You don’t need to have brand-new, top-of-the-line equipment to be able to have a fun, safe time on the trail. In fact, depending on your trail of choice, the only “equipment” you might need is a pair of running/hiking shoes.
However, there are times and situations in which you want (and need) to be better prepared than simply having comfortable shoes. For those of you that make/want to make a consistent habit out of hiking, I highly recommend equipping yourself with an “Essentials Kit” to bring with you every time you hit the trail.
The following is my “Essentials Kit” that I’ve developed through several lessons learned in the mountains. Regardless of the length of hike I’m going on, I always bring this stuff with me. Of course, if I’m going on a more lengthy trek, I’ll switch to one of my bigger packs and adjust accordingly.
If you have suggestions for additions/subtractions to my kit, let me know here!
1) Solid hiking boots/shoes
Your footwear is your foundation. If your shoes aren’t supporting you properly, you’re not going to be able to hike at your highest level. Not only do you want to make sure your footwear is comfortable for extended periods of time, but you’ll also want to ensure that you’ve got great traction. If the bottoms of your shoes/boots are worn down, it’s probably time to look into some new kicks.
I’m currently rocking the Merrell Moab 2 boots, and they’re the greatest things I’ve ever slipped my feet into.
2) A properly sized pack
To start, I recommend using a pack that has a hip belt. It helps take a lot of the weight of the pack off of your shoulders. The pack that I’m using, the Camelbak M.U.L.E., is actually designed for mountain biking, but it does a perfectly fine job as a hiking pack. Just make sure you are using a pack that is the right size for the gear that you’re bringing. If you have a pack that is only half full, that unused portion of the pack is just unnecessary weight.
As you can see from the picture up top, I like to use a pack that holds a hydration reservoir. I simply like being able to drink on the move rather than stopping for designated water breaks.
While I’m on the topic, it’s always smart to bring water along with you. There’s nothing worse than feeling dehydrated when you’re nowhere near the trailhead. Even if it’s not a lot of water, bring something with you to sip on and keep yourself going.
I always like to bring something to munch on with me when I hit the trail. I’m the kind of guy that immediately goes from completely fine to absolutely starving as soon as I start thinking about food. Once it’s on my mind, it’s all I can think about; and I lose all ability to enjoy anything that’s going on. I guess you could call it HANGRY. So to prevent me from turning into a ravenous beast, I bring some snacks with me. I’d rather go this route than resort to eating disgusting bugs like Bear Grylls.
5) Medium/High athletic socks
I prefer socks that show over the top of my boot. This way, I know they’re not going to slip down under my heel during the hike. When I’m wearing shorts, I like to wear a little bit higher socks to protect my ankles from stray sticks.
I always wear some form of hat when I’m hiking for a handful of reasons. They keep my head from getting burned when I’m out on longer hikes. Additionally, I wear glasses. So having the visor prevents crazy glares in my glasses when I’m hiking into the sun. When I’m hiking away from the sun, I can turn my hat backward to protect my neck from getting burned. If it’s really sunny outside, I’ll throw on a bucket hat for a little extra protection.
7 ) Compression Shorts
I’m a guy that works up a sweat when he’s hiking. I treat a hike like a workout, so I dress accordingly. Wearing compression shorts prevents chafing and, well, just keeps everything in order down there. This rule probably doesn’t apply as much to women. I wouldn’t know.
8) Adventure Towel
My mom got me this thing Adventure Towel that’s great for hiking and camping, but just having a normal towel is perfectly fine. It’s one of those things that you don’t realize how much you’ll use it until you actually bring it along. I have mine rolled up nice and tight to save room in my pack.
9) First Aid Kit
This is another one of those things that I didn’t appreciate the need for it until I had it. Fortunately, I haven’t had the need to use it too much, but I’m always more confident heading out when it’s in my pack. I have this kickass first aid kit that is designed for hiking, and it’s packed with tons of useful stuff to treat all sorts of ailments and conditions you may face on the trail. Plus it barely takes up any space in your pack, so there’s essentially no excuse to not bring one along. It’s always better to be prepared than run into issues in the backcountry.
If you live anywhere similar to where I live, the weather can change at a moment’s notice. This is one of those things that will prevent you from having a horrible time and salvage your day if/when the conditions turn.
This is a fun little extra that I like to pack in. I’m not a “Point A to Point B” type of hiker. I enjoy wandering around, getting lost, and enjoying the scenery. Occasionally, I’ll find a beautiful spot where I want to set up shop for a bit. Sometimes I bring my Amazon Kindle with me, so if I find a killer reading spot, I’ll whip out my Grand Trunk hammock and lace it up somewhere cool.
12) Hammock tree straps
If you’re bringing a hammock, I definitely recommend bringing some hammock tree straps with you. First of all, they’ll let you lace your hammock up between things much further apart than the little bands that come with your hammock can. Second, they help minimize damage to trees since they’re thicker and won’t dig into the bark.
Depending on the season, I’ll also bring along ICEtrekkers for better grip on snowy/icy trails, multiple layers to keep me warm/cool at the right times, and gloves to keep my hands out of my pockets so my fitness watch can properly track my hike.
This is my little checklist to ensuring I have a great time out in the mountains. Of course, not all of this may apply to you and what you’re looking to do out on the trail. So please adjust your Essentials Kit as you see fit.
I’d love to hear what’s in your Essentials Kit. Let me know!