There is nothing worse than getting miles away from civilization and encountering an emergency you are not prepared for. Whether you’re lost with no food, caught in an unexpected rain, or in pain from poor footwear, hiking without the right equipment is never a fun experience.
Your gear will vary depending on what type of hiking adventure you are planning, but whether you’re backpacking the Appalachian Trail or planning a day hike with your family, there are some pieces of hiking gear you should never forget.
First, you need a rugged hiking backpack to comfortably hold the rest of your gear. A small day pack may be all you need if most of your hikes are short and you seldom plan to stay overnight. If you are planning longer hiking trips, look for a backpack that fits comfortably with plenty of compartments and enough room for all your food and equipment.
Proper footwear is another essential piece of hiking gear, regardless of where and how long you are hiking. Select hiking boots or shoes that are designed for the type of terrain you will most often be hiking and make sure they are a comfortable fit. Wear high-quality hiking socks as well, designed for the specific climate you are in, and cushioned for extra support. For a more precise fit, buy your hiking socks first and wear them to shop for your hiking boots.
Always have a map of the area you are hiking, as well as a compass. The Coleman digital compass is great for backcountry hiking. Trail maps are typically available at the ranger station for most state and national hiking trail systems.
Food and water are a must, no matter how long you are hiking. Long hikes require at least one gallon of water per person each day, while 32 ounces of water per person is usually adequate on shorter hikes. Bring along plenty of calorie-rich snacks, like jerky and trail mix, for all your hikes and pack an extra day’s supply of food for overnight hikes. It’s a good idea to bring enough food for both lunch and dinner on your day hikes, just in case things take longer than planned.
You will also want a first aid kit with you on all you’re hiking trips. Unless you are hiking in extreme conditions, you will just want the basics for insect bites, minor scrapes, blisters, thorns, and other common trail ailments. Sunscreen, lip balm, and insect repellent should also be included in your hiking first aid bag.
Never start out on a hiking trip without rain gear and extra clothing, especially in areas with very unpredictable weather. A lightweight rain jacket with a hood is perfect if you get caught in the rain. An emergency shelter may be a necessity for extreme weather hiking and an emergency blanket is a must if you’re hiking in the winter.
Another essential piece of hiking equipment that you shouldn’t forget is a small flashlight. Flashlights are crucial for long hikes when you need to find your way around camp, but they can prove to be handy on day hikes as well if you are still hiking at sunset.
Make sure everyone you are hiking with has a whistle for emergencies. Other hiking gear you should bring on every trip is some sort of fire starter, along with wind and rain resistant matches, and a multi-purpose knife.
These are the most basic essentials for any hiking trip. Longer trips will require additional gear, as will extreme weather hikes. You may want additional gear, depending on your hike and your interests, like binoculars, a hiking pole, or a trail guide.