The freedom and spontaneity of Nature is what makes it so appealing to myself and thousands of other individuals across the globe. Allowing yourself to lose touch with reality is one of the best escapes for the soul, especially in this modern high tech world we live in. Simply having no WiFi while being surrounded by trees could be that soul finding moment you have been needing. Walks with Nature can be medicine. Though our great wilderness leader, John Muir, would probably disagree, there are a few essential items you should bring with you to maintain a good well being while out in the backcountry.
“There is nothing like walking to get the feel of a country. A fine landscape is like a piece of music; it must be taken at the right tempo. Even a bicycle goes too fast.”
Paul Scott Mowrer
When planning a backpacking trip to a location you’ve never been, one of the most important factors to consider is your source of water. Let’s assume you’ve done your research, read our BeeFree Water Purification Methods, and you feel confident that you are good to go for acquiring clean drinking water…now let’s make sure you have enough to maintain a healthy level of hydration while on the trail. A good rule of thumb is 1 liter every 2 hours per person. To put that into perspective, a standard camelback is typically 3 liters which is good for a 5-7 hour hike. We always hike with our MSR MiniWorks EX Microfilter to avoid hauling water weight in our packs. At a little over 8 pounds per gallon, it can add up really fast.
Pro Tip: Lots of hikers and long distance backpackers recycle/re-use empty SmartWater bottles. They are lighter than most water bottles you can purchase and they are exactly 1 liter in capacity. This makes it much easier to keep track of your consumption
Snacks aka Energy Source
I love food and I never have to think twice about bringing this item, but even if you’re not hungry at the trailhead, bring something to eat. There’s always a need for more energy mid-hike. Hiker hunger is no joke. You will burn a lot of calories out on the trail. It can be something small like a Go-Gel for quick energy, and caffeine boost, or a protein/granola bar like Kind or Cliff. My favorite snack to bring along on the trails is beef jerky and crackers; sometimes I’ll even include a Babybel if I’m feeling fancy. Carrying a bag of trail mix is never a bad idea. I can go on and on, but you get the idea.
Compass, GPS, map, and the AllTrails mobile app; they will all get the job done for your day hike, but make sure you bring at least two navigation sources if you choose to use any electronic navigation system. Having a backup in case one fails is very vital. The AllTrails app is our personal go to when we are backpacking, not only does it track and save your hikes for later use but it allows us to save maps for offline purposes in the more remote areas we adventure. When planning our hikes, All Trails also allows us to drop locations and points of interest along the way.
This item is mainly for the lady hikers, but really let’s face it, the options are endless with what you can do with toilet paper. From using it to start up your campfire, or as a bandage for a wound or blister. Just make sure you have some form of toilet paper in your day pack.
I realize that no one expects to get hurt while you are out on a 3 mile hike, but you probably also didn’t expect that car to rear end you in the Walmart parking lot either. Accidents happen and being prepared for them will make the situation a lot smoother. I carry my REI Multi-Day First-Aid Kit on all my day hikes, it’s packed with items for 4 people/5 days. This may be overkill for some however the larger size allows me to be well equipped to help other on the trails who may be injured.
Protecting your skin from the sun is a necessary caution to take throughout the whole year. There are a few items to consider that fall under this category: sunblock, chapstick, hat, sunglasses. These four items will be your basic list when thinking about sun protection, and has kept me from getting burned on any of our day hikes.
Even on a small hike, one wrong turn could make your short day trip into a night hike quickly. To me, bringing a head lamp in my day pack is just as important as my first aid kit. If you don’t have a head lamp, a flashlight will do just fine. To avoid carrying batteries, make sure your lighting source has a full charge before every hike, or consider carrying a battery backup to recharge if your source has this option.
Another important factor to research before every hike is the weather. If there’s even a chance of rain bring a rain jacket or a poncho. We do a lot of hiking in Texas where one minute the sun is shining and then the next it’s pouring, so this item has become essential to use. Bi-polar weather can ruin a peaceful day hike really quickly. This is why you should always plan for the worse scenario.
Fresh, dry socks goes right along with bringing a rain jacket, but I feel like it needs its own section because it’s not just dependent on weather. Perhaps your trail has water crossings, or the weather is humid and hot. Hiking in wet or sweaty socks is a good way to have blisters form very rapidly, sometimes making it practically unbearable to keep going.
They’re lightweight, small, and can be used in so many different ways. Have you seen the blockbuster movie 127 hours, need I say more? When you are in a pinch this tool could make a huge difference.
I know, I know. Many of you ultralight hikers might say, “This can’t be considered essential.”, but maybe I can change your mind. The beauty of the outdoors is constantly fleeting with the change of seasons and time. Capturing you memories of nature is not only satisfying years down the road, but is vital in this day and age. With the increase of floods and wild fires happening every year, you never know. Those pictures and videos you capture could be the last remaining evidence of the natural glory of the landscape you explore. The wildfires of California in 2017 destroyed many popular monuments and ancient trees. I use photography as my outlet for capturing moments in time, to me it’s essential on every day hike.
This list is not stone. You can add or remove items to better suit your planned hike. However, I assure you that including these items in your pack will bring you complete peace of mind on your next day adventure. It also helps to write a check list to make it easier when packing and planning your next adventure.
What items do you like to bring? If you have an essential item that you take on your trips and it is not listed above, we would love to hear about it. Leave a comment below, we always love getting new ideas and hearing how others spend their time enjoying Nature.
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