Whether you are a planner or much more of a spontaneous person, making sure you have the right things ready for your day hike can be the difference between having an awesome day and having, well, a miserable time. And while it’s probably true to say that one person’s essentials are another person’s luxuries, there is a whole host of best practice when it comes to making sure you are prepared for your day hike.
I’m one of those people who is happiest when I spend all week planning and preparing for a hike at the weekend. I’ll pack my bag at least twice, plan and prepare my route and memorise the complicated bits, and buy all the food to make sure there is no chance I’ll go hungry. Even if I’m hiking on a camping trip, I’ll turn up at the site on the Friday with my day pack for the Saturday already packed and ready to go.
Over the top? Yes, probably, but at least I know I have everything! Even if you’re much less of a control freak than me, I thought you’d appreciate this post containing my list of five things you shouldn’t hike without…
Item 1 > Your Route
I love to just wander about, having time to meander is definitely one of life’s pleasures; but having at least an idea of where you are heading is right at the top of my must-have list.
Take a decent map of the area you’re in, along with a compass and the ability to use both successfully in combination, and even if you choose to follow your nose (or the way-markers) on your hike you will be able to pinpoint your location at any time and find your way off the hill/out of the forest/around the lake.
And if you’re doing something challenging, or that takes you off the beaten track, make sure you go further and complete a route card to leave with someone back home so they can raise the alarm should you not check-in by nightfall. Your safety should not be underestimated, and a little bit of pre-planning goes a long way.
Item 2 > Water
Whether you choose to carry a bladder or canteen, make sure you take enough water to last the duration of your hike. As a guide, I will carry two litres of water for a full day, and leave a bottle of water and something sweeter (such as a still Lucozade) in the car for when I return.
I guess the reason is obvious, so I won’t waste valuable words explaining the need for hydration here. Food is also important; even if you’re not hiking across mealtimes, be sure to have a snack or two in your pack to keep those energy levels up, and as an excuse to sit down and enjoy the view a while longer.
Item 3 > Layers
It might look nice when you look out of your bedroom window, but we all know how changeable the weather is here in the UK, especially if we are heading up onto moorland or the hills. Always carry at least a waterproof coat you can bung on if the weather turns wet and/or windy; you can get some very packable ones these days to keep the size/weight down.
I recommend carrying some kind of warm layer, especially if you’re planning on stopping for a picnic, as this will preserve your heat and keep your muscles warm while you rest. Spare socks are also a good idea; there is something rather wonderful about changing into clean and fresh socks at your half-way point, although this is most definitely a luxury item.
Item 4 > Drybag of Bits
Okay I’m probably cheating here – this entry is less one thing and more lots of things, but they could all go in one little dry bag inside your pack so I reckon it still counts…
In your little dry bag, and I mean a little one – I use a three litre one for all these things – you should pack a whole host of bits and bobs aimed at making your hike safer and more comfortable than it might otherwise have been. A whistle, a small first aid kit including plasters (of the blister variety and the normal ones) and painkillers, toilet paper and freezer bags, a head torch and some batteries, a power pack and cable for your phone, and your car key and some cash.
Doing it this way keeps everything in one place so you don’t end up with loose things all through your bag – you will find what you need very easily.
Item 5 > A Camera
If you don’t take a photo of you on the top of the hill did you even make it?! I know, of course you did, but even with that I highly recommend going to the trouble of carrying your phone and/or camera with you on every hike – you never know what amazing views you might come across. Photographs are windows to great memories, after all. Please, though; look and enjoy first, and photograph second.
Naturally, the most important thing to make sure you have, whatever length of hike you’re going on, wherever it is, however challenging it might or might not be, is a good relaxed attitude and a readiness for adventure. If you've got that sussed then you will have a great time. Do your best not to over pack so you end up with a sore back, but make sure you take what you feel you need to personally have a great day out, without worrying about having the best or most expensive stuff.
You can find more about Zoe over at Splodz Blogs where she writes about all things adventure and fitting it into a 'normal' everyday life.