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6 Hiking Essentials

June 15th, 2018|Tags: , , |


By Nick Del Giudice, American Forests

As a beginning hiker, it can be daunting to determine what gear you actually need. The good news is that there are only a few pieces of equipment that are necessary, while others are highly recommended. Here is our list of six essentials for hiking today!

Sustenance

camping food and drink

This may be a no-brainer, but the only way to prevent dehydration is to carry enough water for your whole journey. Much like water, you won’t get very far on an empty stomach. For day hikes, pack snacks such as jerky, granola bars, fruit or peanut butter, all of which will provide calories as well as protein to keep you fueled up.

Footwear

Hiking boots

There is no other single piece of gear that will have such a large impact on your hiking happiness than your choice of footwear. Depending on your hike and your personal taste, there are a variety of options spanning from lightweight sandals to full on mountaineering boots.

Sandals

Some thru-hikers swear by their sandals and will wear them for whole scenic trails, while others won’t even give them a chance. One thing is certain, your feet are exposed; they’ll dry quickly, stay cool and experience less fatigue, but they’ll also be susceptible to stubs, debris and whatever else the trail brings.

Trail Runners

These are the off-road equivalent of running shoes. With a rugged sole, excellent support and world-class breathability, these are the preferred footwear of most distance thru-hikers.

Hiking Boots

There are three classes of hikers ranging from light to heavy, and each is good for a different kind of hike. Lightweight hikers are generally low-top hiking type shoes. Many models have waterproof liners that can detract from the breathability, but can add a significant amount of weather protection. Midweight hikers are the most traditional hiking boots. They are heavier than the lightweight hiker, with strong support, a tough exterior and, in most cases, strong ankle support. Heavyweight hikers are typically waterproof and their stiff, supportive soles make them the best boots for winter hikes or hikes over extremely rough terrain.

Mountaineering Boots

These are the toughest and most structured and restrictive footwear option for hiking. Because mountaineering boots were originally designed for scaling raw rock and ice climbing, they have an immensely stiff and protective sole, as well as hardcore insulation and waterproofing.

Weather-Appropriate Clothes

Hiker on Snowy Mountain

Check the forecast on the trail before you go, and dress accordingly! When it is warm out, make sure your layers wick moisture away from the body, are lightweight and provide some manner of sun protection. For cooler weather, have more layers instead of thicker layers to allow for flexibility in temperature regulation. Always pack a waterproof layer in the case of inclement weather.

Multi-tool/knife

Making a fire

There are many uses for a sharp blade or any of the various tools that come on a standard multi-tool/pocketknife. While you may not use all of them, the tool doesn’t weigh that much and could save the day, whether by opening a can or making an impromptu shelter and fire.

Navigation

Compass and map

Many hikers use their phones for navigation on the trail, and many local/regional trails are so well populated and marked that real navigation gear is unnecessary. However, for those of you that are looking to go off trail or backwoods, having basic navigation equipment and knowing how to use it is essential. Supplement those trail map apps with an up-to-date waterproof map and a magnetic compass.

First Aid Kit

first aid kit

A first aid kit is essential to every hike. For a day hike, your kit should at least have bandages/gauze, anti-septic, sterile gloves and acetaminophen or ibuprofen. However, for longer and more difficult hikes, your med kit should be more extensive items, such as a tourniquet or supplies to tie a splint. The goal of any good first aid kit is to have the tools necessary to stabilize you or someone else in an emergency situation until help arrives.


This is by no means a complete list of what you need to hike, but this list is a good place to begin. When you do get out there, share your experience with American Forests and our partner, Eddie Bauer, by tagging photos on your social media with @AmericanForests and #WhyIHike. You could win one of three hiking destinations!

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