The Essentials: A Checklist for Preparing for Your Next Hike
Our journey through the 5 Peak Challenge has us taking a second look at what we take with us on a good ol’ day hike. This hiking challenge is made up of 5 trails on the Mission Trails Regional Park, all under four miles so each trail can be completed in a morning or afternoon. And while these trails are family friendly and not rated at a high difficulty, it can be easy to underestimate a hike and be unprepared.
Spending time outdoors is meant to be fun but that can quickly change if something comes along that you’re not geared up for. We always want to be prepared when wandering into the outdoors and we want you to be too, so we’ve listed our 10 essential items to pack, and some great hiking tips to make sure you’re ready!
Day Hike Essentials Checklist
3. Hiking boots/ dependable tennis shoes
6. First Aid Kit
10. Charged phone
Use this list as a starting guide for an easy hike with friends and family at a nearby trail. First off, you need something to carry all your stuff and when it comes to picking the right pack, a good rule of thumb is to look for one with a capacity of 15-20L for short day hikes. Bags within this capacity will hold all your essentials plus any extras you want to take along. Good news is, you don’t have to look far for a great bag. We offer 2 great backpacks perfect for any day hike. Our Nylon Packable Travel Backpack is very spacious and folds right back into its own inner pocket for convenient storage. We also have a Roll top drybag, perfect for any hikes or adventures where there’s rain or water nearby. Check them out here.
The second most important thing is making sure you’re wearing the right clothing, which includes shoes! Hiking boots aren’t always necessary, it truly depends on the hike and what you feel comfortable in. We say, if you’ve got boots wear them but if you opt for tennis shoes, make sure they’re sturdy and that your foot feels secure in them. You don’t want to be slipping and sliding your way through the hike so make sure your feet are happy. For clothing, wear layers so you’ll be comfortable whether you’re working up a sweat or getting a chill from a cold breeze! Aim for moisture-wicking materials so you’ll stay nice and dry.
Speaking of happy, a happy hiker should never be hungry. You may not be going very far but keeping some snacks on hand is always a good idea, if not for you but also your hiking partner. We recommend swinging by your grocery store of choice (hi there Trader Joe’s) and picking up your favorite trail mix and granola bars or dare we even suggest, venture into making some homemade treats! Here’s a blog post with some easy DIY hiking snacks that will fuel your hike.
This might be the most obvious but could easily be forgotten: Bring plenty of water! Staying hydrated is so important but can easily take a backseat to less important items. We recommend keeping your water easily accessible, in your hand or in an outer pocket, to encourage yourself to stay hydrated.
While a first aid kit may not seem necessary for a short day hike, the truth is you never know. Accidents can happen anytime and anywhere so it never hurts to have some back up, especially if you’re far from your car. You can purchase a basic first aid kit from the store or even customize one yourself. If saving space is a priority, you can make your own mini kit using an old prescription container and stash only the essentials. Here’s a link for making your own mini kit and some other upcycling ideas.
Next on the list is sunscreen. If you don’t want to pack it, at least make sure you’ve lathered it on before you head out. Remember to reapply every 80 minutes, so if you think you’ll be out for longer than that (you probably will) grab yourself a compact sunscreen stick to keep your pack light. Check out all these different on-the-go sunscreen options.
Items 8 and 9 on the list are often an “either/or” situation. Some people like to wear a hat and sunglasses and others prefer to wear one or the other. As long as you’ve got that sunblock on, it’s whatever you feel most comfortable with.
Last, but not least, make sure your cellphone is fully charged in case of emergencies. Also, it doubles as a camera so you can take some awesome pictures to commemorate your hike!
Depending on the hike you’ve chosen, you may need to add some items to this collection, so when you’re prepping for a hike, make sure to consider a few other things. We recommend using our Day Hike Essentials list as a starting guide and then consider the five points below to make sure you’re fully prepared.
1. How long/difficult is the trail you’ve chosen?
2. What is the weather going to be that day?
3. Do you have the right clothing/gear?
4. Who’s joining you?
5. How remote is the trail?
Also, a good safety tip is let someone who’s not joining you know where you’ll be, just in case – especially if you’ve opted on going it alone.
At the end of the day hiking is about getting outside, breathing in some fresh air and working up a good sweat. There’s nothing better than the feeling after being out for a few hours, getting some exercise and being prepared with the right gear will ensure you feel great. Coming home exhausted because you didn’t bring enough water, a hat, or wore the wrong shoes isn’t anyone’s idea of a successful outing. You should come home, tired, happy and excited to plan your next adventure and our checklist will help you with that! Let us know if there’s something you always take on your hike or any great tips you have. Share with us in the comments below!