Day Hike Essentials:
Heading out on a day hike? My friends always worry when I plan a hike as we tend to go further and stay out longer than we intended. But I am prepared by carrying the 10 essentials. I bring plenty of water – a quart minimum – and maybe a second bottle and my sawyer squeeze if it’s hot. I have matches, a flashlight and an extra layer in case we end up out overnight. Of course I have a paper map and the Gaia GPS map downloaded on my phone so it works even if we are offline. There’s high energy food and a basic first aid kit – bandages, athletic tape, ibuprofen (vitamin I to through hikers) and Benadryl. Have a bit of TP, just in case you haven’t planned ahead. And I carry a trash bag to pick up anything I come across!
Here is some of the gear I use:
GPS: I used to carry a Garmin etrex. It worked well to track my route, but it was not very useful beyond that as the screen is too small. I now use GaiaGPS. This app provides their basic, clean topo map with many trails on it, but also USGS maps for the entire US. There is a free version, but with a subscription you can download maps to your phone so that it works offline. With the maps on your phone you can actually use it by zooming in. And yes, I do carry paper maps as well!
Athletic Tape – when you get hot spots on your feet you need to stop and take care of the problem area before it turns into a blister. Moleskin is thick, uncomfortable and generally does not stick too well. It can cause new problems. Duct tape is another solution that works better than moleskin as it is thin and still protects the area from more damage. But a friend introduced me to athletic tape and I have not gone back. It sticks to the area for as long as needed – even over multiple days if you are low and don’t want to replace it.
Socks: Socks need to wick away moisture from your feet, and keep you warm even when they are damp. Any non-cotton sock is good. The best socks I have ever used are Wright Socks. These socks are two layers that are sewn together. There is a poly layer against your skin, and then an outside layer that varies depending upon the season and the amount of insulation you need. I have never gotten a blister with these socks and have hiked thousands of miles in them. They also last a long time.
For overnight backpacking, I use the following gear:
Therma-Rest: When you sleep in the outdoors it is important to be comfortable and warm. No matter how warm it is, you will get cold at night without a pad underneath you to provide insulation from the ground. The best pads are made by Thermarest. I don’t promote many name brand items, but I have Thermarest pads that have hundreds of nights on them with no problems.
Backpack: There are lots of high quality backpacks available. The main things to consider when purchasing yours is weight and volume. Purchasing a smaller pack will force you to reconsider everything you bring along on your hike so that you can reduce your weight. Start reducing weight by selecting a lightweight, smaller backpack. I use the Osprey Exos 48L, and have carried everything I needed for over a week with no problem.