Top 10 Hiking Essentials For 2021
If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve seen some of my hiking adventures. Nature kindled its fire in me at a young age, while I tagged along on family hunting outings. I grew accustomed to being outdoors in places where we might not see another person all day. Every Sunday, we embarked on long nature drives, and often found ourselves traveling on abandoned logging roads or sitting beside a lake preparing hotdogs on a barbeque. Nature grew close to my heart as it carved out its own special place in my life and left its mark on me. I now long for the scent of pine trees during the long winter months.
Over the course of many journeys into the wilderness, I have learned, through trial and error, things that are essential to your trip.
Let’s blaze a trail into my Top Ten Hiking Essentials:
A hiking backpack with a built-in water reservoir is A MUST! I once made the mistake of hiking 10 miles, only to realize half way in that I didn’t bring enough water. Silly me! I brought three water bottles thinking that was enough. IT WAS NOT! On mile five, I eagerly guzzled my last bottle—the sun was scorching hot, and the temperature was blazing into the 90’s. I never made this mistake again! I went home and purchased an Osprey Daylite Travel Daypack, and I still have it today! This backpack has space to store the items you need for a successful hiking trip, which we will discuss. It also includes a water reservoir, so you can pack abundant water and not run out like I did. You can check the water reservoir I use, the Osprey Hydraulics LT Reservoir. These backpacks are easy to clean and they make it simple to drink while you hike—which is not so easy with water bottles. The built-in straw bends out of the backpack and is easily attached to a strap on your bag! These two items are the most important essentials for a successful hike – a definite MUST!
You won’t walk far without proper footwear, so invest in quality hiking shoes! Don’t have your shoes break apart on the mountaintop—a nightmare scenario! In addition to quality footwear, make sure they fit properly, or your toes will be slamming into the front of your shoes and will end up bruised. I’ve been there, so trust me on this one. I found success in Salomon brand hiking shoes. I have had the Salomon X Ultra 3 MID GTX for more than two years with no problems or damage to my feet. They have both men’s and women’s shoes in this style. Mine are trekking strong after being with me on some of my longest, toughest hikes.
What are quality hiking shoes without quality hiking socks to back them up? You may not realize it, but the socks you wear hiking make a world of difference! I’ve experimented with many varieties of socks, so you don’t have to! When picking out hiking socks, choose wool! It keeps your feet dry. When you perspire, the material takes the moisture away from your skin. The ventilation keeps your feet temperature-regulated—not too hot or cold. I recommend a pack of hiking socks like these. They come in both men’s and women’s. Get accustomed to the feel of hiking with a thicker sock and experience the magic of wool. I also wear these: Smartwool Hiking Crew Socks. They have a padded soul and provide extra impact cushioning for on each step. I’m pleased with both!
Prepare for weather surprises by dressing in layers! Evaluate the forecast beforehand to determine the appropriate clothing. Keep in mind, Mother Nature is fickle; one second skies are blue and the next ominously dark with thunder roaring in the distance. I have personally experienced this many times and have learned to prepare for it. Preserve your ability to add layers for warmth and remove layers to cool down. As with socks, choose wool clothing when layering! If you use other materials you will find yourself soaking in perspiration, but not with wool. I recommend that your base layer be a comfortable short or long-sleeved wool shirt. I wear Smartwool Merino for my base layers – short sleeve, long sleeve, and zip-up shirts. Click here for the short sleeves I wear. Click here for the long sleeves I wear. Click here for the zip-ups I wear. This particular brand is more expensive, but the quality is superb. I invested in several Smartwool shirts in 2018, and I still use them today! They take care of me on every outing.
If you are embarking on a strenuous hike or a hike with rugged terrain, use hiking poles. They may seem dorky, but you’ll regret not rocking the dorky look when your knee gets blown out while navigating down a steep slope. Trust me, I injured my knee two years ago, and I will always hike with poles now! Most hiking backpacks have a place to attach hiking poles or you can jimmy-rig them to fit on. For starters, I’d recommend TrailBuddy Trekking Poles. Once you are accustomed to the versatility of hiking poles, and you learn how to use them in different terrains and scenarios, you can upgrade to the Black Diamond Trail Pro Shock hiking poles.
You need energy for your hiking expedition, so healthy snacks are a must! I love packing both sweet and salty snacks to fuel my body on the hike. For sweet, I like to pack Dark Chocolate Nuts and Sea Salt bars. YUM! They have simple ingredients plus they pack a sweet punch with a hint of salt. They’re a perfect mid-hike pick-me-up! Check them out HERE. Sahale Snacks Glazed Nut Mix brings a sweet and salty twist to your hike. They come in small grab bags, so I don’t have to pack my own nut mixture. I throw these snack pouches into my hiking bag and go! In addition to these convenient healthy snack foods, I pack peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, apples, and bananas! If you prefer the convenience of packing dried fruit, check out Bare Medley’s Fruit Snack Packs. They’re a great alternative to packing a fresh fruit snack that can easily get squished!
Protect your skin by wearing sunscreen and a hat! Sunlight damages your skin and leads to early wrinkles. Avoid premature aging; be proactive and apply sunscreen before your hike and at regular intervals during your hike. Protect your eyes with sunglasses. My eyes are sun-damaged, so I always pack sunglasses. A hike in direct sunlight without sunscreen, sunglasses, or a hat will make you miserable either during or after the hike! Trust me, I learned my lesson. I recommend Sun Bum sunscreen or another sunscreen in a small bottle you can leave in your hiking pack, so you never forget it! Check out Sun Bum. Wear any comfortable baseball cap. I wear a BRIGHT green hat I purchased years ago at a gift shop. It’s a personal reminder to ALWAYS wear a hat. Make sure your sunglasses are comfortable as well.
Picture me, running down a hill yelling and swatting at swarms of bugs relentlessly trying to bite me. You can imagine it’s not fun! Don’t let bugs swarm you; bring bug spray. You can opt for a more natural insect deterrent like Repel Plant-Based Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellant, which you can find HERE. Also consider a DEET repellant like OFF Deep Woods Dry Repellent found HERE. Research these products and decide which best suit your needs.
Aside from bugs, definitely avoid bears. I believe a swarm of flesh-thirsty horse flies is more common than a berated bruin, but be prepared! If you are hiking in bear country, you MUST bring bear spray! There is truly no alternative. If you hike in an area where firearms are allowed, most likely you won’t have a gun caliber large enough to stop a bear; instead, shooting it will just make it angry. Bear spray chokes the bear and causes breathing problems. During this time, the bear will most likely become disorientated and run off as it can’t breathe well. Protect yourself and get your Mace Brand Maximum Strength Bear Spray here.
Be smart and bring along a small first aid kit like this one. You never know when you or a hiking partner will need a Band-Aid or medical attention. Familiarize yourself with the contents of a first aid bag and learn how to use the tools included. Don’t be caught off guard wishing you had gloves or anti-bacterial wipes in a situation that calls for those items.
This top 10 list sums up the most important hiking essentials you need for your next expedition! Make sure to share with me your adventures and follow along with mine by subscribing to my lifestyle newsletter below.