If you’re planning a quick day hike, you might be fooled into thinking that a simple stroll in the woods doesn’t require much in the way of preparation. In actuality, however, a hike must be looked at as a deliberately planned excursion – even if it is only going to last for an hour or two. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a novice hiker, even a short day hike requires preparation, planning, and the right gear to ensure a safe and enjoyable day out in nature. Consider the following list as a general outline of what to bring on a hike, and use it as your next day hike checklist:
While the solace of exploring new trails and experiencing nature by yourself might seem idealistic, keep in mind that it is often more enjoyable to share experiences with others. Bringing along another hiker is probably one of the most important things when it comes to what to bring on a hike. Plus, the peace of mind of having another person there to help if you get into trouble during your day hike is preferable to going solo. Keep the group to 2-5 people to maximize the experience.
A Trail Map
Though smartphones have maps, there’s a large chance you’ll lose service or end up with a dead battery at some point on your day hike. Stay prepared, and go the old-fashioned route with a physical map of the area. To find an up-to-date and easy-to-read trail map for your intended hiking area, partner up with a local hiking club or source a map from a ranger station in the area. It pays to locate the map ahead of time and study it prior to actually hitting the trail. You should have a good idea of the path you’ll take, any landmarks in the area, and alternate routes in the event of weather or topography-related issues.
The Right Clothes
Your hike checklist would be incomplete without the proper hiking gear to make sure your body is well protected against the elements of your day hike. You don’t have to spend a ton of money on clothing or shoes, but don’t attempt even a quick hike in blue jeans and a t-shirt. Instead, select affordable, yet rugged clothing that wicks away sweat, is lightweight, and is UV-coated to minimize the effects of the sun.
First Aid Kit
Hopefully, you never have to use it, but a first aid kit can spell the difference between life and death when out on the trail during your next day hike. A good kit should contain Band-Aids and field dressings, blister pads, a snakebite kit, a whistle or mirror to attract attention in the event of an emergency, and painkillers. Ready-made kits are available from most reputable outdoor stores and are absolutely necessary for your day hike checklist.
Keep your pack light, but make sure you bring your cell phone or portable locator beacon, some light snacks, water, sun and insect protection, and a compass. If your day hike leads into the later hours and you decide to camp overnight, bring matches or a fire starter, water purification device, rain gear and extra clothing (especially socks!), and a knife. A lightweight book on surviving in the woods can provide a frame of reference if you choose to sleep under the stars.
Hiking is an enjoyable and invigorating pastime, and it should serve to reconnect us with nature and elevate the spirits in no time. Just remember to use this day hike checklist to ensure you pack appropriately, plan accordingly, and share the experience with others to create lasting memories of your next hiking trip.