Hiking

items to always take on a hike | Way of life

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado — Being safe on a hike means being prepared. According to the American Hiking Society, there are 10 essential items every hiker should keep on their person or in their bag if they plan to hike a trail.

Here is a list of the essentials you should bring for a safer hike, along with some additional tips and recommendations:

1. Appropriate footwear

Having the right shoes can make or break a hike. There’s nothing worse than going halfway through a route only to realize you’re developing a painful blister.

There are many factors to consider when choosing the best shoe for a specific hike, including traction, breathability, waterproofing, foot support, rock protection, and more. It’s hard to make a general recommendation when everyone’s feet are so different and no two trails are alike. When it comes to shoes, I’ve found that the best strategy is to experiment with different options over time, eventually finding the best option for you.

Here are some recommendations based on what I have in my own closet:

– Trail runners (Altra’s Lone Peak 5): If you’re on a trail where you don’t need a lot of ankle support and prefer to go light, this is a great all-around option. I’ve said it before, I’m saying it now and I know I’ll say it again – I love Altras and have yet to be disappointed with this brand. They have a lot of unique models, but the Lone Peak seems to be the most standard all-around option.

– Rocky Terrain (Salewa Wildfire 2): I recently put these through their paces on the Arapahoe Basin via ferrata and absolutely loved them. They are grippy and offer good outsole protection while not feeling as clunky as some other options. Be warned – as the trail runner’s recommendation, these don’t have the same ankle support and ankle protection as a larger boot. This is fine with me, but it depends on the specific route and personal preference.

– Versatile hiking shoe (Oboz Sawtooth X Mid): I’ll be honest, I’m usually into trail runners instead of full-fledged boots these days, but one of my favorite standard hiking shoes is the Oboz Sawtooth X Mid. Oboz makes a solid product and it shows in this model.

— Winter boots (Danner, all day): I have several pairs of Danner boots for the winter and I love them all. They are perfect for staying warm and dry. My favorite model is from several years ago, so I can’t really make a current recommendation here, but try a few and find one that suits your specific needs. As a bonus, waterproof and insulated Danners tend to be great for snowshoeing.

2. Navigation equipment

Many hikers these days rely on their cell phones to navigate a trail. It can work, but it tends to be a bit unreliable. Although a GPS device can be a step up from a cell phone, it is also electronic equipment that can fail.

Besides having some sort of digital GPS option that might be more convenient to use, bringing a paper map and compass (and knowing how to use them) is an essential backup.

— GPS recommendation (the Garmin inReach): Note: There is a monthly fee associated with this device, but it is worth it.

3. Water and purifier

Obviously, it’s a good idea to bring water when hiking. However, it’s also a good idea to bring it in something that can be easily filled. Besides having something that can be refilled, also bring something that can purify the water.

When it comes to purifying water, there are several options. One option I like is the QuickDraw Microfilter System made by Platypus. It’s super compact and while it’s not the main water bottle you drink from while hiking, it offers quick and easy filtering when needed.

4. Food

The food you bring on a hike can tend to vary wildly depending on the length or difficulty of a route. High calorie foods are usually a good option. Bring some extra, just in case.

Food can range from full-fledged backpacking meals to something lighter, like a Honey Stinger Waffle.

5. Proper Layers

Much like footwear, the layers of clothing you pack will tend to be specific to a certain route and season.

In general, it’s better to have more options than not enough, especially if you’re hiking somewhere where the weather can seem to change on a dime, like Colorado. It’s also important to keep in mind that changes in elevation can mean wildly varying temperatures.

When it comes to essential layers for Colorado, it’s essential to bring something waterproof, even if it’s just a cheap, packable poncho. It’s also good to bring a thicker jacket, something that can block the wind, extra socks and gloves.

In terms of leg coverage, shorts can be nice on hot days, but sometimes it’s better to wear breathable pants instead. Something like the Salewa Hemp Pant is a good option there, known for being naturally tough and breathable. Another great option is the Eddie Bauer First Ascent line of pants. During seasons when cold weather is a possibility, bringing some kind of base layer under the pants can also be a good idea. Generally, when I’m on a winter hike, I wear a wool base layer made by Dahlie.

6. Safety Items

The American Hiking Society says three key safety items that should be packed are a light, a fire starter of some kind, and a whistle.

A great option is to just buy a bunch of whistles and attach them to your various packs so you don’t have to worry about changing them. In terms of light and firestarter, the SlideBelt Survival Belt is a pretty unique option that I’ve used for years. There’s a flashlight, fire starter and cutting tool all hidden in the belt loop – and yes, I’ve used the compact fire starter before, it works.

Got more room in the bag? Buy a flashlight and ignition kit like the UCO Titan Stormproof Match Kit.

Other safety items to consider would be animal and predator repellents. Bear spray and pepper spray are two options, although I’ve also found a handheld taser useful (I don’t tase the animal, I use noise and flash to scare it away).

As for guns on the hiking trail, some people choose to carry them. As you might expect, this tends to be a controversial topic. If you make the decision to bring a gun on the trail for safety reasons, be a smart gun owner and make sure you know the gun well. Follow best practices to reduce the likelihood of an accident and be sure to know and follow local rules and regulations regarding carrying a firearm.

7. First aid

When it comes to packing a first aid kit, the options can be daunting. Some kits may have a few basic items while others may contain hundreds of parts. Obviously, you want to be as prepared as possible, but height and weight are also two factors to consider when going on a hike.

First aid basics include antiseptic wipes, antibacterial ointment, some sort of reliable bandage (the variety can be nice), gauze pads, medical tape, blister treatment, painkillers, relief bites, anti-itch ointment, some sort of antihistamine to treat allergic reactions, tweezers and some sort of small scissor device (which may already be on your multi-tool – more on that). Some sort of first aid manual or guide can also be useful if he is not well versed in first aid training.

There are many kits that include all or most of these items, one of the most popular options being the Mountain Series Hiker Medical Kit from Adventure Medical Kits, which you can find at REI. Most adventure stores will have something like this for sale.

One more thing – although it’s not really ‘first aid’, you’ll also want to make sure you have the right toiletries to use in the wild for comfort and leaving no trace. Bring toilet paper or wet wipes and don’t forget some sort of bag to store it in. They make bags for this purpose, but a zipper works and can be easily thrown away after the fact.

8. Multi-tool

Whether you’re repairing gear or trying to free your arm when it’s crushed by a massive rock, a multi-tool can come in handy on the trail. You’ll want to make sure you have one with pliers and a knife, as well as a condensed version of many other tools. But beware, too many tools can be a bad thing, as it can lead to a clunky device and added weight. Choose the multi-tool that’s right for you based on the tools you’ll actually need.

There are many great options for choosing the right multi-tool.

9. Sun protection

Sun exposure can quickly become problematic, contributing to dehydration and rapid loss of energy, not to mention skin damage.

Make sure you have good sunglasses that offer wide lens protection – that might even mean goggles in snowy conditions.

On top of that, sunscreen, sun shirts, and sun hats can all be beneficial in protecting your skin and body from these powerful rays.

Generally, I go relatively cheap when it comes to sunglasses. That way I don’t have to worry about losing or damaging them. Goodrs are polarized and range in price from $25 to $35. 10. Shelter

An essential that is often overlooked or ignored because people don’t anticipate needing it, having adequate shelter can save lives when things go wrong. Aside from a traumatic injury or medical condition, nothing tends to kill faster than exposure.

Obviously bringing a full fledged tent is an option, but most people probably want a lighter shelter that takes up less space. That’s when turning to a bivy sack and an emergency tent might be the best option. These items can help protect you from rain, wind, and cold, giving you a better chance of surviving if you have to stop moving.

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