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What to Bring on Your Next Special Hiking Trip

Author and avid hiker John McKinney has collected hiking humor for so long, even the U.S. Forestry Service shares outrageous comments from hikers with McKinney.

A favorite?

“Too many bugs and leeches and spiders and spider webs. Please spray the wilderness to rid the area of these pests.” Read more of these gems.

Why begin this “what to bring hiking” story to your attention?

The items and tips included in this article, you’re wise to put your sense of humor on your hiking checklist. It will come in handy.

Whether you prefer to hike solo or you love company when you commune with Mother Nature, being prepared for surprises you will likely encounter is the secret to enjoying every moment of your journey.

10 Essentials belong on your what to bring hiking checklist

In the interest of not reinventing the wheel, we turn to REI for that company’s “must bring” list. Pack these essentials and you’re good to go:

1. Navigation Gear

Whether you’re a whiz at maps, never met a compass you couldn’t read or you rely on GPS, it can’t hurt to bring more than one of these essentials.

2. Water

Bring more water than you think you’ll drink plus purification tablets if you intend to drink water from streams.

3. A pop-up shelter

Weighing just 3 pounds, this trail unit and similar products are worth your consideration.

4. Headlamp plus extra batteries

Night hikers and cave explorers call this item irreplaceable.

5. Sun protection

Sunscreen, sunglasses, a cap and clothing made of textiles that keep bodies cool.

6. Food and extra food

Double down on food items. Better to bring some home than run out.

7. Survival items

A utility knife, matches, tinder, and anything else you need to improvise away from home.

Related: 14 Secret Tips for Survival: You need to have learned YESTERDAY!

8. Health aids

Insect repellent, aloe, foot care and hygiene products you always use in summer.

9. Repair items for your staff

Tent, backpack and gear you bring that might need to be fixed on the fly.

10. Appropriate clothing

REI recommends going “beyond the minimum expectation.” If you’re hiking alone and don’t care how you smell, you still need extra garments should you fall into a creek.

No medical degree required (but it can’t hurt)

Are we being uber-cautious by putting emergency supplies in a category of its own? Not if you know that a single misstep can twist an ankle and ruin a perfect hike.

According to AlwaysWonderlust, prioritizing an emergency kit when you pack isn’t just wise; it’s smart.

How to build a proper medical kit? Why bother?

The number of pre-packed kits designed for hikes covers a variety of situations, and if you love comparison shopping as much as you like trekking, turn to the New York Times for great kit recommendations.

You can leave your apron home

Unless you hold a culinary degree and plan to spend as much time churning out dishes as you do on the trail, you’re hiking at the best time in history because there are many types of food made just for hikers that weigh little yet taste pretty good.

Plenty of hikers rely upon hydrated foods for sustenance and these products are easy to find at camping stores and survivalist websites.

Buddy trips can get bogged down if members of the pack decide to make it a beer fest.

Not only are those cans heavy, but dehydration is a serious matter when you work up a sweat, so forget libations.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) offers hikers a great list of foods that you can bring on either a day trek or longer hikes, and their recommendations are nutritious and delicious.

Visit this page before you grocery shop.

The right backpack/rucksack

Does this mean there’s a wrong backpack?

That’s the point. You’re not carting school books; you’re carrying your world with you, so your choice of what to bring hiking is a critical decision.

Next Hiking backpack

Doctors, physical therapists, and occupational therapists suggest a maximum load of 15 percent of body weight; the American Occupational Therapy Association recommends a 10 percent limit,

writes Claire Hughes for the Times Union’s Living section.

Returning home from an enjoyable hike in need of ice packs or a heating pad is no way to conclude your favorite activity.

Even if it costs you a little bit more, opt for a product designed for serious trekkers so no matter how much you pack, you’re able to balance the load.

Need help?

Turn to Nomadic Matt who has been there and done that. See what he has to say before you shop.

You’ll enjoy watching his video on the topic, too.

Lifesavers (not the candy)

Having already gathered items on our aforementioned essential lists, there may be one barrier to your upcoming hike that is keeping you awake at night.

It’s called “What if I get lost and nobody finds me until it’s too late? syndrome.

Even veteran hikers are smart enough to know that this can happen, which is why adding a few lifesavers to your backpack could help you get back to sleep.

From whistles to cell phones, every measure you take to make sure folks can find you if something goes amiss gives you more confidence.

Giving friends or family the route you intend to travel and the time schedule you plan to follow just makes sense, and if you like, you can give this information to a few people just in case.

But don’t rely upon your cell phone exclusively since signals could be spotty.

Today’s ultimate lifesaver is the satellite emergency notification device. This REI page offers a great rundown on what you can expect from these tools, and since the competition to make these devices are getting stiff, prices on these units are dropping.

What to bring hiking that’s not on every list (but may enhance yours)

“I dream of the day all my belongings can fit in a backpack again.”

Madison Dragna

She has mastered many impressive trails including the entirety of the Appalachian Trail in 2013, so when she searched for products designed to elevate the experiences of campers on the trail, her search result included these strange items:

  • A Creek Company hanging camp cupboard
  • A complicated Swiss Army knife that comes with a $510 price tag
  • Chopsticks for hikers in the mood for a good stir fry
  • Canned sandwiches that include your kid’s favorite: PB&J
    See more here

From essential to silly, the expansion of the hiking and camping gear market has become big business, morphing what was once an impromptu hike that prompted hikers to bring granola bars and matches into a sophisticated adventure.

That’s why you’ll want to keep this in mind: Your hiking style is unique, just as the gear you will need is unique.

Start with essentials. Customize your packing list. Fill your backpack with items that you intuitively feel will enhance your experience.

Now, put on your hiking shoes and get lost! We mean that in the best possible way.