Are you heading out on your first hike? Welcome to one of the best ways to escape the daily grind and explore beautiful nature. Whether you're going to a casual trail or trying to hike to a little-known waterfall, there's more to hiking than just setting off on the path. Having the perfect experience involves knowing what to bring on a hike. So if you aren't sure what you should take with you, we'll go through the essentials to pack.Navigation
First and foremost, learn to read a topo map and compass. Even if you think it's not necessary, pack a topo map and have a trusty compass along with it. These are reliable, lightweight, durable items that don't need batteries, and you don't have to worry about them losing power. Additionally, invest in a good, clear waterproof map sack to keep them dry and protected.
While GPS devices and phone apps are excellent tools for supplementing a map and compass, relying on them alone is not advised. Anything could happen to your powdered devices, such as being damaged or lost batteries running out of power when you need them most. Powered devices shouldn't be used to replace a map or compass.Sun Protection
Even if the weather tells you it will be a cloudy day with possible rain, sun protection for your skin is vital. Make sure you are wearing and pack sunscreen, SPF lip balm, sunglasses (polarized if possible), a brimmed hat, and protective clothing. Bad sunburns, cracked lips that can begin to bleed, and conditions like snow blindness can quickly turn debilitating without proper protection.Extra Layers
Weather can quickly change on any wilderness trek, so don't get caught in a sudden storm, whether rain, sleet, or snow, without extra insulation and waterproof clothing layers. Simple, layerable clothing items with a waterproof outer shell (or jacket) can ensure you stay safe and warm.For your clothing layers, we recommend avoiding cotton. Cotton takes a very long time to dry out and can pull heat away from your body when damp. Instead, look for garments that use Merino wool or synthetic layers specifically created to manage perspiration (moisture-wicking) which will help prevent your clothing from becoming soaked with sweat. Wet clothing chills quickly, which could lead to hypothermia and frostbite. Light
Bring a reliable headlamp or flashlight on every trip, even if you know the hike will be short and during the day. Better to be prepared in case of a hiking trip taking longer than expected, as getting lost in the dark can quickly turn a great hike into an unpleasant one. There may come a hike when you may lose track of time or unexpectedly find yourself in the backcountry with daylight fading fast, and you'll be grateful to your past self for packing that light.
Make sure to pack a backup power source for your lights, whichever you choose, and perhaps one for your phone, too, as many cell phones have built-in flashlights as well.First Aid Supplies
No matter the hike, you'll always want to carry a well-supplied first aid kit. Most pre-packed first aid kits can provide a lightweight and reliable setup for minor ailments and is a great starting point. As you gain more experience with your hikes, you'll eventually be able to customize your kit to fit your individual needs. Remember that if you use anything in your kit to replace it the moment you get home, ensure your first aid kit is well supplied and always ready just in case.Fire
We highly encourage new hikers to learn the many different ways to build a fire in extreme weather conditions without matches or a fire starting kit. Learning to start a fire with whatever is around you can be a life-saving skill if accidentally lost and separated from your hiking bag. Along with learning this precious skill, bring back up such as two small lighters, waterproof matches, or fire starting kits or cubes to be used in case you need them.Repair Kit and Tools
We know that this list may be starting to sound like quite a lot to carry already. Luckily for beginner hikers, each of these essentials is available to accommodate being packed in small spaces, with lightweight options designed specifically for hikers. Lightweight multi-tools and basic repair equipment, for example, are other essentials that can be packed and carried easily.
The classic standby, such as a Swiss Army knife, is a great choice and comes in handy for a wide variety of situations. Packing a roll of duct tape is also excellent for on-the-go repairs such as patching a tear in a tent, pack, broken equipment, or clothing.Nutrition and Hydration
Make sure to bring along protein-rich, hearty snacks to help sustain calories and energy while you hike. Energy bars, dried fruits, nuts, and jerky are all excellent choices. There are even specialized trail meals that just need added hot water that are lightweight and easy to carry. It's vital if you're going to be out on a long, entire day or days-long hike to bring calorie-dense foods.
Speaking of vital, you absolutely should ensure you keep hydrated on the trail. Bring enough water for the duration of your hike, and invest in a lightweight water filter for emergencies. Learn about the trail before hiking it and find where all the water sources are located along the route.
A 24 hour supply of water is roughly one gallon, or 4 liters, per person. And while water is critically important, it's also one of the heaviest things to carry on the trail. So don't carry too much.Emergency Shelter
At some point, the beginner hiker will turn into the experienced, and you might want to start multi-day backpacking. If you do, you'll want to invest in some shelter to carry with you. You may think this isn't necessary for a day trip, but we do recommend bringing a lightweight emergency shelter of some kind just in case something happens that forces you to spend a night in the wilderness. An emergency blanket, a bivy, survival reflect tent or tarp.
We hope this guide on what to bring on a hike will allow you to explore the wilderness safe and comfortable on your first or next trip. With the right essentials, you'll be well on your way toward the perfect outdoor adventure.