ALWAYS HIKE PREPARED
A list of items and details on what I bring when I hike
No matter what, you’re going to need a good backpack to carry your things in. I have two, an old Delta Hydrapack for shorter trips, and a Venture Pal for longer ones. Keep in mind strap length and pockets. See below for more thoughts on the perfect backpack.
Hydration is easily the most important thing when you’re about to go on any hike. There are many ways to carry water with you, but I prefer an old school metal water bottle, which keeps the water nice and cool no matter how hot it gets outside.
First Aid Kit
You never know when injury or issue might happen. Bandages, contact information, and pain killers are manditory. First Aid Kits can take up alot of space, but I have the perfect mini kit that fits in an Altoids box ready to go no matter what happens. More information below.
No one has less fun on a hike than the person who comes back as red as a lobster and itching with bug bites. Never underestimate the power of a good sunscreen and bug spray. A blade of some sort is also handy, both for protection and in case of emergencies.
A Complete List of Gear
I am by no means a professional hiker, but this is a list of some tried and true products I use and have with me when I hit the trail. I am not affiliated or sponsored by any brands mentioned here, with the exception of Pamela’s Apothecary. Pamela’s Apothecary is a small business run by my mother and her products are amazing.
When choosing a backpack, think about what all you want to put in it. I have two depending on what all I’m anticpating needing for a hike, one that’s lighter and easier to carry, and one that can fit a lot more in it. Keep in mind strap length when choosing a pack. Make sure the shoulder straps are comfortable and not too tight. A lot of people take stock in the middle chest strap, but for fat people this can be such an annoyance. My Venture Pal backpack has a chest strap that fits me with ease, so I don’t mind using it, and has a neat whistle in the clasp, just in case. I don’t think they make the smaller Delta backpack I carry anymore, but it has a resoivor in the back to hold water so no bottle is needed, and its easy to take sips from the mouth piece on the go.
If you’re interested in the Venture Pal backpack, this is the one I use the most. The shoulder pads are super comfortable and both they and the chest straps give me room to grow. There is a waterproof compartment and the whole thing is big enough to fit everything i need to bring. I was a little disappointed in there not being a lot of smaller pockets to organize, but all in all I would reccomend this pack.
Footwear is oh-so-important when hiking. I prefer ones that are water resistant or water proof, because it makes me feel confident that I can go through anything without having to worry. Ones with extra support or nice cushioning are also a must, and be sure to break your boots in either around the house or on short walks you’re familiar with first. Grip on the bottom and a natural fit up and over your ankle is also important.
The boots I wear are Gander Mountain Guide Series Waterproof Boots. I’ve had these boots for years and apart from the laces snapping after several years, I can’t say enough good things about them. These boots are unfortunatly not being made any longer, but whenever I need new boots, I’ll be choosing Gander Mountain.
Bug Protection and Management
Bug Be Gone by Pamela’s Apothecary is my preferred bug spray both because its naturally made and because it smells good. It uses natural essential oils that helps repel and keep away bugs, and I have tested this time and time again in both hiking and in general day to day.
If you forgot your spray or for bugs that nothing short of a swatter will work on, I reccommend the roll on Oogie Boogie essential oil, also by Pamela’s Apothecary. It helps sooth itches and pains caused by mosquitos, ants, and most creepy crawlies.
Rain can happen at the most unexpected of times. A slip into a river, or an unplanned swimming/kayaking adventure could also be a draw. If you have the extra room in your pack to carry a set of clothes or a towel, you won’t think twice jumping into a nice cool lake. Even if you don’t have room in your pack, having these things in your car can also be useful.
Carrying a jacket even if it’s too hot to wear one can make a world of difference too. Something that can become compact to not take up too much room, and something with wind protection will get the most bang for your buck. Especially if you’re in a place where temperatures dip at night, or if the seasons are changing and it might be a little chillier than expected.
First Aid Kit
Possibly my favorite thing in my arsenal. I know that sounds weird, but the first aid kit I have was made for me by a friend and is so tiny you could fit it into your pants pocket if you needed to. Yes, even in women’s jeans pockets.
This little first aid kit fits inside a standard Altoids box, and includes assorted bandaides, a 2×2 gauze pad, 2 medical wipes, a needle, 2 buttons, 2 safety pins, a small spool of thread, a pencil, tape, a nail, 2 zip ties, a small knife, 4 advil, 4 tylenol, 4 benedryl, Q-tips, antibiotic ointment, a mini bic lighter, an x-acto blade, an emergency contact card, and 2 velcro straps.
A lot of this has to do with the way all the items are packed. All the pills are in a small zip lock, and the q-tips and ointment are in small lengths of straws that are sealed together to keep them from getting dirty or gunky. Golfing pencils work best, and can fit through the spool of thread and tape to conserve space. The zip ties can bend around the shape of the inside of the box, and the velcro straps go around the outside of the box itself. The emergency contact card can be a business card set in the lid of the box. Mine also lists any medicines I may be on, as well as allergies.
You can also keep a more extensive, bigger first aid kit in the back of your car, too.
A good knife is probably the most useful tool, as it can be utilized for so many different things. You can also get utility knives that have extra goodies in them like scissors, can openers, and even nail clippers.
I have many blades, but my favorite all-in-one blade is the CRKT Multi-Tool 9200. It features both flat and serrated blades that have a stable lock once opened. It also comes with multiple screwdriver tips, which isn’t so handy for hiking but handy in general. The weight and feel in the hand is nice as well.
Maps, Compasses, and Wayfinding
If at all possible, it’s always handy to print out a map of where you’re going, especially if you’ve never been there before, or if it’s not a very popular trail. Phone service goes out on trails all the time, so relying solely on something that requires GPS isn’t always the best option. Check apps on phones for offline maps too if you don’t feel like carrying paper! Compasses can also be handy to make sure you’re not walking in circles if you get lost. Remember you can also use the sun and stars for simple navigation as well.
Paracord is helpful for a number of reasons, and can usually be worn as an accessory like a bracelet, or just snapped to your bag. It can be used to tie things to your bag, lash tree branches together for an impromptu shelter, tie off a bad wound, or even to clean your drinking tube.
We all know it. Chub rub, heat rash, or otherwise unpleasent redness that can come with being outside and moving. I will swear by Don’t Be Rash roll on essential oil by Pamela’s Apothecary. If you use no other oil, use this one, please. I roll it on before I go hiking and never have an issue with chub rub. Reapplication is sometimes needed depending on how long you’re out for, but even if you can’t reapply or forget it at home, using this on a rash that’s already there soothes things so much.
Never underestimate the energy you need to complete a hike. Keeping snacks on hand is a good way to keep your energy up so you can make your full destination. I prefer trail mix and beef jerky myself, but anything full of energy will help. Just keep in mind temperatures, and if anything needs to be kept cool. For a hike that I know will cut into a meal time, I might bring my meal with me. I’m very partial to taking tuna in a pouch, the pouch mayonaise, tiny pickles, and tortillas for a perfect trail meal. Just squeeze the mayo onto the tortilla, lay out the tuna, and then wrap the tortilla around the pickle. Optional side of boiled egg for the full tuna salad sandwich taste.
Protection from the sun doesn’t just mean sunscreen. Think sunglasses and hats too! Even if you’re not likely to burn, sunscreen can still protect from skin cancer and other related diseases. If you’re a sweaty person, consider waterproof or sports sunscreens. Everyone could use a long lasting sunscreen with at least a 30 SPF, too.
Something to help propel you along on your journey, keep your balance on slippery declines or rocks, and otherwise just help keep you on the trail for longer. Plus you can use it to poke creepers in the eye. Walking poles are something I resisted for a long time, but I’m never looking back now. It’s important, especially for heavy hikers, to find a pole that won’t collapse on you if you put too much weight on it. My Trail Buddy Walking Poles have measurements on them so I can be sure to extend them to their correct size every time I want to use them, and a nice cork grip that is easy on the hands. I will say, I did have one issue with these where I came down pretty hard from a big step and one did de-extend, but so far I’ve been happy with these and it hasn’t happened again. In a pinch, a long stick you’ve found in the woods can also do wonders.
As stated above, I prefer a metal water bottle. It keeps my water colder for longer. You can also use something like a camelpack in your back pack, which is a plastic water resevoir with a hose that allows you to drink from it. Reusable plastic waterbottles are liable to break if dropped (been there, done that), and one time use plastic water bottles are horrible for the enviornment. Canteens are also a popular pick, or the water bottles that come with water filters included so you’re sure to have safe drinking water if you need to refill some place that has a questionable water source.
If you’re anything like me, your hike might end in a dip in a body of water, or maybe theres a kayak rental place you really want to rent from, or maybe you’re just prone to slipping and falling into water. A waterproof case to put your cellphone, money, and credit cards into is helpful to make sure that your stuff doesn’t get damaged. I use Outdoor Products Smartphone Watertight Case, which comes with a rubber watertight band and two secure locking hinges. I’ve never had to test the waterproof-ness of this case myself just yet, but it’s got great reviews.