While every hiking experience has the potential to be pleasurable and joyful, when it comes to the basics, it may become repetitive and uninteresting. When the time comes to create lists, make plans, pack your luggage, and so on, you are prone to delay and even feel annoyed. We understand this and have compiled a list of all the basics for wilderness trekking.
We’ll impart useful wisdom gleaned from seasoned hikers. Some of the advice and ideas stem from negative experiences, when a hiker forgot something or encountered an unexpected scenario. To assist you with this work, you will learn about all of the required materials and pre-trip preparations.
We’ll concentrate on the initial elements to consider preparing in this section. Without these tools, you’re better off staying there. These are indeed the fundamentals of hiking, without which a pleasant hiking excursion might quickly devolve into a nightmare.
Navigation – Either get a GPS device or enable the GPS system on your smartphone, or prepare a map and compass. Indeed, all of these alternatives are required. Keeping them all will be the best option, as you will have a backup plan in case one is destroyed or lost. Of course, you should learn how to utilize a map and compass in conjunction with one another. It may be a little challenging if this is your first time, but you can learn more by checking out our in-depth guide on map reading.
Reading Maps: Therefore, before venturing out, practice at a local park, nature reserve, or similar location. The same is true while using a GPS. If you’ve never used one, familiarize yourself with the settings and operation. Experiment with it as well until you feel confident enough to use it in the outdoors.
Sun protection – This is especially critical for summer trekking. The sun may be quite powerful, and this is especially more true in locations closer to the equator. Avoid the midday hours and, if possible, establish a shelter during that time. Not only will you be shielded from harmful UV rays, but you will also retain valuable energy and avoid dehydration if water is scarce.
Therefore, when purchasing sunscreen, always choose for the maximum UV factor and reapply often throughout the day’s hottest hours. Bear in mind, however, that morning and evening sun rays are really favorable to your health, and hence you do not need the sunscreen. Additionally, if you do get burned, there are certain remedies you may use while on the run. To understand more, see our article on sunburn home treatments.
Sun Protection Clothing – Proper clothing is critical. Summer nights, regardless of where you hike, may still be a little cool. Prepare yourself with adequate insulation for your clothing. Your best bet would be to get polyester or nylon underwear. They are made of a lightweight synthetic fabric that wicks moisture away from the skin and keeps it warm. It is the fabric of choice for hikers and mountaineers alike. Always be prepared for unexpected windy or wet weather by wearing a windproof and water-resistant jacket and pants. This is true for summer walks as well.
Naturally, it is certainly your first consideration during winter hiking. Along with wind- and waterproof outer layers and undergarments, you should have a mid-layer, ideally made of wool, for the winter seasons. The best garment would be a thick wool pullover or a thick fleece. It depends on how low the temps will be, so you’ll need to figure that in as well. Additionally, you should consider layers and how to structure them appropriately. This is a science, which is why we encourage you to read our essay on layering garments.
Footwear – Without discussing adequate footwear, the clothing gear would be incomplete. From one-day excursions to multi-day excursions, you must always be prepared with a supportive shoe. If the terrain is uneven and rough, you should definitely invest in some boots with a high edge to provide enough ankle support. Additionally, if you intend to cross rivers or streams, your boots must give adequate protection and be resistant to water.
Boots That Are Waterproof: If you’re going on a desert hike, you’ll need breathable boots or trekking socks to keep your feet aired. When buying, seek for summer (or winter) footwear appropriate for the season in which you’ll be hiking. Pack multiple pairs of socks — thick for cold weather and lighter (nylon or polyester) for warmer climates. Always do a pre-test of the shoes. Weeks in advance, walk daily with them; go gardening, jogging, or whatever else you can think of to loosen them up.
It’s also critical to ensure that the boots you purchase are right for your height and gender, so don’t forget to check out our evaluations of men’s and women’s hiking boots.
Light – During the day, light is plentiful, and we take it for granted that we will have light in our homes when darkness arrives. It is not uncommon for novice hikers to completely overlook that vital gear. This is a mistake you should avoid.
Headlamp: Any form of light will suffice, from a single point to a more powerful distributed light. You may choose between a headlight (which is a little point light and leaves your hands free), a flashlight, or even a small lantern (which can have a much stronger spread light). Don’t forget to bring spare batteries, chargers, and even a solar panel to recharge the batteries while you’re sleeping. Additionally, you should read our evaluations of the best LED flashlights to ensure that you choose the correct equipment.
Food – Where would you go in the absence of food? A hiker cannot survive without some form of nourishing food, so bring enough of camping or trekking food with you. There are other low-calorie choices available, such as nuts, power and protein bars, trail mix, tubed peanut butter, dried fruits, and powdered (freeze-dried) meals that require just heated water to produce a complete meal. You may also prepare your own handmade meals, such as tuna sandwiches, which can be a nutritious and energy enhancer when combined with beef jerky and peanut butter. Additionally, we have an excellent and comprehensive essay about hiking food that you must read!
Water – Of course, without water, none of the other items on this list would exist. In whatever environment, hot or cold, water is essentially your salvation. Mountaineers, hikers, and climbers are expected to dehydrate exactly as much in the winter as they do in the summer. Winter’s lone advantage is that there is a lot of snow around, and if you have a little compact gas burner (which you should), you can melt snow whenever you need a drink or soup.
Thus, these are the fundamentals. The human body requires at least one liter of water every day (any liquid may suffice). Naturally, the more water you consume, the more hydrated your body will be. Additionally, water aids in the elimination of toxins from the body and aids in the digestive process. Additionally, we recommend that you carry a water purification device with you so that you may drink from any water sources along the trip.
You must choose the route your hiking trail will go and plan ahead for which water sources to utilize, if any are available. If you intend to hike in a desert location (e.g., The Grand Canyon), you need have all necessary equipment with you. Additionally, you should bring a portable water filter in case you run out of safe-to-drink water. We recommend the Sawyer water filter, which is detailed in our in-depth review.
A first-aid kit is a must-have for any hiker, camper, or trekker. There are several first-aid kits available on the market and through internet retailers. Additionally, you may assemble your own kit and create a handbook for it to aid in its use (or someone else uses it).
First Aid Kit Fire – While this may seem trivial, there are instances when you may need to quickly establish a camp. You may be injured, have underestimated the journey distance, or be required to prepare your meal (if you caught your own pray). There might be a variety of motivations for learning to produce fire. Prepare for this eventuality by bringing a dependable lighter and cotton (it catches easily fire when soaked in Vaseline). You may also use any dried leaves and vegetation found in your neighborhood (if there are any).
Before you go trekking, practice building a stable campfire. It’s tough, and it’s always better to have that information and expertise ahead of time, rather than when the situation is pressing and you’re irritated. We have an excellent guide on how to light a fire in which we explain various different approaches, so be sure to check it out!
Shelter – Of course, none of this matters if you are unable to get a decent night’s sleep. You should carry a tent or tarp with you. If you don’t have any, you may purchase a tent or tarp, or you can rent one (if you’re new to hiking and cannot afford to purchase all of the essential equipment).
Tent for Hiking: With a tarp, you’ll have a greater variety of shelter designs and configurations to choose from — from hammocks to hanging shelters to the classic A-shaped shelter. While a tent does give a bit more luxury due to its custom construction for certain weather conditions, it can also be slightly heavier. Therefore, you should determine your ideal form of shelter and pursue it. Both the tent and tarp have their advantages and disadvantages.
Knife – The knife has a variety of applications. Bring a multi-tool (Swiss army knife) or a basic conventional knife. We recommend packing both varieties, as they have distinct practical applications.
They may be used for everything from cutting food to self-defense. You may use them to create a trap and catch your own food if you choose. Eventually, you’ll want to arrange it so that the knife is quite convenient. If you don’t already own a survival knife, have a look at our top tactical knife evaluations.
The following is a list of objects of secondary importance
There are several items that may be considered important, but we’ll construct a list of stuff that may not be critical depending on your trip plans. Naturally, for longer hikes, the things below will be added to the above list.
Sleeping bag and pad – If your journey is not lengthy or will last only one day (without a stay beneath the stars), you will not require the sleeping bag, therefore it is unnecessary. On the other hand, if your vacation will take longer than that and you intend to camp overnight, you don’t want to spend the night shivering and wearing only your spare clothing. Even in the summer, evenings may be rather cool, so don’t overlook the significance of a sleeping bag.
There are extremely lightweight bags available for summer and winter camping. They are classified into two categories: three-season and four-season bags. The first group is for spring, summer, and fall in temperate climates. A 4-season backpack is your greatest alternative for chilly days throughout the ferocious winter. A sleeping pad is not a necessary item, but it might rescue you from a sleepless night as you adjust to the uneven rocky ground. When your body is attempting to sleep at night, every tiny pebble might become a major issue.
Cell (smart) phone — This device is critical not only for GPS functionality, but also for maintaining communication with civilization. If you become disoriented or injured and are unable to continue without assistance, use an emergency phone and request a rescue squad. That is why your phone memory card should also include all local and national emergency phone numbers. Even on a one-day hike, accidents might happen. You must be diligent in your preparations.
Hiker Carrying a Cell Phone Whistle (or another form of signaling) – Additionally, the whistle can be used to draw attention to yourself in an emergency. If you use the whistle repeatedly, a rescue crew will quickly locate you. Additionally, it may be beneficial if you are dehydrated and unable to call for assistance. Apart from emergencies, you may use the whistle to communicate with your family members (or friends). You may establish a communication system and exchange audio messages across long distances.
Whistle for Emergencies: Appropriate rain gear (poncho) – Even if you already own a water-resistant jacket (as recommended in the preceding list), you should be prepared with rain gear such as the poncho. While the jacket may not keep you fully dry in severe rain, when combined with a poncho, it may be a winning combo.
The poncho is designed solely to guard against rain. As the name indicates, the water-resistant and windproof jacket protects against high winds and, if insulated, can offer warmth. Thus, the poncho might be considered a bonus item, but it is necessary if you anticipate wet conditions.
Insect repellant – Insects may be a great nuisance in warm weather. Always keep mosquito repellents (often DEET-based) and other anti-bug lotions on hand. Additionally, you may purchase citronella candles (or just burning candles). Insects avoid the smoke. Prepare as many as possible, based on the length of the journey.
Adjustments to your hiking outfit according to the season
In terms of food, if you’re planning a one-day excursion, you may pack simply what you believe you’ll need for the day. Even if that is the case (and you will not be walking for an extended period of time), you should still consider bringing some additional food. Even on shorter travels, incidents occur, and you must be prepared for them. Nuts, chocolate bars, dried (or fresh) dates, and trail mixes are all examples of additional light foods. It is essentially the same as the preceding list, but if you packed only sandwiches, you may be in trouble. Therefore, consider the following possibilities for extra meal.
The same is true with clothes. While you may ask why you need to bring more clothing in the summer, you never know when the weather can change unexpectedly and catch you off guard. For the summer, some additional undergarments and long-sleeved shirts with pants are ideal for cooler evenings.
If your clothing become wet as a result of rain or a river mishap, you can change into the extra clothes you brought along. As indicated previously, carry multiple pairs of socks with you. Additionally, if it is winter, you should carry spare wool or fleece clothing. Gloves are also a must. Keep heavier ski gloves and mittens on hand so you can switch between the two depending on the weather.
Hiking equipment: During either season, you must protect your eyes as well as your skin (the sunscreen). Bring some dark glasses (or ski goggles in the winter) to shield your eyes from the sun’s harmful rays. Snow blindness is a regular occurrence for unprepared hikers throughout the winter. If there is fog, it is foggy and snowy, which means that everything melts into one and the snow crystals reflect every ray of light, making it uncomfortable for the human sight. It can physically cause damage to the retina and, in the event of prolonged exposure, irreparable damage.
Finally, a word from us – look for waterproof matches. It’s always beneficial if something happens to your other critical equipment and you have matches nearby to start a fire or see in the dark. If you are unable to obtain waterproof matches, you can purchase regular matches and store them in a plastic bag with a vacuum zipper to keep out moisture and water. A fire starter in your bag might be quite handy if you’re looking to ignite larger flames (e.g. campfire). To avoid unexpected combustion, keep the matches away from a gas stove or other fuelled equipment.
As you can see, the list above is really necessary and provides an overview (and specifics) on how to walk wisely and prevent typical blunders. As long as you become accustomed to the preceding elements and maintain the list close at hand, you will quickly commit it to memory. Nonetheless, we recommend that you constantly verify the list before setting out on a hike, as memory is never completely dependable.