Essential Items That Every Hiker Should Carry
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When the definitive guide to mountaineering was first published back in 1974 it laid out 10 essential items that everyone should take into the wilderness. Fast forward to 2020 and, though those essentials have evolved a bit with technological advances, they're basically still the same. So, without further ado, here's a list of equipment that's just plain smart to have on you whenever you hit the trails because you never know when you might get lost, hurt, stuck in extreme weather or who knows what else while adventuring.
Navigation technology has come a long way in the past 30 years and this wrist-mounted waterproof hiking GPS from Garmin is proof. Features include a high-sensitivity receiver to keep you connected in dense forests and deep canyons, electronic compass, barometric altimeter and TracBack if you ever need to retrace your steps. Don’t worry if you don’t have the cash to shell out for a high tech GPS as a lensatic sighting compass is a tried-and-true navigational tool that will always lead you in the right direction (sans batteries).
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Even if you’re only headed out for a day hike you should always have a headlamp with you to light the way just in case. There are hundreds of options available from good ol’ battery-powered types to LED rechargeables and personally, I like to have one of both with me as they take up minimal space but provide for a huge piece of mind.
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Take it from me, a lover of the outdoors cursed with alabaster skin, a sunburn can quickly ruin all of your fun and sun protection is essential no matter what season it is. And, again, because I’m a pasty nerd, I have to strongly suggest doubling up a reliable sun hat like this one from Columbia - complete with sweat-wicking capabilities and UPF 50 sun protection - with some legit hard-working sunscreen. Whether you’re tough enough for just some SPF 30+, need a little more coverage at 50+, or feel best with something 70+ really doesn’t matter, just please protect your skin!
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Having a first aid kit on you while you trek through the wilderness is a no-brainer and this one, in particular, is the perfect pick for outdoor adventures. All of the supplies are organized by type of injury and it comes with injury-specific instruction cards to quickly help anyone delivering first aid. Although I’ve been teased for it multiple times I always add premium insect repellent and extra Benadryl tablets to my first aid kit because I can’t even tell you how many times they’ve come in handy while out on a trail.
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If you don’t already have some sort of utility or pocket knife that lives in your pack might I suggest purchasing a reliable multi-tool such as this one? With 15 functions including multiple blades, bottle opener with screwdriver, serrated wood saw and scissors, it has most everything you could ever need tool-wise and takes up virtually no space at all for being such a powerhouse.
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Rather than try and remember to throw a regular lighter in your bag before you head out I strongly suggest purchasing either an emergency fire kit or some stormproof matches to leave in there at all times. This UCO Match Kit is great because it has 25 wind-and-waterproof matches, 3 strikers and comes in a durable waterproof case (that floats!) to keep everything dry and protected. What’s really wild is that the matches themselves can survive a quick submersion in water while they're burning and still relight!
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Emergency shelter is a bit on the extreme end of what to have in your pack for a day hike - especially during the warmer months - but it’s still a solid idea to have something stowed away. This simple bivy sack is highly durable and can function as an emergency blanket, survival sleeping bag or simple shelter should you find yourself stuck somewhere. If you’re hiking with others something a bit larger like this emergency survival shelter can make you the hero of a sketchy situation real quick.
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Where would anyone be without snacks? Probably off being cranky in a corner, that's where. Snacks are an essential part of life on and off the trail but trail snacks are especially important because they fuel your adventure. Be sure to stash a bag of trail mix, some delicious plant-protein Frooze Balls or a couple of Honey Stinger waffles in your bag for easy snacking and you’ll never worry about having to hike hangry.
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If snacks are essential (which they are) that makes water uber essential (which it is), especially while out hiking. Though you probably won’t have to bust out a personal water filtration system while out on a leisurely day hike you should always err on the side of caution and be prepared for the worst. I keep one of these mini hydration systems in my daypack and my backpacking pack at all times but also carry a full hydration bladder and a Nalgene or two because I love water and so does my dog who’s normally with me.
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Layers are key to hiking and camping and the most valuable layer award goes to a stuffable raincoat or all-weather shell because let's face it, being cold and dry beats the heck out of being cold and wet. This hooded rain jacket from EZRUN is perfect as it's lightweight, has elastic cuffs to keep your clothes dry and it folds up into a built-in stuff pouch to stow away with ease.
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If you're interested in having all of the essentials with you while hiking but not really interested in piecing them all together then a mini pre-packaged survival kit is perfect for you. This particular kit is slightly larger than a deck of cards and has more than 40 essential items stuffed into it including paracord, light sticks, compass, firestarter and a whole bunch more. Plus it has a super cute sugar skull on it which suits my style but if you're a dude please feel free to go with something a little more manly.
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