One of the most intimidating factors for those new to hiking is not knowing what to bring on your first hike. There’s a lot of resources out there that go over comprehensive lists of what to bring on a hike, but in truth it varies based on how far you’re going, how remote the trail is, and if you’re familiar with the area.
Let’s break down exactly how to decide what to bring on your next hike.
Let’s start first with what you’re going to need on EVERY hike, no matter the distance or where it is.
Means of Navigation
At a bare minimum, you need a method of navigating your way through your trail. This could be a physical map, a GPS, etc.
My personal favorite is downloading the map for offline use via All Trails (you need a premium subscription to utilize this feature). This allows me to view the trail and continue to track my location through my iPhone’s GPS, even when out of cell phone service.
This might seem like a given, but I always, always, always take water with me. The amount will vary based on the length of the hike, the weather, how exposed a trail is, etc. But at minimum I carry a 32oz bottle with me.
Another item that I always have in my bag, more for comfort than anything else, is a snack (or two or three, I’m a hungry hiker sometimes!).
But in all seriousness, an extra granola bar is easy to throw in your bag and is always a good option to have on the trail.
This is not relevant in all areas, but as I’m normally hiking in North Carolina, I usually bring bear mace along with me for protection. Thankfully any bear I’ve encountered has been more afraid of me than I am of them, but the extra security never hurts!
After those three to four items, everything else that I pack varies based on where I’m going. If it’s a short trail near my house, likely I won’t take anything additional.
If the trail is a little longer or more remote, the first thing I’ll add to my pack is a first aid kit. The kit can be as extensive as you want. At a minimum I usually bring band aids, moleskin, etc. to take care of any pesky blisters that develop on trail. If you have any allergies, or conditions that could be dangerous while hiking (example: asthma), definitely bring along the necessary equipment for those situations as well.
The 10 Essentials
If you’re going into completely unfamiliar territory, or a long distance hike, or even if you just want to feel ultra-prepared on the trail, there’s a list of 10 essentials that is recommended to keep you safe outdoors. This list includes everything from a fire starter to shelter for the night.
The Bottom Line
When deciding what to bring in your pack, think about this: how far away are you going to be from help? The further you are, the more items you’ll want to add to your pack in case something goes wrong. If it’s a quick hike in an area you’ve been before, you likely don’t need to consider bringing all 10 essential items. However, if you’re planning a technical hike in an unfamiliar area, its better to play it safe and bring some back up items in case something unanticipated happens.