If you're a fan of nature and exercise, you've might already know that hiking is the most harmonious combination of both interests — but if you have yet to embrace the trails, it's never too late. Whether your hiking shoes are weathered and worn or if you have yet to cut your wilderness teeth, there are certain things you should always make sure you have when you're hiking. Sometimes even the most experienced trail blazers leave the house under prepared.
Generally, so long as you stay on official trails and are cautious about wildlife and weather conditions, hiking is a safe sport. That said, just because hiking can be a gear-less, slow-paced, and "safe" sport, doesn't mean there aren't risks. Staying hydrated, warm, dry, and protected are of utmost importance, so it's crucial to know what key resources you should have with you when you set foot in nature.
Personally, I learned the hard way that I was hitting the trails without the proper tools and accessories, but you don't have to. When you're prepared for a hike, you can enjoy it more fully. You can be present, you can be flexible, and you can be confident that no matter what the weather or the wilderness throws at you, you're not going to be knocked off course. Here are a few things that you should always have with you when you go for a hike, no matter how short the trail or favorable the weather.
Even if you've just had a big meal before your hike, bring a snack. Trail mix was made for the trail, so grab a bag of that, or put together some nuts or crackers in a bag at home and bring those with you on the trail. Hiking takes a lot of energy, so it's easy to underestimate how much fuel you'll need to complete a trail. You won't be sorry to have something to munch on when you hit the summit.
Even if you're hiking in the early morning, bring a flashlight. I have set out for many trails that were meant to be short, only to get lost and find myself trying to make my way back in the dark — it happens to even the most seasoned hikers. So always bring a flashlight or wear a headlamp.
A Portable Charger
Cold weather, poor cell service and extreme heat all take a toll on your phone's battery. So even if you hit the trails with 100 percent battery charge on your phone, you might find yourself depleted after only a few hours. Having a charged phone is not just necessary for safety concerns — you want to be able to call for help if you need it — but also for navigational concerns. Keep a fully charged portable charger with you on the trails so you can replenish your battery if needed. Download All Trails, the mobile app before your hike for guidance and support.
Whether it's hot or cold, sunny or rainy, you'll want to have protection on your head. Getting a sunburn while on a hike can be dangerous, so protect your skin, protect your head, and always pack a hat.
If it's a hot day, it can be hard to imagine feeling cool, and if it's a cold day, it can be hard to imagine getting sweaty. But the reality is, once you start hiking, your body temperature changes drastically, and sweating in freezing temperatures or burning in extreme heat can be life-threatening. Always wear layers to anticipate a change in body temperature, and never wear cotton. Poly blends and wool have wicking capabilities and can keep you dry and your temperature more regulated.
The shoes that you wear in the gym are meant for flat and smooth surfaces. If you're going to hike in nature, you need a supportive shoe with a good grip. Do not wear your gym shoes out on the trails — only wear shoes that have traction, or you're risking falling and twisting your ankle. Wearing the wrong shoe can be a life-threatening mistake, so if you don't have proper footwear, avoid the trails and opt for and outdoor adventure with a paved or plowed walking path.