Just like any other sport, hiking requires dedication and professionalism, and being equipped with the necessary gear is the first big step towards becoming a disciplined trekker.
For a safe and enjoyable hike, make sure you add the following essential things to your hiking packing list.
1. A good pair of hiking boots
Investing in a durable pair of trekking boots is a must if you’re going to explore the wilderness. You need shoes that have a good grip, a comfortable fit and are preferably waterproof.
Once you’ve purchased your hiking boots, wear them at least three times a week for short walks. Breaking in new shoes might cause some swelling and blisters, so it’s best to get it out of the way before going on the first long trek.
How to choose the right hiking boots:
– Your foot should fit securely inside the footwear, without being too tight. You should have enough space to wriggle your toes.
– Wear your favourite pair of trekking socks when trying on new shoes so that you get a better assessment of the fit. You might also decide to buy socks designed for different hiking conditions.
– Try on a variety of boots. Walk around the store to get a better feel of each pair. Stand on your toes and lean back on your heels.
– Choose low-cut shoes for lightweight travel and smooth paths, mid-cut boots for protection against debris, and high-cut boots for ankle support and long hiking trips on rough terrain.
Recommendation: In 2013, I bought a pair of Gelert hiking shoes for my expedition to Mount Toubkal. I’ve been on countless hiking trips since then, and they’re still going strong.
2. A flashlight
The trip might take longer than expected, and time waits for no one. Carrying a lightweight torchlight or headlamp will come in handy if you end up walking the last few miles after sunset.
Choose water resistant flashlights that come with extra bulbs to make sure you’ve got yourself covered for worst case scenarios.
3. A well-stocked first aid kit
Some people get the idea that carrying a first aid kit is a first aider’s responsibility. But if you’re a firm believer in Murphy’s Law, then you know that anything can go wrong on a hiking trip. For this reason, carrying an individual first aid kit ensures that you’re equipped to treat unforeseen injuries.
Make sure that your kit contains sterilized bandages, adhesive band-aids, gauze pads, tweezers, wipes and scissors.
Recommendation: This compact first aid kit includes 90 essential items, including a sterile eye wash, an emergency foil blanket and ice packs.
4. A sturdy backpack
Think of your backpack as your number one companion during the trek. Since it will be carrying most of your survival tools it’s important to get well-attached to it.
How to choose the right backpack:
– The size of the backpack should be proportionate to the length of your torso.
– For day hikes, choose backpacks that have a capacity of 20 to 50 litres.
– The backpack should be close-fitting, meaning it should grip close to your back and not hang. This will enhance your balance and prevent lower back pain.
– Usually backpacks come with adjustable waist straps to secure a tight fit, so make sure that the straps aren’t too long or too short for your size.
5. Waterproof clothing
When it comes to protecting yourself against the forces of nature, you need to make sure to cover all bases and invest in all sorts of waterproof clothing. This includes a poncho or raincoat (I love my packable waterproof jacket!), waterproof trousers, and thermal gloves.
Check out this post about choosing the best hiking gloves.
6. Sun protection gear & products
The sun can be deceiving. If there’s a breeze you might be unaware of the fact that you’re still getting sunburnt. The intensity of the sun can also give you headaches. Don’t let the heat spoil the fun.
Besides wearing polarised sunglasses with UV protection and pasting yourself in a thick layer of sunscreen, it’s also important to cover your head with a baseball hat or a scarf.
Your lips are also susceptible to sun damage, so always carry a lip balm with SPF.
7. Water and energy-boosting snacks
You can’t go anywhere without fuel, but it’s also important to choose your snacks wisely. Pack snacks that are long-lasting in warm weather conditions, high in calories and carbohydrates, and aren’t heavy to carry around. Nuts, dried fruit, jerky, energy bars and bread are all ideal snacks for a day hike.
Some hikers avoid taking too many water bottles as the backpack will weigh them down, but carrying an extra bottle of water is an indisputable necessity. That’s why it’s a good idea to start wearing your backpack for your weekly power walks. Training your body to carry a certain amount of burden will make the weight of that extra bottle more bearable.
8. A pocket knife and other survival tools
Imagine you need to open that can of tuna chunks or patch up your torn trousers, but you have forgotten to pack the required tools. It can get more frustrating than it sounds.
Just carry with you a few necessary tools – a Swiss-army knife and duct tape should do, or get a compact tool set, such as this survival kit with 40+ items.
9. Insect repellent
Another important thing to add to your hiking packing list is an insect repellent spray. Bugs are unrelenting (especially Scotland‘s midges!). Wherever you are in the world, they will always get to you.
Spray your clothes with an insect repellent and apply some to your exposed skin.
10. Navigation tools
Unforeseen events, especially bad weather, can lead to a sudden change in route. This is where your compass and map become life-savers. Ideally you should learn how to use a compass and read the given map prior to going on the hike.
Handheld GPS devices are now replacing the old-school map and compass, but GPS can fail and the batteries can run out. Your best bet is to pack all three and use one of them as back-up. Make sure your compass is accurate and waterproof, like this one.
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