to experience nature and spend some quality time with those you love most. But even if you’re a beginner only going on shorter day hikes, trails can be difficult and situations can quickly go awry in the wild, which is why it always pays to be prepared. To that end, here are some of the most essential pieces of equipment you should carry on every hike to ensure convenience and safety:
The right backpack
A sturdy and durable backpack is among the most essential pieces of equipment you should invest in. While 10-20 liter backpacks might be suitable for simpler and shorter hikes, longer ones could require larger backpacks that can hold more necessary gear. Either way, the right backpack has to be spacious enough to carry everything you might need on your hike, from food and water to extra items of clothing, just in case. It might be helpful if the backpack has plenty of convenient pockets and compartments for easy access as well.
To ensure you stay on track and don’t get lost on your hikes, especially when exploring more remote and unfamiliar areas, navigation will be crucial. And while most of us tend to depend on our mobile phones and digital maps for navigation, keep in mind that reception can be quite spotty in the wilderness. For that reason, having a backup plan is always advised. Opt for a GPS device specifically designed for outdoor travel, and also keep a physical topographic map of the area along with a compass in your backpack, for additional security.
A high-quality knife
When hiking, a quality switch blade knife will be another important piece of equipment you should always carry on your person. As long as the knife is robust, durable, and functional, it can serve a number of necessary purposes, from preparing food and making kindling to clearing pathways and emergency needs. In addition to a good knife, it might also be wise to bring a small gear repair kit to help in the backcountry. This should include useful items such as cordage, duct tape, safety pins, zip ties, and any needed spare or repair parts for your gear.
A first aid kit
As you never know what can happen in the wild, it’s critical to carry and know how to use a first aid kit. You can either buy a pre-assembled kit or customize one to suit your specific needs. In any case, the first-aid kit you bring on your hikes should include gauze pads, bandages of various sizes, blister treatments, adhesive tape, disinfectants, pain medication, nitrile gloves, etc. Although the contents of the kit can vary depending on the number of hikers and the length of the trip, these essential items will allow you to deal with any medical emergency effectively.
Always remember to pack some form of emergency shelter to serve as protection from rain and wind if you get injured or stranded on your hikes. That can be a bivy sack, an ultralight tarp, an emergency space blanket, or even a plastic trash bag. Keep in mind that a tent can only count as an emergency shelter if you carry it with you at all times, which likely won’t be the case with most hikes. A tent that’s left behind at the camp simply can’t serve in an emergency situation.
In case of emergency, it’s also important to have reliable equipment on hand that will enable you to start and maintain a fire for preparing food, staying warm, or even sending signals. In many instances, a butane lighter or a box of matches can be a suitable solution. However, it’s also crucial to have special firestarters on hand that will allow you to start a fire even in wet conditions when conventional solutions alone might not work. This can mean some dry tinder, heat “nuggets”, priming paste, candles, or anything else that will help you safely jump-start a fire under any conditions.
Although enjoyable, hiking can quickly turn into a potentially dangerous situation as well, especially if the weather conditions worsen or an emergency situation arises. Keep these essentials on hand to ensure a stress-free and pleasant hiking experience.