Day Hiking Essentials: A Guide for Beginners - Tools and Comfort
There are so many tools out there to help make your excursion more comfortable, but not all of those items can come with you onto the trail. You will need to pick and choose which ones are valuable enough that you’re willing to carry them on your back in order to have them with you. You’ll want to contemplate pack space and item weight when making your decisions.
There are a few things I consider to be “must-haves”, and other pieces of gear I bring along just because I find real enjoyment through their comfort and convenience. Let’s start with one of my favorite items: trekking poles. These magical walking sticks have brought me true joy and relief on the trail! My poles are made by Black Diamond and are aluminum with cork grips positioned at an ergonomically correct angle. I have used my poles for the following purposes:
- Offset the weight of my backpack while hiking
- Provide extra support to my joints
- Give me something to grip onto while hiking uphill
- Help steady me while hiking downhill, especially when it’s slick or the ground is covered in leaves
- Check step depth and ground sturdiness when the ground is covered by leaves, rocks, mud, etc.
- Help steady me while hiking over water or high places
- Keep me from falling when I trip
- Keep flying insects away from my face
- Knock down spider webs
- Push back brush
- Can also be used for: tent poles and protection from animals
Another must-have tool is a headlamp. There may be times you don’t quite make it back to the trailhead prior to the sun setting, or you may purposefully decide to watch the sun as it sets over a beautiful place along the trail, and then you’ll need to finish up your hike in the dark. Or, if you’re like me and my hiking partner, you may just discover that you love night hikes! A headlamp will ensure your path is well-lit and your hands are free for your trekking poles. Don’t forget to bring extra headlamp batteries, as well as a backup flashlight.
A definite must-have is a map and/or navigation tool. I always look at the online trail maps ahead of time and save those to my phone since most places I hike offer limited, if any, cell phone service. If available, you can also take a picture of the map posted at the trailhead. If you choose to carry your primary map on your phone, be sure to have an alternative in place in case your phone battery dies. Backup options can include a printed map, GPS navigation system, or portable charger for your phone.
Let’s discuss outdoor restroom hygiene for a moment. I don’t feel most people relish in the thought of having to take a bathroom break on the trail; however, if nature does indeed call, you’d do well to be prepared to answer appropriately. You’ll want to bring the following items with you for your special moment: a trowel, biodegradable wipes and/or camper’s toilet paper, Ziplock bags (in case you are in an area where you must pack out your leftovers), and hand sanitizer. Good times!
Finally, we will wrap this segment up with a few comfort items. I like to tie a bandana on my pack and use it to wipe my face or hands, as needed. I always pack my BEARZ Outdoor Beach Blanket, Waterproof Picnic Blanket (Amazon). It takes up very little room in my bag, weighs next to nothing, and is super nice to have for longer breaks or a picnic. Another favorite is my Therm-a-Rest Z Seat Cushion Insulated Sitting Pad (Amazon). I use it all the time for sitting breaks, as well as for a kneeling pad for taking photographs.
You’re almost there! Our last article in the series spotlights Safety and Emergency Gear!
Day Hiking Essentials: A Guide for Beginners – Tools and Comfort