There are a few hiking essentials that every avid hiker should own and carry when hitting the trail. Whether you are just starting out or are an experienced hiker taking on more challenging treks there are some key essentials you shouldn’t leave home without.
1. Map and compass – Make sure you plot out your intended route before you go and take the map with you. If your chosen route is inaccessible for any reason a map is essential for finding an alternate route.
A compass will be invaluable if your route does turn out to be inaccessible. A small map compass will not only help you navigate in the right direction but can also measure distances to ensure you don’t over exert yourself.
2. First aid kit – Firstly ensure your first aid kit is fit for purpose, not just filled with plasters. You need to be prepared to do more than just bandage cuts or scrapes- the nearest help may be a long way away. Compact kits are really useful, inexpensive and lightweight. It is important to ensure they are replenished after every hike.
3. Layers – Even on a warm day the weather can be changeable. This is more evident when walking on coastal paths or up steep descents, where weather can change at the drop of a hat.
Temperatures can also vary throughout the day, a bright start does not always promise sunshine all day. If hiking during winter months, warmer clothing or more layers may be needed. Consider a 3 layer coat rather than a just a waterproof shell.
4. Sun protection –When exposed to the sun for long periods of time sunburn is inevitable and can be very uncomfortable and harmful! Even on a cloudy day you are still at risk from sunburn so wear sun cream and cover up as much as possible. Sun stroke is also a risk if it is particularly sunny. Hats and light coloured clothing can help protect your skin from sun damage and reduce the risk of sun stroke.
5. Bag/Backpack – On a short walk this can be as simple as a bum bag or waist bag or something with enough room to carry the few essentials listed here.
During a longer walk or on winter walks a backpack is useful for carrying extra layers and equipment that may be needed. If there are two of you, share the load; it’s not fun being the donkey!
6. Food and water – You use a lot of energy when hiking so make sure you have enough food to give you an energy boost. Kendal mint cake, dried fruits and nuts are ideal snacks. A sandwich or pasta salad will provide you with much needed carbohydrates.
Hydration is also very important, keeping hydrated will help reduce lactic acid building up and reduce muscle strain and soreness. Check if your rucksack has hydration pack compatibility for ease of use. Water purifiers can also reduce the amount of water you carry.
7. Multi-tool –A multi-tool is a useful bit of kit and can compliment your first aid kit with tweezers and scissors usually included. Be aware of what you need when selecting your multi-tool, useless tools can lead to unnecessary weight.
Useful tools include a bottle and can opener, wire cutters, a saw and knife for any entanglements you may encounter. If walking as a group you may decide to carry a full sized tool each, most will do their specific job more efficiently than a multi-tool.
8. Source of Fire – If you are unexpectedly caught out longer than anticipated, a source of fire will help keep you warm. A flint is useful but make sure you know how to use it! Other sources of fire include lighters or waterproof matches (although not the most reliable). Alternatively there are many natural resources that can be used as a hand drill. Be confident in creating a spark from whatever method you choose before you go.
9. Storm shelter – These might also be referred to as mountain shelters, bothy bags or group shelters. Again if you fall victim to unforeseen circumstances this lightweight bit of kit will help protect you against the elements, giving you a welcome respite to re-hydrate and eat.
Most storm shelters will fit 2 – 3 people in, but you can buy bigger or smaller ones if needed. Sit mats can be a great companion to the storm shelter.
10. Mobile phone – A mobile phone is essential for emergency situations. You may not always have signal, especially in remote areas, but you can always use the emergency dial on your phone. It is also useful for keeping track of time. Make sure it is fully charged before you go!
These 10 hiking essentials cover multiple seasons but for more extreme conditions or longer hikes you will need to consider adding to your kit. Don’t be one of the people that has ‘all the gear and no idea’, make sure you take kit you know how to use! Check out our What to Wear Hiking guide for more information on kit requirements.