Editor’s Note: This is part two of a introduction to day hiking series.
With your route determined, it is time to plan your hike. Let’s walk through what you need:
- Extra clothes – particularly a light jacket – more below.
- Emergency kit – While you may never need it yourself, being prepared with first aid supplies, a light, fire starters and a small knife is very important. I keep all these supplies in a small zip-lock bag so it is easy to grab-and-go. You also can help other unprepared hikers. See the 10 essentials for a complete discussion on the subject.
- Personal Items – Bring a book. TP (toilet paper) in a zip lock bag. Be comfortable, but don’t bring the kitchen sink.
- Camera – Take only pictures, leave only footprints. Bring your camera, but make sure the batteries are charged and there is room on your memory card. Don’t be bashful of taking pictures, you’ll want to remember the trip and share it with others.
- Hiking Boots – The symbol of the hiking. There is much to consider here. More below.
- Hiking Pack – Nothing special needed here. The smallest bag that holds your stuff is best. A common school book bag with two shoulder straps typically works and you probably already have one.
- Cell Phone – Coverage is generally non-existent, but it could save someone’s life. You can typically get a signal from a summit and some open lakes. Since it is a safety item, turn it off and conserve the battery. You do not want people bothering you anyway! Expert Tip 1: If you can’t get a call through, try text messaging as it requires less of a signal. Expert Tip 2: The phone will use significantly more battery “searching” for service than in normal use…another reason to turn it off.
Food and Water
Day hikes typically requires only a simple lunch and a couple water bottles. Keep it simple with something you enjoy, but requires no preparation in the field.
- Peanut Butter and Jelly – A classic. Pack in tupperware to prevent squishing.
- Fruits/Veggies – Apples, bananas, dried fruit, etc.
- Cheese and Crackers – Precut the cheese. Wrap in your extra clothes or summit jacket to keep it cold.
- Yogurt – Insulate with extra clothes.
Don’t forget a snack too:
- Trail mix – Prepackaged or bonus points for mixing it yourself to what you enjoy. I always add more chocolate and nuts in mine.
- Granola Bar – Another classic.
- M&Ms – The peanut variety is a good choice.
- Snickers Bar – Tastes good and high in energy.
For day hikes keep it simple, with bonus points for not using utensils, generating little trash to hike out (especially if it is messy), and being able to eat while walking.
Water on shorter hikes can be carried in two single-liter bottles. Be sure they close securely. Simply reusing a store-bought bottled water container, like Aquafina or Dasani, you probably already have is ideal. Dedicated hiking bottles, like Nalgene bottles, work too but are not really needed for day-hikes. Moreover they are typically a bit larger and heavier.
Expert Tip 1: Bring extra food/water and leave it in the car – better to have and not need, than need and not have. It also gives you something to look forward to at the car.
Expert Tip 2: Dump extra water bottles late in the hike. If you have carried two liters of water up to the summit, but it was cooler and cloudy, perhaps you only consumed part of the first bottle. There is no reason to pack 1.5 liters of water back down. Dump some and lighten the load — water is heavy. Only dump extra water, you will need water for the hike down, and should still have a safety margin too. Finally for this to work, you absolutely need to have extra water in your car for the ride home.