Preparing For Your First Ever Hike: a Packing List

Whether you are bagging a difficult summit or just casually hiking to your favorite waterfall, you need to be well-prepared—especially if you are a newbie. Dialing in essential day hiking gear is critical for sage hikers and first-time travelers alike.  We have a created a list of things for preparing for your first hike

The right gear can mean the difference between a minor inconvenience and a dreadful scenario. To make sure all goes well, here’s what you need to bring to your first ever hike.

Navigation Tools

It’s easy to get lost when you are hiking. Maps, compasses, and navigation are a must. You can download offline maps and a GPS app on your phone or get a GPS device.

In case the battery dies, or something else happens to your GPS device, be sure to bring a waterproof topographic map and a compass. Topo maps are ideal for hikers since they are designed to show the three-dimensional landscape of an area.

A topo map shows the terrain and physical features of an area, including vegetation, elevations, contours, and water bodies. But, merely packing a topo map is not enough. It would help if you also learned how to read it.

Hydratation

Hydration 1024x683 - Preparing For Your First Hike
Photo by Alan Carrillo on Unsplash

One of the best ways to avoid altitude sickness when you’re on a hike is to drink enough water. If the trail is very short and you know for sure that there are water fountains along the route, a reusable water bottle will do. Water is critical when preparing for your first hike, especially if it going to be long and strenuous.  Make sure to take plenty of water and snacks for energy. 

If you’re going on a longer hike, it’s best to get a hydration bladder. Just make sure to get a backpack or day-pack that can accommodate one. To prepare yourself for the unexpected, make sure to bring a water filter.

Backpacking water filtration systems are designed to make water safe for drinking by removing dirt, viruses, bacteria, and other pathogens. Since a backpacking water filter allows you to drink from ponds or creeks safely, it can prove to be a lifesaver in dire situations.

Backpack

A comfortable, high-quality backpack will make your hike much more manageable. Your old gym backpack may do if you are going on a short and easy hike. But you’ll want to get something more robust if you are serious about hiking.

A typical 20 to 35 L day-pack is an excellent solution for a day hike. This is enough to hold all the hiking essentials, as well as a few extra layers.

Again, you need to make sure your backpack has an interior pocket for a hydration bladder if you plan to use one. It’s best to get a model with a sternum strap and a hip belt. Before you buy a particular model, make sure it is the right fit for your body type.

Energizing Snacks

To keep your energy up throughout your hike, you’ll need to eat healthily. It is best to bring snacks that are rich in fiber and protein.

So, be sure to pack sturdy fruits and veggies, jerky, granola bars, and a few peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. In case of an emergency, make sure to pack extra. Load up on the snacks because you will be burning more calories than usual.

The Right Hiking Layers

To stay both comfortable and safe when you’re hiking, you need to wear the right layers. No matter the season, the first layer should be made from fabrics that are breathable and moisture-wicking. It’s best to go with clothing made from wool or polyester.

Avoid cotton layers. Cotton traps warmth in the heat and doesn’t provide insulation in the cold. Depending on the weather, you can layer a heavier long-sleeve shirt or a t-shirt on top.

If you think it might get chilly or rainy, pack a lightweight raincoat, hat, and a pair of gloves. It’s best to wear wool socks and sturdy hiking boots.

High-rise thick-soled boots are best for more stringent and challenging terrain. If it’s an easy or moderate trail, you can go for lightweight trail shoes, check out various hiking shoes to pick the best for you

Although it is not essential, it’s a good idea to bring a bandanna. You can use it to keep your neck warm if it gets cold, protect your head from the sun, or wipe off sweat.

Navigation Tools 1024x682 - Preparing For Your First Hike
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Sun Protection

To protect yourself from harmful UV rays, pack a bottle of SPF 30 sunscreen. Higher SPF sunscreens won’t give you much extra protection, but you can go for SPF 50+ if you want to be extra safe.

For eye and face protection, bring sunglasses and a brimmed hat. While these items may be an obvious must for summer hikes, they will also be of great use if you are going for a hike in the snow on a sunny day. They will help you avoid “snow blindness” as well as sunburns.

First Aid Emergency Kit

Keep a pre-made first aid kit among your hiking essentials. Such kits are portable, lightweight, and have everything you need to deal with minor injuries.

If you can’t find any, you can make one yourself. Of course, you can adapt it to your personal medical needs. Before you head out, take some time to get acquainted with your first aid kid’s contents. It’s a good idea to add a whistle and lighter to your emergency kit.

Mini Repair Kit and a Multi-Tool

Preparing For Your First Hike 1024x809 - Preparing For Your First Hike
Photo by Alice Donovan Rouse on Unsplash

While you’re out there in the wilderness, you may come across some unforeseen issues. If you plan to go hiking often, a mini repair kit will come in handy sooner. For instance, you can use it to repair a broken strap or a tear in your backpack.

It’s also recommended to bring some repair patches and some good old’ duck tape. In case you need to fix something in a pinch, place strips of duct tape on your trekking poles or water bottle. Be sure to bring a multi-purpose tool such as a Swiss Army Knife.

Trekking Poles

Trekking poles can be beneficial if you take on challenging terrain or are a beginner. They can help you maintain a rhythm while you are hiking by giving you more power on the ups and pressure off your knees.

Takeaway – Preparing For Your First Hike

One of the reasons hiking is so great is the fact that it’s full of surprises. But, not all of these surprises are always pleasant. To prepare for unforeseen events, be sure to pack all the essentials when preparing for your first hike.

Author BIO: I’m Rebecca, a translator and avid traveler, a book worm, and a horror flick enthusiast. My job has given me the fantastic opportunity to travel to dozens of countries around the world, and writing on Rough Draft gives me a chance to try to showcase some of them.