Knowing what to pack, whether it’s a day hike or a full blown camping excursion, can be a pain. There are so many factors that come into play, and some of them can be hard to predict, like the weather. As I’ve spent more and more time in the outdoors, I’ve developed a few packing habits.
Besides always doing a bag check before embarking on the trail, I’ve found there are some things that I absolutely must have in my bag regardless of what kind of adventure I am partaking in. Some of them are basics, and a few are more particular.
Headlamps are one of my favorite outdoor accessories. Part of that is because they are so useful both on and off the trail. I have three headlamps at the moment – a basic one I keep in my bag at all times, another one in my car, and a high performance one for real treks.
When your hikes end up taking longer than expected, you’ll be thankful to have a headlamp handy. I even recently used it one night when my bicycle light went out on the ride home from dinner.
This seems like the most obvious one around, but the reason it’s on the list is because there have been times in the past when I have pressed on without enough water. It can be really easy in the moment, and in pursuit of a peak, to keep hiking with limited resources. It can also be really dangerous, and if not dangerous, at least uncomfortable.
After a few trips that have taken longer than expected, or been more challenging that planned for, I decided to always have water. If I’m out with people who aren’t as comfortable outdoors as I am, I bring extra.
3. Duct Tape
Duct tape serves all sorts of purposes. I’ve used it to patch shoes torn on the trail, create grips on trekking poles, and even as a bandage for friction injuries on my feet. I don’t often need it, but when I do, I’m glad to have it.
4. Extra Socks
If I’m hiking in shoes, I always have extra socks. This is particularly true since most of my hiking with shoes takes place in the winter, when the ground is cold, wet, and frozen. There’s nothing I disliked more than wet feet, and they can be dangerous in the cold. I always have one, and sometimes two, extra pairs of socks tucked in my bag so that I can change and rotate them through a trip.
5. Mini First Aid Kit
Obviously, if you are going out on a big adventure, you’re going to want to pack all the right first aid supplies you might need. But even if you’re just tooling around locally, it’s a good idea to have at least a minimal selection of first aid supplies in your bag. Band-Aids, gauze, cleaning swabs, and aspirin can all come in handy when you least expect it. This is doubly true if you are hiking with kids.
6. Lip balm
Sometimes the small things make all the difference. That’s the case with lip balm. I can go on hikes and outings and never need it. But when I have been out in the wild and gone to reach for it to find it not there? That’s when things get ugly. This is one of those things that I will stop for on the way to the trail, just to make sure I’m not unprepared. A lip balm with sunscreen is an extra good idea.
There are two things I love about hiking: The views, and that I get to eat tasty hiking food. What I mean by that is I start each hike thinking about my post-hike meal (most often a hummus wrap or German food), and put extra effort into tasty trail snacks. Hiking days are the days I can go nuts with trail mix, granola bars, and dried fruit! And I do.
But hiking is also a time for a chocolate, and I’ve yet to sit at a summit that hasn’t been made better by a piece of tasty chocolate. So, I always make sure to pack something sweet in my bag – chocolate bars, peanut butter cups, or chocolate brownies are my favorites.
So stock up folks, bag check, and hit the trail!