Outdoor activities such as backpacking or hiking offer such enriching experiences, you never know what beautiful places you’d end up. These activities will test your strength, physically and mentally but the payoff is rewarding!
Of course, prepping for an outdoor excursion requires careful planning and when it comes to backpacking or hiking, you need a specific set of gears because no one likes to scramble for essentials on the top of a cliff. If you’re new to hiking or backpacking and you’re ready for an adventure, keep these important tips in mind:
Factors to Consider Before a Hike
Know Your Starting Level
It’s not a good idea to go on a 10-hour hike in the wilderness if you’ve never done it before. This goes especially if you’re out of shape. Take your time, start slow and hike at your own pace. Do not take on an un-mapped trail in the middle of nowhere if you’re alone and you’re unfamiliar with the trail.
Know the Trail
One of the most important things you need to consider when planning a hike is the destination and the time it takes to get there on foot. Beginners should only cover shorter trails, those that can be completed in a few hours, not days. Ideally, opt for a trail that won’t require you to camp out or bring extra clothing. Once you picked a trail, look at the map and study it closely. From here, you can get an idea how long a hike will take.
Group or Solo Hike?
Will you hike on your own or will you take a few of your friends with you? Some people find solo hiking therapeutic but others prefer to bring a friend or two for safety reasons. If you’re new to hiking and you’re headed to an unfamiliar trail, think twice before hiking on your own. If you must, be extra cautious.
Tell a Friend
If you’re going on a hike – regardless if you’re alone or with a group – let a friend or a family member know about the location and when to expect you to be back. Give all important details regarding the trip for your own safety.
Image used under Creative Commons from Moyan Brenn
What to Wear
Now that you know what important factors you need to consider when prepping for a hike, let’s take a look at the gears you need to wear for a successful (and safe!) excursion:
While you can always wear your favorite shirt or hoodie on a hiking trip, it’s best to wear performance-based clothing or fitness shirts and bottoms.
Performance clothing and athletics wear are made from a special material that wicks away sweat and eliminates heat buildup, helping you stay nice and comfortable throughout the hike. If you’re hiking someplace cold, wear thick shirts and jackets made from Merino wool. We highly recommend waterproof jackets and shirts to keep you dry in case it rains. A decent windbreaker will also come in handy on a chilly day.
Hiking and sun exposure go hand in hand so make sure you’re protecting your skin from the damaging rays of the sun! Wear a hat that covers your face, ears, and neck completely. The ears are the most susceptible to sunburn and wearing a hat made specifically for sports activities offer the protection you need when it counts.
There’s nothing wrong with wearing your favorite sandals or sneakers on a hike as long as the trail is easy. But for those who are serious about covering more ground, you cannot go wrong with classic hiking boots. These shoes are designed to provide support and promote proper foot strike. What’s more, hiking boots are made from tough materials so they can take on extreme wear and tear with relative ease.
What to Pack
A Waist Pack
Apart from your backpack, a waist pack allows you to store smaller items that you need within easy reach. Waist packs or fanny packs are small bags that can be worn on the waist or as a sling bag. There are many types of waist packs available and the size, quality, price, and design will vary greatly. In case you’re on the hunt for a waist pack, we’ve reviewed some of the best waist packs for backpacking and hiking to narrow down your search.
If you love documenting your trips, bring a camera in handy. You’ll never know what sort of awesome adventure you’d find yourself in and you’ll need a camera to capture the moment. Of course, a mobile phone camera is a great alternative to a traditional point-and-shoot camera or DSLR.
Wearing a hat is not enough to protect the skin from sun exposure. Bring a bottle or two of your favorite sunblock or sunscreen and slather the product on every two to three hours. If you have no clue what sunscreen to get, check out our reviews here. The general rule of thumb is to go for sunscreen with sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30. The formula must be sweat proof and waterproof.
Image used under Creative Commons from Adam Bautz
First Aid Kit
The chances of figuring in an accident is high when you’re hiking so don’t forget to bring your own first aid kit. Nothing fancy, just fill your kit with bandaids, skin ointment, gauze, wound disinfectants, bug spray and medicine for headaches, tummy aches, etc.
Don’t be caught unprepared especially when you’re out in the woods. A pocketknife is a handy tool that you can use in a variety of ways.
As far as the kind of food to pack on a hike, everything will depend on your preference. Our advice is to bring a mix of snacks (nuts, dried fruits, breads) and packed meals. Just make sure the food you take is healthy and requires minimum preparation.
If your first hiking trip requires you to camp out, do not forget to bring a sleeping bag otherwise you might find yourself sleeping on the ground. Pair your sleeping bag with a high-quality sleeping pad for optimum comfort. Just like any hiking gear, sleeping pads come in an array of types so choose wisely. To sleep comfortably, we highly recommend packing a camping pillow or two. These pillows are lightweight and compact, they won’t take much room in your bag so they won’t be a pain to bring on a hike.
Since you’ll be walking for hours, it’s important to stay hydrated. A water bottle tends to take more space in the backpack so opt for a hydration bladder instead. A hydration bladder is a flat water container. Here are some of the best hydration bladders we’ve road tested.
Bring several shirts, bottoms, socks, nylon pants, and jackets. Avoid clothing made from cotton and choose those made from lightweight, moisture-wicking materials. Don’t forget to bring sleep clothing too!