Are you new to hiking? I just started hiking when I moved to Western, WA. My friends Meghan and Paul were going on a hike and invited me to join them. I’d never been on a hike before and didn’t really know what to expect. When I arrived, Meghan said, “I’ve never seen someone wear jeans on a hike.” … I had no idea!
Here are 5 items I’ve learned are essential to bring with you on a hike. If you’re going on more advanced hikes, or camping overnight, the list gets larger. But if you’re a beginner, this should do. Adjust how much water and how many snacks you’re bringing based on the length of your hike.
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Make sure to have ample water for your hike. If you’re in the PNW it can be sort of deceiving because a lot of hikes are covered by trees, and the trails may be cooler out of direct sunlight. But you still need to protect your body and stay hydrated! Start hydrating in the days before you go on your hike, and leave some water in the car for when you return.
We will often stop somewhere along the way to our hike and eat in the car. I carry granola bars, fruit snacks and beef jerky on me as well. Snacks are key to keep your energy up, and also in case you get lost or delayed for some reason.
3. An Emergency Alert Tool
I ran this one by J, to see if he had any specific wisdom to share. He’s been going on outdoor adventures for his whole life, and is in the military. So I figured he’d be way more knowledgable. He was. He told me about a variety of options. A whistle is the easiest, in my opinion. They’re light, inexpensive, and powerful
. If you get lost on the trail, or injured somehow, people will have a much easier time finding you if you have the whistle. Blowing on a whistle will be much louder than trying to yell over and over.
You can also bring bells
, or a horn
. These items can also come in handy if you encounter wildlife that you want to scare away. Make sure to read up on any potential large wildlife in your area
, and how to protect yourself. For example, I know some people around here carry bear spray. If I encounter a bear on a trail, that may be the last trail I ever walk on in my life…. haha
4. Skin Protectant
Bug spray and sun screen (this is my favorite sun screen
) are MUST HAVES. If you’re not going to be on your hike for very long, then you can probably leave the sun screen in the car. But the bug spray is worth keeping on you. J and I went on a gorgeous hike one day, and in the middle was a massive swarm of mosquitos. We had to put our heads down and truck it up the hill to be bitten as little as possible. When I stopped to catch my breath, I was like a magnet. I added bug spray
then, as well as right before we went back down the trail after enjoying the view. People at the top were sharing bug spray with friends and strangers because it was so bad. Now I take it every time we go on an outdoor adventure.
5. A Lightweight Backpack
As you can see, you’ll have quite a few items that won’t fit into your pockets or a small cross-body purse. A lightweight backpack is key. I received one of those drawstring backpacks
from my alumni association. They’re not my style, so you’d never see me wearing it around town, but it’s perfect for hiking and even camping supplies.
You can also bring a small bag within your backpack for trash, so make sure you don’t leave anything behind by accident.
6. Bonus: A camera
If you have a nice smart phone, then it will probably take fine photos. However, if you can carry it, bringing a higher quality camera will really pay off. There are so many gorgeous sights on a hike, you’ll love looking back on the details later. With a nicer camera, you can also take photos worthy of hanging on your walls at home. I haven’t been able to bring my Nikon onto the trails in Washington, but I can’t wait for our first hike of the year to test it out! This view in particular
would be wonderful to revisit with my DSLR!
I went on a hike to Red Rocks in Denver last week. It was gorgeous! I took my DSLR all the way to Colorado, but then didn’t bring it with me on the hike because of all the warnings about how much harder it would be with the elevation. I wish I would have had it to truly capture the gorgeous colors and intricacies of the surroundings!