Hiking and snowshoeing are both great ways to get some fresh air, exercise and to enjoy nature, but it’s important to keep in mind preparation is key to staying safe. There are numerous vital items to pack in your backpack, and we’ve rounded up an essential gear list for day hikes to help you prepare:
Comfortable Day Pack
First & foremost, you’ll need something to carry all of your essential gear in. A comfortable day pack can make a huge difference in making sure you can stay out for as long as you’d like. We especially love the new Rondane 26L, from Bergans of Norway, which is super lightweight & has a unique design that stays in place even when you’re jogging, mountain biking or scrambling up a steep rock face.
Even the most skilled and experienced hikers can get turned around in the wilderness. A good compass can help you get a good idea of your bearings and lead you to your destination.
A good map can help you avoid dangerous locations and prevent you from getting lost in any location. A topographical map is also beneficial for helping you plan the route for your hike or plan an easier or quicker way back to your starting point. It’s also a good idea to get a laminated map or keep it in an airtight and waterproof container to avoid damage.
Trekking poles provide you with extra grip when hiking on difficult terrain. They also alleviate up to 25% of pressure on your knees, which is especially beneficial when climbing uphill. Trekking poles can also be used as measuring sticks for depth of streams and puddles, they can detect terrain changes such as thick mud, melting snow and quicksand, and they can clear obstacles ahead of your path.
Being out in the sun all day, even if there’s a decent amount of cloud cover, can easily result in harsh sunburns and an increased risk of skin cancer. To protect yourself from the sun’s rays, pack a strong sunscreen that lasts for at least 24 hours. Apply thoroughly before the hike, and reapply on occasion, especially if you feel a burning sensation or are sweating a lot.
You can also up your UV protection and comfort with a UV BUFF®, which is lightweight, wicks sweat, can be worn any number of ways, and can even act as a sling (bonus for that First Aid Kit!) in a pinch.
A good brimmed hat will also keep the sun out of your eyes while providing extra shielding from the sunlight on your head and face (plus, these great hats from Tilley can help you channel your inner Yukon Charlie!). Sunglasses are also a good idea to allow you to navigate properly without blinding glare from the sun.
No matter if you’re going out for a few hours, a full day or longer, no hiker should be without a proper first-aid kit. Ensure that it is kept in a protective case to keep the items inside dry and clean. First-Aid kits should at least include an assortment of bandages, antibacterial wipes, gauze, sterile pads, adhesive tape, antihistamine, ibuprofen, aspirin or another pain reliever, insect bite treatment cream or spray, blister cream, thin tweezers and a detailed first-aid manual. Check the expiration dates on all creams, sprays and ointments before heading out.
A full day’s hike will usually result in some traveling in the dusk or night hours, and you may end up accidentally traveling at night if you get lost. A durable and bright headlamp or flashlight will be essential for helping you travel during those dark hours. We especially love the versatile & packable options our friends at Bison Designs offer. Bring extra batteries, and replace both the batteries in the headlamp or flashlight as well as your backup batteries regularly.
For the winter months, you’ll need snowshoes to make your trip much easier. Snowshoes are not only good for easier traveling in thick snow, but they also make hiking safer. There can be streams, pits and other hazards underneath the snow. This is especially dangerous if a seemingly safe looking shell of ice has formed over very soft snow or bare areas. Snowshoes can help prevent you from falling or sinking in these dangerous spots.
A long hike will drain a lot of water out of your system, and you’ll definitely need some fresh water in the event that you get lost. A few extra water bottles will usually suffice, but a water filter or a hydration system may also be preferred to be extra prepared.
Packing a few snacks to enjoy while taking a break on the trail will help replenish your energy as you hike. If you’re hiking all day, you’ll want to include a good lunch to get at least one full meal in your stomach as you take on the rest of the hike. You may also want to include an extra day’s worth of food for emergencies.
Any good hiker will tell you that one of the most important things you’ll need while out in the woods is a source of fire. Matches, a lighter, kindling, lighter fluid, a flint and a waterproof case to keep them all dry are essential to drying out wet items, cooking food, creating light and providing heat.
While you may never need all of these items, making sure your daypack contains all of them will ensure you’re prepared for anything mother nature throws your way.
Now, get out there and have fun!
FREE DOWNLOADABLE GEAR LIST FOR DAY HIKES:
Gear up for your next day hike or snowshoe outing with this free downloadable checklist of essential gear you should be sure to bring.