The Top 5 Things for a New Hiker to Bring on a Hike

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.

The Top 5 Things for a New Hiker to Bring on a Hike || What do I bring on my first hike?

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1. Water

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.

2. Snacks

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!

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  • Reply
    May 25, 2017 at 8:29 am

    These are very handy and important tips. People often discount the importance of taking enough water! I usually also bring a Lara fruit bar or dried apples and some nuts to carry. Thanks for encouraging more exploration!

    • Reply
      July 24, 2017 at 7:07 am

      Yes! Water is so important, and we need even more of it when we’re being active! I’ve never had a Lara bar, but I always hear people talk about them. I should give them a try!

  • Reply
    Sarah Althouse
    May 25, 2017 at 9:05 am

    My husband and I are pretty avid hikers and I back these up wholeheartedly! The other day we actually went on a hike without snacks because I thought it was shorter. However, I already wasn’t feeling well so about time I got to the top was very nauseous and someone’s pretzels saved me!

    • Reply
      July 24, 2017 at 7:08 am

      I’m so glad someone was around to share with you! I love pretzels!

  • Reply
    May 25, 2017 at 10:18 am

    Thanks for all the tips! I don’t think I’ve really gone on a legit hike before, but I’ve traipsed through the words before. :)
    ShootingStarsMag recently posted…M/M Book Review: Summer Stock by Vanessa North

    • Reply
      July 24, 2017 at 7:16 am

      Ohhh I’d love to know what’s necessary for traipsing the world! I feel like it’s a lot less than I feel like I’d HAVE to bring with me!

  • Reply
    May 25, 2017 at 10:36 am

    I don’t hike enough, this is a great list to get me started. Thanks!
    Krysten recently posted…5 Habits for a Strong Marriage

  • Reply
    Eric || The Bucket List Project
    May 25, 2017 at 12:13 pm

    Ok so I don’t disagree with anything you listed, but can I add. If you are bringing a lightweight backpack then perhaps a small first aid kit with band aids & a small ace wrap, a pack of waterproof matches, a compass, a flashlight and a light weight jacket! Also, consider super glue because if you pick up a wicked cut, its a great way to seal the cut til you find medical. This may sound like a lot but the Eagle Scout in me says its better to be prepared.
    Eric || The Bucket List Project recently posted…The Bucket List Guide to Cheap Flights

    • Reply
      May 25, 2017 at 6:39 pm

      These are fantastic tips! Thank you so much for your input Eric! I have a mini first aid kit, but it doesn’t include super glue. I’ll definitely have to get some and I know WMSB readers can benefit from your comment.

  • Reply
    Julie Hood
    May 25, 2017 at 3:59 pm

    Skin protectant is nooo joke! I never remember sunscreen + a hat and end up hoping it’s a shady hike haha
    Julie Hood recently posted…2017 Summer Bucket List

  • Reply
    Megin Shearer
    May 26, 2017 at 10:47 am

    Hiking is one of my all time favorite activities! I can personally speak for everything on this list – so true and useful!
    Megin Shearer recently posted…How To Find Your Confidence (+ 20 Day Self-Love Challenge)

  • Reply
    Bethany ~ twoOregonians
    May 29, 2017 at 12:21 pm

    I’ve hiked off and on for a while, but I forget to take an alert tool. My mom got lost in the woods as a kid and learned then and there (out of necessity) how to make super, loud super shrill whistle. I could never teach myself the same technique though. Something with the thumb and index finger under the thumb? I should really get myself a durable metal whistle and call it a day.

  • Reply
    LaVonne Long
    June 1, 2017 at 8:55 am

    These are great tips! Thank you. We love easy hikes here in our family. Thankfully, we live near such beautiful hikes in the PNW. I also like to bring a lightweight hat when I am outside. And with my kids, I usually like to carry a small first aid kit. They always get hurt…
    LaVonne Long recently posted…New Carmen Sandiego Animated Series Coming to Netflix in 2019!

  • Reply
    September 13, 2017 at 9:04 am

    Bring a camera and using it instead of the phone is great advice for another reason… You don’t want your phone to die while on the trails. In fact, charge your phone before hiking and turn it off while on the trails so you can use it if there’s an emergency…

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