Hiker sitting overlooking lake

On The Trail: Packing Your Bag

One of the most important things when going hiking is to be prepared. Hiking can be a fun, refreshing way to reconnect with nature but it can also be dangerous if you’re not careful. It is better to hike with other people instead of on your own and before heading out to the trails, your bag should be packed full of tools to aid you on your journey. It should be noted that the longer and more complicated your trail, the more items you will need. The items listed below are just some basic essentials to bring on every hike.

1. Water

The most crucial tool in your backpack is water. Anytime of year, but especially in the warmer months, staying hydrated is a necessity of hiking. Whether on a straight, paved path, or on the rugged terrain of a mountain, hiking is a lot of exercise and you can get dehydrated pretty fast. It is important to replenish not only water but electrolytes as well. Consuming electrolytes help you maintain a good water-salt balance. Good sources of electrolytes, such as potassium and sodium, include bananas, salty snacks (in moderation), and sports drinks. Drinks with caffeine, like coffee, soda, or tea, or alcohol, can cause dehydration and should be avoided on the trail.

To be environmentally-conscious and also for the ease of refilling, a reusable water bottle is your best bet on a hike. If you plan to purify water from natural sources, make sure to bring all the tools you need for purification, whether that’s iodine drops, ultraviolet filters, or tools for boiling water. For more information on finding and purifying water on your hike, check out the article On The Trail: Water Purification.

2. Snacks

Another key to a successful hike is keeping up your energy. Hiking can use up a lot of energy and it’s hard to focus on connecting with nature when you’re hungry or tired out. Rather than stopping for a long lunch break, pack small, energy-boosting foods for regular snack breaks. Eating smaller portions more frequently is healthier for your body and helps to sustain you for the duration of your hike. Foods rich in carbs and proteins are the best way to gain energy during your hike. Some snack suggestions are granola bars, nuts, fruits, peanut butter and bananas, energy bars, and trail mix. You can make your own trail mix through a combination of nuts, dried fruits, and seeds.

3. Sun Protection

If you are going to be hiking out in the sun, sun protection is a must. The sun can do a lot of damage to your skin, so it is important to take precautions every time you are hiking outside. The sun’s rays are generally strongest between the hours of 10am and 4pm, so be extra careful of sunburn and heat stroke during these hours. However, sun protection is important despite the

time of day. Apply sunscreen before leaving and bring extra in your bag to reapply. Other items to bring include SPF lip balm, sun-protective clothing, sunglasses, and a hat.

4. First-Aid Kit

The trail may seem harmless, but there is always the possibility of getting injured in the wilderness. Rugged terrain in particular offers more dangers than a smooth path, but it is always best to be prepared. A great tool to pack in your bag is a first-aid kit. You can buy an already-made kit or make your own. A few things to include in your first-aid kit:

➔ Band-aids

➔ Gauze

➔ Antibiotic Ointment

➔ Aspirin

Always make sure your first-aid kit is stocked and replace anything you use before your next hike.

5. Directional Aid

Depending on the type and length of your hike, you may need tools to help point you in the right direction. GPS on your phone is a great tool if you get lost, but you may not always have service on the trails. For longer hikes or for hikes through more rough terrain, a compass and map can be helpful to aid your sense of direction. And remember, while it is highly recommended to hike with others, always let people know where you are going and when you expect to be back if you choose to hike alone.