14 essential items for first-time hikers
When it comes to hiking, there are many products and equipment. It can be overwhelming trying to decipher what to take and what not to take. So we’ve compiled a list of 14 essentials you should have if you’re new to hiking.
- Appropriate clothing
First, we need to cover what you’re wearing. A common mistake we’ve seen many new hikers make (and we were guilty of it too) is wearing comfortable everyday clothes like jeans and a cotton t-shirt. These items are heavy, dry slowly and lose all their insulating properties when wet. While you are hiking, they will soak up all your sweat. This will make them heavy and cause friction which will make the experience quite uncomfortable. In addition, these types of clothes do not dry quickly. The combination of moisture absorption and slow drying can interfere with body temperature regulation. Remember that cotton kills. Look for pants that are primarily nylon-based and water-resistant. If it’s cold, wearing a pair of thermal pants underneath, preferably made from merino wool, should help. If it gets wet, wear waterproof pants over it. For shirts, wear high moisture wicking materials. For base layers, merino wool is an ideal material. It is lightweight, breathable and great for regulating body temperature. Just make sure you’re wearing clothes designed for being active.
You need a backpack to carry all your supplies. Your backpack should be a backpack because it evenly distributes weight while you’re hiking. Shoulder bags don’t do that. You can get an affordable and decent daily pack at Walmart. That’s what I started with and used it for a few years until it fell apart. It has worked well for the time I have used it. I have now invested in a high quality Osprey backpack from REI. Osprey is one of the best outdoor backpack brands. But I’m here to tell you that you don’t need a super expensive bundle to get started. The capacity of the backpack is measured in litres. If you only bring the essentials and extra thin layers, a bag under 20 liters should suffice. If you’re like me and like to carry lots of snacks and a camera, you’ll need a bag between 20 and 35 liters. Just make sure it has at least two large pockets and room on the outside for easy access to water bottles. Once you’ve decided that hiking is something you want to spend more time doing, save up for a better quality bag.
3. Additional layers
In addition to appropriate clothing, you should pack extra layers. When it comes to hiking, it’s all about layers. Temperatures can change throughout the day. And if you are in the mountains, the temperatures can be different at the bottom of the mountain than at the top. Storms can arrive extremely quickly. Even in spring and fall, when temperatures are warm, it is possible for temperatures to fluctuate. You don’t want to be out on the trail and cold. Packing an extra layer for us is like bringing a lightweight down or synthetic jacket depending on your preference, an extra pair of socks, and an extra pair of leggings or pants. Depending on the time of year.
4. Rain protection
As mentioned above, storms can arrive very quickly. Even if you have checked the weather forecast, there is always a chance of rain. So be sure to include rain protection. I have a thin, packable rain jacket, but a simple $2 poncho can also work.
When we started the hike we wore tennis shoes until we could afford better hiking shoes. Hiking shoes really make all the difference. But tennis shoes can work when you’re feeling comfortable on the trail. You want shoes that have good grip on the bottom and protect your toes and top of the foot. If you are new to tennis shoes, start with easier trails.
Hydration is crucial. The recommended amount is 16 ounces per hour of hiking. You should bring more water than you think you need. Also make sure that the day or night before you hike, drink plenty of water so you wake up hydrated and ready to go. Make sure to drink throughout your trip, not just when you start to get really thirsty. You might also want to bring a water filtration option, like a mini saw or hydroblue versa flow or life straw, just in case. Know how to use them. Be sure to use a map or something like all trails to examine the trail before you go to find out if and where the water sources are. We like to store our water in a Nalgene bottle. I have found that I drink my water too quickly when using a bladder. So I prefer to take bottled water.
You should bring high energy snacks, such as dried meat, dried fruits and nuts, energy bars for breakfast. Just like with water, bring a little more than you think. Rule of thumb: bring enough for a whole day. We also like to bring an electrolyte pack or body armor to help restore those lost electrolytes.
Make sure you know where you are going. You will also want to take some sort of navigation with you. We realize that most will not bring a paper map. But if you have one of the locations, it’s fine to bring. But there are several digital options like apps like All Trails that let you download the map of where you are going the day before. There are several other apps available, but All Trails is the one we like to use.
9. Emergency coverage
Emergency blankets can be used for so many things. They are windproof, waterproof and reflective to retain heat. You probably won’t need it, but prevention is better than cure. Plus, they’re super lightweight and compact, so you probably won’t even notice you’re wearing them.
10. First aid kit
Another thing that you will hopefully never need but should carry is a first aid kit. The main things to take with a child rescuer are antibiotic ointment, bandages, gauze pad, moleskin for blisters, Tylenol and Benadryl. Make sure you know how to use everything in your kit and make sure nothing is expired.
Sometimes you may be away a little longer than expected. You don’t want it to be dark and you can’t see your way and get lost or stuck. A headlamp is therefore a must. Headlamps are a great option because they allow you to have your hands free. Be sure to check your batteries before you go hiking.
12. Fire starter kit
Also, you might not expect to need a fire starter, but it’s better to have one. Some options are waterproof matches, a lighter, a Ferro rod, as well as something that clings like cotton balls or spark plugs. We also like to take more than one option just in case. Be sure to store everything in a waterproof bag.
13. Sun and insect protection
As with any outdoor activity, it is important to protect yourself from the sun. Apply sunscreen before you go and be sure to reapply. Also, some things to pack are a hat, sunglasses, SPF lip balm. It is also important to provide protection against bugs. Repellents help minimize exposure to diseases caused by mosquitoes and ticks. As with sunscreen, be sure to reapply throughout the day.
A knife is good for protection and emergencies. You never know when you might need it to cut rope or bandages. Another great option to bring is a multitool.
I know it’s a long list of things and it might seem like we’re taking a suitcase on the trail, but everything mentioned can fit in this little bag. Plus, with everything we’ve mentioned, there are budget options. We don’t believe in breaking the bank to enjoy nature. We hope this list helps you feel better prepared and encourages you to get started on the trail. Happy hiking!
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