Hiking takes you through places otherwise hidden from your view, giving you a chance to see what you might have missed if you had taken the journey by a plane or car. You’re also challenging yourself (physically and mentally at times), getting out of your comfort zone, and getting in some exercise. Despite all of these benefits of hiking, not properly preparing for the trip can make you uncomfortable and can risk your safety.
There’s a balancing act involved in packing just the right amount for your trip. You don’t want to leave anything vital behind, but you don’t want to bring unnecessary items either. First, check the weather forecast, and then consider the terrain. You want to go as light as you can, but don’t put yourself in danger by not having essentials.
One shirt should get you through four days. Deciding to go with button-up or T-shirt is a personal preference, but ensure it’s odor-resistant and moisture-wicking. You also need an insulation layer. Fleece is what most people think of, but you’ll need a shell over it for wind resistance. Bring along a jacket that’s appropriate for any extreme weather you might encounter, such as a breathable raincoat.
To protect your legs from the sun, poisonous plants, and insects, wear long pants. If possible, opt for ones that repel water on the outside and wick away moisture from the inside. Even your undergarments should be hiking friendly and a material that isn’t cotton. “High-performance underwear isn’t cheap, but for a four-day backpacking trip, you’ll only need one pair,” says Men’s Journal.
Pack two pairs of high-performance socks. Most hikers prefer thinner socks, which limit sweating and swelling, thus limiting blisters. If your backpack is less than 30 pounds, you may be able to wear light hikers or trail runners instead classic hiking boots. At the end of the day, your feet need a break from shoes, so bring a pair of lightweight, inexpensive flip-flops.
While it seems sensible to bring cheap sunglasses in case you lose them, your eyes will have a lot of exposure to the sun, which can cause damage. Wear a pair of high-performance sunglasses with polarized lenses instead. Don’t forget to bring a hat. Just a simple baseball cap is efficient.
Gear and Equipment
First and foremost, you need a good backpack that’s the right size. In almost every case, you should stick to the standard internal frame backpacks, which are lighter and more comfortable than external frames. You want one that’s ventilated and that features body-contouring suspension.
You don’t always need a tent. Some people enjoy sleeping under the stars or going minimalist with just a three-season tarp and mosquito netting. If you prefer a tent, choose something that’s under four pounds and easy to set up and tear down. You should also bring a compass, camping stove, lighter, waterproof matches, eating utensils, water filter, water bottle, headlamp, sunscreen, bug spray, first-aid kit, multi-tool, and backpacking-specific towel or bandana.
There are a few items that you should leave at home. Don’t bring a camera zoom lens, toiletries, cotton clothing, or pillow. Obviously, you should never bring valuables or jewelry, so take off your wedding rings. Since you’re leaving so many valuables at home while you’re away, take home security precautions. Secure your garage, lock all doors and windows, use light timers, remove hidden keys, set an alarm system, and notify your neighbor of your trip.
When choosing a sleeping bag, ensure it’s the proper temperature rating. While synthetics weigh more than down, they’re preferred for rainy or wet trips. It’s suggested to not skimp on quality when it comes to sleeping bags. A high-quality sleeping bag may come with a high price tag, but it should last a lifetime.
Don’t think of a sleeping mattress as a luxury; it’s an essential because it’s what insulates you from beneath. Once you lay inside a sleeping bag, it’s too compressed to provide warmth from underneath. Some pack down to the size of a water bottle and weighs less than a pound.
Getting out and seeing the world through a hiking trip is a great experience that requires a lot of preparation. The gear you take on a hiking trip not only keeps you comfortable, but it can also keep you safe or even save your life. While going as light as you can is a good idea, safety should be the ultimate goal.
Author: Jason Lewis (StrongWell.org)