Hiking can be a great way to get away from it all and spend some time communing with nature. But there's more to hiking than just stomping around the wilderness. Like any activity, hiking requires a bit of preparation to ensure that you have a fun and safe experience.
Whether you are planning a short and easy day-hike or something more intense, there are a few basics besides the obvious food and water that every hiker needs to have with them anytime they plan on heading out on a hike.
Whether you plan on going on a short day-hike or something longer, every hiker needs a backpack to store their gear in. Day packs like The North Face's Unisex Sweeper, which retails for $79 from Mountain Gear, is a good choice for short hikes. For longer hikes choose a backpack that will accommodate a larger amount of gear and your sleeping bag, such as the Klamath 55 backpack from Jansport, which is also available from Mountain Gear and retails for $110.
Fire Starting Kit
When you're out on the trail, the ability to start a fire can make a difference in a hiker's survival, especially if they get lost or encounter bad weather. Having a reliable way to start a fire, such as this fire starting kit from Zippo, is something that every hiker should include in their backpack no matter how long they plan on being on the trail. The kit looks like a large lighter and contains a flint wheel ignition which lights the water- resistant waxed tinder sticks to enable you to safely and quickly start a fire. The kit is available from Amazon and retails for $14.
First Aid Kit
You never know what can happen out on the trail, which is why a good first aid kit is something that should be in any hiker's pack. From minor injuries, such as blisters, splinters and insect stings to more serious accidents, it pays to be prepared when you are miles away from the nearest medical facility. There are many types of first aid kits available from large kits that include everything you need for several people to small kits, such as the Ultralight Water Proof Adventure Medical Kit from REI that retails for $17.
Sure GPS units are great to have but they don't always work out on the trail so that's why I recommend that anyone going out on a hike carry a long a good old fashioned compass, such as the K&R Special MILS Hiking Compass, which is available from the Compass Store for less than $40. They are lightweight, durable and don't take up too much room in your pack.
A good mini led flashlight is an essential part of any hiker's gear. Let's face it, whether you're out in the wilderness after either by choice or accident, you don't want a light that's unreliable or weak. Whenever I'm out on the trail the flashlight I like to carry is the Ultrafire WF-502B 180-200 Lumen Aluminum LED Flashlight. It's lightweight, waterproof and has a stable, bright LED beam that doesn't go out even if you drop it. You can find this practical and inexpensive flashlight for under $30 on Gadget Towns website.
Swiss Army Knife
Knives can come in handy while out on the trail for cutting tough vines or roots, gutting a fish or for personal protection. Carrying a Swiss Army knife with it's multiple blades and accessories is like bringing a mini toolbox along on your hike. Amazon has a Forester Swiss Army knife for under $40 that features several accessories, which include a large one handed locking blade, wood saw and can and bottle openers.
One thing about the wilderness, it has bugs and unless you want them to bug you it's a good idea to bring along some bug repellent. Badger Anti Bug Spray and Insect Repellent is made from natural ingredients that bugs don't like and doesn't contain any of the harmful chemical DEET like you find in many bug repellents.