For those of you who have not been hiking all winter like we in New Mexico have, hiking season is now upon you. As someone who spends a considerable amount of time on hiking trails in one state or another, I prepared a list of essential items to take with you on every hike. You can store the non-perishable ones in a particular area of your closet (perhaps with your hiking boots) to make them easy to grab and go when you are heading out.
Preparing to hike is as important as the hike itself. Below is a list of items you should take with you on every hike, (i.e. don’t leave home without them!):
Shoes with closed toes and good support. Early in my hiking life, I attempted to hike in sports sandals (think TEVA). While I live in them off trail, numerous stubbed toes, torn toenails and miscellaneous other foot problems have taught me the hard way not to wear them on a hiking trail. Tripping on rocks can do a great deal of damage to unprotected toes. Take care of your feet so they can take care of you.
- Water, water, water! At least a liter per person for every hour that you plan to hike. And if you are hiking with a dog, take water for the dog as well. More if it will be very hot and dry where you will be hiking.
- Jacket—if you get lost or caught outdoors overnight, a light jacket or Mylar cape (you’ve seen them; they give them to marathon runners at the finish line to prevent chills) could save your life. Also, they tend to be very light and easy to fit into a pack. You will be glad you did.
- Snacks—we never leave home without at least one fresh juicy apple and a peanut butter buzz Clif bar. A delicious combination, somewhat reminiscent of a caramel apple. And whichever dog accompanies us begs for pieces as well, though Annie is the biggest apple fan and will bark and yip if I am eating an apple and not giving any to her.
- A cell phone. If you get a signal on your cell, you can use any number of trail applications on your phone. The added benefit is that you can also call for help if you need to. Before you raise your skeptical eyebrow at the fact that you probably won’t have a signal, rest assured even in wilderness areas, if you walk a quarter mile one way or another, you may just locate one. Trust me, this helped us contact both our son and our daughter when they were lost on separate hikes, one in the Minnesota wilderness (think Boundary Waters Canoe area) and the other on a 14,000 peak in Colorado. Further, most smartphones have better cameras than my current digital camera. This will also help you document the beautiful scenery on your hike. Take the phone; it is easy to carry and may save your life.
- If you dislike rain and have a bit of extra room in your pack, take a rain jacket. Though be aware that if you are hiking UP, you want to start early in most cases and head down by noon because if you have rain, you are also, in many areas, likely to have lightening especially if it is after noon. Trust me, it is more important to avoid the lightening than to avoid the rain.
- Hiking poles—While not a necessity, we really enjoy hiking with our poles. They help to distribute the load between your arms and your legs, rather than allowing your legs carry you the entire way. We never hike without them.
When heading out on a hike, remember, #6 and 7 are nice additions, but the ones we consider truly essential are the first five items above. There are other things you may want to take along, but these are the most crucial, coming from someone who is on a hiking trail every week of the year. Happy trails!
To find some great trails for hiking, search for a national park.