Trail Tips: General Hiking Advice

Here I want to give some basic advice that applies to hiking in general.

Basic Gear: 

There are a few things to remember no matter if you are taking a short walk around town, or hiking all the way into the back-country.  Things like water, sunscreen, and good shoes.  The needs for different hikes will vary but to be best prepared one should always have:

  • Day-pack – I provided a link to a great site that has good prices on awesome gear.
  • Water – Always take at least a litre for every 2-3 miles on hot days per person.
  • Fruit – I like to bring apples because they travel well and you can practically eat the whole thing.  I’ve heard that fruit is like water without the packaging, because you either eat it or toss it aside without the worry of littering.  Some even bring less water if they bring a lot of fruit.
  • Energy/ Meal Replacement Bar – These are good because they are small and provide needed nutrition on the trail.
  • Good Shoes – Goes without saying to have a good pair of shoes for what type of hike you are going on.  I usually use a pair of running shoes, they’re light and give enough support and traction to hike around for the day.  On longer trails I like to bring a bigger pair of hiking boots to have greatest support.
  • First Aid Kit – No matter how small.
  • Sunscreen – Often one of the most overlooked items to bring on a hike.
  • Chapstick/ Lip-balm – This will save your lips time and time again.
  • A Solid Knife – Even if it’s tucked away in your pack somewhere, at least you have it if you need it.  Sometimes you will.  I always have at least two or three on me when I hike.
  • Compass/Map – While not necessary for your short day hikes they are fun to bring anyway.  On longer hikes and over-nighters you should always bring a map. You should learn how to read one as well.
  • Sunglasses – I always buy polarized so that I can also use them for fishing.  I’ve heard that if you wear sunglasses that don’t offer UV protection, it dilates your pupil without protecting it and therefore damages your eyes.
  • Insect repellant – You may not always need to use this but if you need it and don’t have it you will be cursing yourself.
  • Flashlight – I think this is an often overlooked item to carry.  Here I provided a link to my favorite flashlight company;  4Sevens, they make the best and most competitively priced high quality flashlights I’ve found yet.
  • Rope or Cord – Paracord is the best choice.  It’s light and very strong.  You can also use it for fishing or sewing if the need arises as it can be taken apart.  There are seven strands inside.

Image for reference.

  • Light Jacket – A wind breaker is best for its lightness.  You can stuff them into a small backpack pocket or even a cargo pocket if you have them.  
  • Matches or a Lighter – You may not need it if you’re just going on a short hike, but it’s always good to have a way to make fire.
  • Multi-Tool – These are just nice to have on hand for unexpected tasks throughout the day.  I carry one almost all the time.  However, I’d say the best time to carry one would be hiking or backpacking.
  • Camera – I just use an iPhone 4 at this point, mainly because I can’t afford a camera that I would want to have.  Eventually…sigh.  Any suggestions?
  • A Positive Mental Attitude. – An old Hindu proverb states that the only Zen you find at the top of any mountain is that which you bring with you.  One should always go into the wilderness with an alert ready mind.

Always be sure and have a route planned ahead of time unless you know the area very well.  Also be sure and let someone know where you are going and when you expect to be back.  Following these simple but powerful suggestions could potentially save you or someone you knows life.

Here is an example of what I carry on short hikes.

This is a work in progress, I might add some things as I continue to modify what I bring to find out what works and what doesn’t.

Thanks for reading and please feel free to leave suggestions for what you like to bring with you when hiking in the comments!



4 thoughts on “Trail Tips: General Hiking Advice

  1. We usually pack a cheap poncho and an emergency blanket that you get in the camping section of the stores,You never know when something could come up and delay getting back home timely. Cell phone too. May not have reception but a text sometimes would make it. If it works in the area,awesome

  2. Interesting list. Don’t know where you live, but I have extended my list, largely because I encounter people that need more help than I do. The longer you hike, the more likely you will have these encounters. That includes ACE bandage, rope, carabiner. Things get wet – extra socks, shirt. Tylenol, Motrin, Benadryl and ointment.- these things don’t come in emergency first aid kids. I hike the White mountains of NH and often need inclement weather gear, including a fleece, hat and gloves for warmth and protection, even on the warmest of days. Plastic bags.

    A compass and map are only useful if you know how to use them. Especially the compass for sighting a bearing, locating your position and mapping a course. Know your deviation from magnetic north (declination). Learn how to do this outside, going some place real, even if it’s in the city.

    Headlamp. You would not believe how helpful this is when hiking out in the dark. Extra batteries.

    I have had to use everything in my kit, for good or bad.

    More stuff I forgot to mention.

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