As you guys may or may not know, we’ve been on quite the hiking kick lately. We’ve been trying to go on weekly hikes to new areas in CO for a few reasons; 1st- we love hiking! 2nd- it’s been such a great activity to reset my mind and build mental strength for me during this time; and 3rd- I love exploring and even after 2+ years in CO there are still places we have not visited. And as much as some have said, “well you hiked some of the AT, I can’t do what you do,” you’re completely wrong!! Hiking is an every person game, literally, all of you can get out and take a walk. That’s all it is, and add in some wooded areas and you’re stepping in the right direction.
Typically we hike anywhere from 5-15 miles and gain about 3,000 ft of elevation…so far at least. We love to bring our pup, Arlo, and it’s best to train him up before we try any 14ers with him so we’re trying out different hikes and trails to see what he can do! This checklist of hiking essentials is for anyone who is new to hiking and wants to be prepared or for the experienced hiker that just needs some ideas. I probably fall in the middle of the spectrum but I love lists and ways to efficiently pack and prepare so I thought I’d write this blog post so anyone could refer to it at any point when prepping for their next outdoor adventure.
Not everything below needs to go into your hiking backpack but this is my essentials list that will cover you under all elements (the wind, heat, cold, rain, etc) and depending on your climate/location, you can pick and choose.
Note that this packing list is for DAY HIKING only- not backpacking (camping) i.e. essentials you would hike with in a backpack. I also share PREVENTATIVE measures you can take on your feet and knees because blisters are the absolute worst.
OK let’s get started:
- Small backpack with chest strap and water compartment
- Fanny Pack (for small hikes)
- Water bladder – 1.5-2 Liters
CLOTHING AND SHOES
- Comfortable hiking shoes or boots
- *See note below for which type
- Quality hiking socks– cooling or smartwool
- SPF shirt or light long sleeve shirt (sun protection)
- Light puffy jacket (for cool weather and wind protection)
- Sweat-wicking tank or t shirt
- sports bra
- Shorts or leggings (weather dependent)
- Rain Jacket (if there’s a chance of rain, you’ll want to bring it)
- Few squares of toilet paper
- Sunscreen- I personally use Neutrogena for body and Tula for my face
- Lip balm (try to get an SPF in there)
- 2-3 band aids (just for hot spots or blisters that arise)
- Basic first aid kit
- Hiking poles (super helpful for getting used to rock scrambles and steep inclines)
- Hand warmer (great for cold mornings on the peak)
- Cut toe nails- do it, you’ll thank me later
A Few More Thoughts:
I highly recommend having a fanny pack for your immediate essentials that you need easy access to throughout the hike. For example, I put my lip balm, tissues (bc my nose always runs like crazy with the chilly mornings or wind), quick snack like granola bar, and my phone in there. Otherwise you’re having to unstrap your chest strap or bend your arms like crazy to get to the side pockets of your back pack and well, that’s frustrating and will slow you down!
HIKING BOOTS VS TRAIL RUNNERS:
In my experience and hearing from lots of folks while hiking on the AT, I highly recommend just finding what works for you. It sounds obvious but a lot of people tend to just see there friends wearing hiking boots and they will go out and buy new boots. I say this because, I personally like hiking shoes versus boots. Hiking boots can be finicky and if not fitted perfectly, I guarantee you will get blisters on longer/hotter hikes. Although you will get more ankle support, hiking boots are heavier too. The advantage, in my opinion, to hiking shoes is: easier to fit, typically will dry faster if you step in a puddle, and you will be more comfortable with them so you’re faster on your feet. If you’re worried about your ankles, try out some hiking poles, that will help you catch yourself if you are in a rocky or root heavy area.
My best advice regarding shoes is to go somewhere like REI and try on as many shoes as you can. That way you feel what some offer and some don’t. Plus, the advantage to buying shoes through a retailer like REI is their return policy. No matter if you’ve hiked zero miles or 50 miles, if you end up hating your shoes, you can return them! I love REI for their support and knowledge and especially for when you try out a piece of equipment and it just doesn’t end up working, they’ll happily take it back.
TO PREVENT BLISTERS:
Wear your new shoes or boots on a few walks around your neighborhood. You DO NOT want to take those new puppies out for a 10 mile hike, you will regret it. If you break them in (even if they are advertised as not needing breaking in), it will help you get more comfortable with how they step and how you feel in them. Also, BEFORE putting on your hiking socks, go ahead and cut your toe nails, best way to prevent blisters.
If you’re starting your hike early, you’ll feel the need to layer up to beat the cold- however you will warm up quick once you’re on the trail after some time. So, similar to other advice about traveling, wear layers to help you take off what you don’t need and then add layers once you hit that peak. Depending on how cold it is, you could start off wearing a tank and a long sleeve, and have your puffy in your backpack (in case you get hit with some wind). When it comes to good ol’ Mother Nature, it’s better to be over prepared than sorry and cold later!
Are they necessary? If your hike is challenging and you’re going uphill for the majority of it- chances are your climb back down is going to affect your knees. I never really understood them and honestly thought they were for “older people” until I hiked the AT. Hiking poles help distribute the pressure on your knees, can assist you in going up steep inclines, and protect you from falling on rocky terrain. Totally a preference each person can make.
Pack a zip lock baggie or Stasher bag (my preference) to stash tissues or wrappers in while hiking. The #1 rule of hiking is Leave No Trace. Be kind to nature and pick up after self, that includes after your pups as well!