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Hiking is a timeless activity loved by many as both a chance to connect with nature and to exercise your body. Whether you enjoy casual hikes or longer, more extreme hikes, being prepared is essential not only for the enjoyment of the hike but also for your well-being.

Equip yourself with essential hiking gear so you are ready to handle anything that is thrown your way. Regardless if you are a beginner hiker or a more experienced one, having the essential hiking items listed below can make the difference between an incredible hiking experience or one that goes awry.

Essential Hiking Items

Layers of Clothing and Reliable Hiking Boots

Whether you hike in high altitude or low, weather can be unpredictable and change throughout the day. That’s why you should bring along reliable, durable, and versatile clothing. Make sure you check the weather before you go hiking but pack extra clothes as well just to be safe. Consider packing lightweight, insulated, and weatherproof shirts, pants, and even socks as backup clothes for more intense hikes. You want to be comfortable hiking and it is easy to remove layers, you just want to make sure you can add them if necessary!

Additionally, make sure you have good, reliable hiking boots. There is nothing worse than hiking with aching feet knowing you still have several more miles to go. Wear boots that are already broken in and that are water-resistant to keep you dry in both rain and mud

First Aid Kit

Set yourself up for success and pack a first aid kit whenever you go hiking. You need to be prepared for anything and in the wilderness; you should always expect the unexpected. Having a first aid kit on hand can help aid minor wounds like blisters or splinters. Even if a more extreme wound occurs, a first aid kit can help hold over someone’s injury until you can get the medical attention you need. Whether you cut your leg and want to prevent infection or you twist an ankle, a first aid kit can give you what you need to finish the hike.

Lighting Equipment

Whether taking a day or night hike, being prepared with adequate lighting is a must. Nothing is worse than not knowing where you are or how to get back to where you are supposed to be and realizing the sun is beginning to set. Gear up with a bright light source to help you see everything around you. Having an ultra-bright flashlight can help guide you back to the path and help you directionally on your hike. Even if you feel like carrying around a flashlight is too much work, consider buying a headlamp for hands-free lighting. Be prepared with one of the best camping/hiking lights to ensure you have the most reliable light source in the dark.

Filtered Water and Non-Perishable Food

Having filtered water and non-perishable food is probably the most important thing to bring on any hike. When hiking, it is crucial to stay hydrated so you should always pack double what you think you will drink. Regular hikers should even consider investing in a Lifestraw or a portable water filtration system so they always have drinkable water if they are able to locate a water source. If you don’t have something to filter water though or are hiking in a dry area, it is imperative you pack at least a few extra bottles of water to stay hydrated. 

When hiking, you also want to pack non-perishable food like bagged nuts and granola bars. You might be planning just a day hike, but being prepared to spend the night if the unexpected happens is a good rule of thumb when packing food. If you find yourself feeling sick or tired on a hike, these easy to pack food items can give you the extra push you need to finish the hike! 

Additional Hiking Supplies

Airing on the side of caution is always the wisest thing to do if you plan on hiking in the wilderness. While you definitely want to pack all of the essential items, prepare yourself even more to handle any minor inconveniences that occur as well. For extreme hikes, equip yourself with the following items to ensure you’re ready to tackle anything that comes your way:

  • Knife 
  • Lighter
  • Trekking Poles
  • Map
  • Sunscreen
  • Rope

Having this equipment could be the difference between an incredible hike and one that takes a turn for the worst. For example, trekking poles can prove to help you a ton on longer hikes. Maybe you underestimated the difficulty of your hike and find yourself feeling extremely tired or even having twisted an ankle. That’s where having a trekking pole can make a world of difference in finishing the hike. Additionally, pack sunscreen so even if you sweat off what you applied before you started, you can lather some on again mid-hike.

For more extreme hikes, you want to make sure you pack a map, a knife, rope, and a lighter for any unforeseen situations that could occur. Packing a map is simple and easy but in case you are unable to read it or are completely lost, a knife, rope, and lighter can help in extreme unexpected situations. Having a knife can assist with preparing food or even cutting down shrubbery to get through while a lighter can provide you with fire. Even if you don’t expect to be in the wilderness at night, if you get lost or can’t find your way back you may need to set up camp for the night. A lighter will not only provide you with an additional light source, but it will also give you a flame to start a fire to cook food over if necessary. 

Hike Prepared

Bringing along all of the essential hiking equipment can not only make your hiking experience more enjoyable, but it will also help keep you safe if you run into any unexpected situations. By having both the essential supplies like extra clothes, lighting, and water, as well as additional supplies like sunscreen, a trekking pole, and more, will provide you with nearly everything you need to enjoy the outdoors while being safe. Expect the unexpected and be prepared and pack all of the lightweight and portable gear you should take on every hike.

Author: Danielle Duran, Morrison, Colorado