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What I always keep in my hiking day pack

By: Clarice Henry + Save to a List

Have you seen rushing rivers, or storms come out of nowhere? Nature is powerful. When I head outdoors, I always want to make sure that I am prepared for anything. While I can make predictions about trail conditions, I don’t fully know what I will need in the wilderness until I’m there. For that reason (and being a lifetime Girl Scout) I always try to be prepared for the worst in order to have the most fun outside.

Here are nine things (in no particular order, as they are all important) that are always in my hiking pack when I venture into the wild.

9 Hiking day pack must-haves

1. Enough water

    Depending on the trail type, distance and weather conditions, you will need varying amounts of water. If you are hiking in the mountains along with stream/river crossings, you can pack a smaller water receptacle and bring a filter along, like the Sawyer Mini Squeeze. If you’re in the middle of the desert, you’ll need a larger container like a bladder to hold water. If you are hiking in the dry heat with no water sources, you should bring even more water to stay hydrated. Do your research prior to your hike and pack accordingly. You can also bring along electrolytes to mix into your water, like Drip Drop, to help with staying hydrated and give your water some flavor.

    2. Leave No Trace knowledge

      There are seven Leave No Trace (LNT) principles to follow when exploring outside. The guidelines are the pillars of recreating outdoors in a way that protects and preserves it for current and future generations and wildlife, as well as makes it enjoyable for all those venturing outdoors. Read more about Leave No Trace principles here.

      3. Snacks (salty and sugary)

        Maintaining energy while exerting it hiking is important to keep you moving and grooving on the trail. Salty snacks, like nuts or pretzels, are good to help to replenish the body with sodium that it loses while sweating from exercising. Sugary snacks are good for bursts of energy to finish out a steep climb or complete a summit. However, you don’t want to eat much sugar and crash. 

        Fresh or dried fruit is a great snack choice because it’s sugary but not so sugary you’ll crash shortly after eating it.You should also bring snacks with fats and proteins to replace what you are burning. Jerky and nuts are good sources of these nutrients and aren’t heavy to carry (or in your stomach).

        My go-to snacks are home-dried mango and persimmons (to avoid extra added sugar often found in store bought dried fruit), jerky or biltong (the South African jerky equivalent), trail mix and a Payday candy bar. 

        4. Headlamp

          Headlamps can light the trail to avoid injury and signal for help in an emergency. I bring a freshly charged rechargeable headlamp or one with new batteries (bring extras!) no matter what time I’m hiking. 

          5. Jacket/Rain Jacket

            Weather can change like *SNAP*. It’s important to make sure you are prepared for any conditions you may come upon while hiking. I always carry a jacket to protect me from the elements should a storm sneak up on me. There is nothing worse than being cold, other than being wet and cold. Down puffy jackets can stuff down small and do not weigh much, but they won’t provide warmth when wet. I recommend bringing an insulated jacket and a rain jacket so you have options. You can also get extremely lightweight rain jackets, like the Outdoor Research Helium Rain Jacket that is a whooping 5.6 ounces!

            6. Map

            Make sure to carry a paper map or use an app (like The Outbound App) to download offline maps before heading into the wilderness just in case you lose the trail. Hopefully you won’t need them, but better to be safe and have them just in case.

            7. Kula Cloth and/or toilet paper

              Nature can call unexpectedly. I do not want nature to call upon me when I am unprepared. I recently bought and started using a pee cloth, also known as a KulaCloth, and I love it! No toilet paper to pack out, it’s easy to snap on your pack, and it’s reusable. (You can also use a bandana in a pinch.) 

              To be prepared for needing to go #2, pack a small amount of toilet paper. You should also bring along a lightweight trowel to make it easy to follow Leave No Trace Principles. I take a doggy bag (because I have them readily available) to carry out used TP, but any baggy will do. Choose durable disposable bags with a closure if you’re concerned about leaks or smells.

              (Remember to follow LNT when pooping in the woods. Find a spot at least 200 feet from water, campsites and trails. Dig a “cathole” 6-8 inches deep, pack your toilet paper out, bury your “treasure” so no one else can find it.)

              8. First aid kit

              Put together a small first aid kit with a little bit of anything you might need while hiking. I carry some pain medications, ginger chews for altitude/nausea, antihistamines for allergies, bandaids/luko tape for cuts, hot spots and blisters, and Pepto Bismol for tummy issues. You don’t need to bring a lot of each item, but it is good to have a few bandaids, etc. on hand in case you, a hiking partner, or another nature enthusiast need assistance.

              9. Whistle

              Remember when I mentioned why I always bring a headlamp? The whistle has similar uses. You can whistle if you are in distress or hurt to signal that you need help by doing three loud blasts. Each chirp should be approximately 3 seconds long. After you complete the sequence, wait about 10 seconds and repeat.

              Whistles are loud, so they can be helpful if you need to scare away animals like bears when they are a little too close. Plus, whistles are super small and lightweight, so there isn’t a good reason not to have one. Attach yours to a front backpack strap or to your clothing so it’s easy to reach with minimal effort. This way, you can quickly blow the whistle if you need help or are in danger.

              We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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