Hiking is one of those activities that sounds fun in theory but is always a little harder than you thought. But maybe that’s just because you aren’t prepared for what the wild wilderness is about to throw your way. Now’s the time to venture just beyond your carefully curated patio to explore what the great outdoors has to offer.
So, pack your bags, get the blood pumping, and fill your lungs with some crisp mountain air.
Aside from your pure grit, determination, and alright, maybe a little apprehension, what else do you need? Here are four essentials to bring along for any outdoor excursion.
#1 Navigation Tools
If you’re dealing with a regularly-used, clearly marked trail—the beaten path, so to speak—you probably won’t need more than your cellphone’s navigation system. But for a longer, more complex day trip, you’ll want to play it safe by bringing a few more essentials:
- Map – Seriously? A map? What is this, an action-adventure pirate movie? We may have moved on from using maps in our daily lives, but you aren’t guaranteed a reliable Internet connection out in the wilderness. A topographical map will be critical in case you get lost or turned around (or if you encounter pirates?).
- Compass – A compass, similarly, will allow you to use the map successfully. A handheld compass is your safest choice in case your cellphone battery dies, but a compass app is a good start. Don’t forget a portable phone charger to keep it fully powered all hike long.
A GPS device is another optional gadget, but it runs on batteries, too. Unless you’re planning a particularly adventurous hike, you can probably skip the heavy-duty tech in favor of Google Maps or another navigation app.
#2 Sun & Bug Protection
You’ve probably heard your parents say it on more than one occasion: “You can burn even when the sun’s not out!” You might have even read that to yourself in your mom’s nasally-but-caring voice. Not to sound like a broken record, but your parents are right (shocking, I know).
No matter the weather, you shouldn’t leave home without SPF 30 sunscreen. You’ll want to reapply every couple of hours for maximum protection.
Depending on where your excursion takes you, you might also want a full coverage bug spray.
There’s nothing more annoying than those pesky little mosquitoes that won’t let you enjoy your hike in peace—except maybe that one person that keeps asking “Are we there yet?” (News flash: you’ll know when we’re there!)
#3 Water, Water, and More Water
Bringing enough water is paramount on any hike, short or long. In the worst-case scenario where you end up lost in the woods, it saves you from dehydration. In less life-or-death scenarios, it quenches your thirst and gives you the energy to tackle the path ahead.
For a day trip, you need a lot of water—a 64 oz water bottle is perfect for any hike. In this case, bigger is almost always better, as long as it’s insulated enough to keep your water cold.
#4 Protein-Rich Snacks
You’ll be expending a lot of energy during your hike—be sure to refuel with fatty, high-protein snacks (bonus points if you can find some that are tasty, too).
Here are a few portable snacks that are equal parts yummy and sustaining:
- Protein bars – This is a classic go-to meal replacement for on-the-go individuals. Toss a few energy bars in your pack and you’ll always have them when you need a little extra boost.
- Trail mix – Tailor your mix to your own personal preferences with a range of nuts, dried fruits, pretzels or crackers, and maybe the occasional sugary bite like M&Ms or yogurt chips.
- Beef jerky – This high-protein, low-sugar hiking snack will help you on longer, more grueling treks. Plus, you won’t have an impending sugar crash to deal with.
Try to incorporate anti-inflammatory superfoods if you can. This could help with some of the post-hike soreness or swelling.
Preparation Is Everything
No matter where you are in your hiking journey, it’s better to be over prepared than underprepared. If something were to go wrong, you’d be more than thankful for that leftover beef jerky to nibble on and a full bottle of thirst-quenching H20.
Once you successfully reach the summit, don’t forget to snap a photo! Share the breathtaking view with your friends—and, of course, the fact that you made it to the top in one piece.