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If you’re new to day hiking, it can be difficult to know what to throw in the backpack – and what to leave at home.
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I’ll never forget the time I saw an ill-advised tourist hiking in the Canadian Rockies – wearing gumboots! You can’t make this stuff up! Someone had told him it was going to rain, so he thought gumboots were the solution. Unsurprisingly, his feet were covered in blisters. I gave him some Compeed for the worst ones – ouch!
I’ve also ran into hikers who begged for water on numerous occasions. In each case they had attempted a long hike with not enough water. That’s when things start getting scary. If you get lost and end up spending the night in the mountains, you can die from hypothermia. It’s not uncommon for temperatures to drop below freezing in the mountains overnight – even in summer! Don’t worry, that’s not going to happen to you. Once you know what to pack for a day hike, it’s easy to stay safe!
I wear this in winter, spring, fall and sometimes even in summer on a cool day. I highly recommend wool. Don’t worry you can get wool that’s actually soft and not scratchy. It keeps you warm, and best of all, it doesn’t stink afterwards!
These are my favourite item of hiking gear. They are full length pants that zip off at either just below the knee and/or also zip off above the knee, turning them into shorts, depending on the style. I almost never hike in regular shorts. These are much more practical should the weather change.
Socks are one item you don’t want to cheap out on. A good pair of socks will help prevent blisters by wicking the moisture away. They’ll also help regulate your foot temperature. All it takes it getting a bad blister once for you to be convinced of the value of a good pair of socks. Trust me, don’t learn the hard way.
These are always in my backpack. They’re great in snow and mud for keeping your legs warm and dry. They’re also good in summer on scrambles. They keep tiny rocks from getting in your boots. Besides, even in summer, you may encounter mud, or even snow higher up! They also add another layer, so can be used if you’re cold.
You’ll want to invest in a good pair of hiking boots. Your feet will thank you for it. I always buy a 1/2 to 1 size bigger, since your feet swell after a day of hiking. There’s nothing worse than ill-fitting hiking boots. I really recommend trying them on near the end of a day, when you’re feet are already swollen. I’m a big fan of La Sportiva and Salomon.
This size will cover you for day trips. Look for one that has a built-in rain cover. It will fit better than if you buy one separately. Also, buy one that has space between the pack and your back to prevent back sweat. It can be uncomfortable and can have a huge impact on your body temperature. I’m a big fan of Deuter backpacks.
This Merino wool base layer is the perfect addition for any hiking trip. I don’t usually pack it unless I am planning to do a more strenuous day hike. Merino wool is incredibly comfortable and gives you a little extra warmth especially in cooler weather.
On a longer day hike it is always a good idea to take an extra bottle. I usually take oe that can purify water so that I can I can collect water on the trail if possible. The Life Straw purifies water so you don’t have to worry abut bacteria and other impurities from water sources along the way.
Always bring more water than you think you’ll need. Yes it’s heavy, but it’s free. You may go through more than you think you will. I bring a minimum of 2 litres on everyday hike, and sometimes up to 4 for longer hikes, or if it’s hot. You may be able to find a stream or lake to drink water from, but don’t count on it. And remember, if you do, you’ll need either purification tablets or a filter.
This is one item I hope you don’t end up using. But if you do require a mountain rescue, in many countries you’ll have to pay thousands to get rescued. Don’t risk it, always have insurance that covers mountain rescues. In most cases, this is on top of your regular health insurance.
I always carry a headlamp in my backpack. Two years ago, my husband and I did a short 3-hour hike, which turned into a 7 hour hike because we got lost. Thankfully we found our way with our headlamps. I actually end up using mine a few times each year.
This is for taking photos. I rarely hike with my DSLR because it’s so bulky and heavy. The new smartphones take really great photos. I also use the GPS function. You can also use it to download hiking apps.
My husband bought one of these when we did the Tour du Mont Blanc. Unfortunately, we learned afterward, that the maps are expensive. I do see the value in having one if you’re doing unmarked trails though. Check first though to see how much the associated maps that you need cost.
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If you want something more compact and easy to use to help track your trail then consider taking a fitness tracker with you.