essential hiking gear

When preparing for a hiking trip, there are some things that everybody should bring along, no matter how experienced the hiker.

Think About Safety First

When it comes to choosing hiking gear, nothing is more important than bringing along items that will keep you safe along the way. This includes everything from a first-aid kit to enough water (or a water filtration system) to make sure you don’t dehydrate.

Make Sure You Pack “The Essential 12”

Expert hikers have a list of items that they consider “the essential 12.” This essential hiking gear consists of a plan (so there are no surprises along the way), map, compass, pocket knife, whistle, first-aid kit, a flashlight with spare batteries, waterproof matches, emergency rain gear, insect repellent and/or sunscreen (depending upon the area and weather), water, and food.

Consider Other Important Items

If you have enough space in your backpack or if you’re sharing the load with another hiker, there are more items that may be worth the added weight. Many of these vary depending on where you’re going and how long the hike will be. For example, a mosquito net or a tent are helpful if you are planning on sleeping outside overnight. Rope, a machete, or string can be useful if you are hiking in the backcountry where you’re more likely to encounter tricky terrain or other difficulties.

Think of Your Surroundings

If you expect difficult terrain or lots of hilly roads, bringing a walking stick can make the hike a lot easier on your knees and back. A GPS tracker is also a great idea, especially if you’re venturing into the backcountry where cell phones are unlikely to work. If you get lost or need help, a GPS tracker may turn out to be your only connection to the “real” world.

What You Shouldn’t Buy

Don’t get caught up in a sales-pitch. Unless you’re venturing out for an overnight trip or are hiking the Adirondack trail on your own, you don’t need any fancy or expensive equipment to get you through. Hammocks, pillows, a stove, and cooking utensils may sound great, but they are likely to just weigh you down and make the walk more difficult. Keep it simple and always bring the less bulky, lightest option (a few sandwiches or a bag of trail mix rather than cooking equipment).

Don’t Forget Your Comfort

Nothing is more important to hiking than the right pair of shoes. Wearing plain sneakers or sandals exposes your feet to the elements and is more likely to result in injury. To prevent problems, invest in a good pair of hiking shoes that fit properly and, ideally, are also waterproof. Pair them with thick, absorbent socks for even better protection.