Hi friends! If you follow me on Instagram and watch my stories, you probably saw that I am going camping in Zion National Park at the end of September. I LOVE hiking and camping and cannot WAIT for this trip, so I figured I should write a post about hiking essentials and everything I keep in my backpack for a hike so it can live permanently on my blog.
I have a Zomake lightweight hiking backpack that can fold up into the inside pocket so it will fit into very small spaces. I originally bought this backpack for my trip to Belize because I didn’t want to walk around with a purse but I didn’t want to compromise any room in my luggage for a large, unfolded backpack. This backpack was magical. I have been using it SO often ever since. Every hike, at the beach, on a boat, at the lake, etc. It is seriously so good!
Inside my lightweight hiking backpack, I like to always keep some hiking essentials so I don’t have to repack it every time. I also found that hiking essentials can be used in other places besides hiking, too. These hiking essentials are:
1. Portable charger – nothing is scarier than being on a hike or camping and your phone dying. No GPS if you’re lost, no phone to call someone if you’re hurt or lost, no flashlight if it’s dark, etc. Keeping a portable charger has saved me on many occasions. There are also solar-powered portable chargers that are awesome and I highly recommend!
2. A map of wherever you are – having a map of your hiking trail is critical, in case your phone does die or you don’t have any cell service (which is very likely). You can pick up a map from the Ranger’s Station or Welcome Office at the entrance of a national forest or park, or if it’s a local trail you can usually find them online and print. Having a physical, printed map is super important!
3. Water – always bring the biggest water bottle you can or multiple little water bottles. Reusable, non-plastic water bottles are best because you don’t want to accidentally drop an empty plastic water bottle and litter. I like bringing Hydro Flask water bottles because they keep water cold and they are easy to fit in my backpack. If I am bringing my dogs, I bring an additional water bottle for them. Getting dehydrated on a hike is very dangerous and easily avoidable.
4. Snacks – I like to keep granola bars or protein bars in my hiking backpack in case I’m on a big hike and start feeling weak or nauseous. Eating something healthy provides a boost of energy or if I happen to get lost I’ll have something to eat just in case. I also like to pack fruit the day of a hike – apples, little halo oranges, a banana, a pear, etc. – because they have a lot of vitamins and a natural boost of energy, which is great for a long hike.
5. Compass – it’s always best to have a compass as one of your hiking essentials in case your phone dies. It’s easy to get turned around and hike in the wrong direction if you don’t know which way you are going. You can get compasses almost anywhere and for cheap; Amazon, dollar store, grocery store, toy store, Academy, REI, fishing store, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Bass Pro Shop, and so on. You’ll also need a compass if you are going to rely on a printed map.
6. Hat – even if it is colder weather, the sun can still burn your scalp and face. I like to bring a wide brim hiking hat in the summer to cover my shoulders and neck from the sun. If it’s colder weather I’ll wear a baseball cap just to cover my scalp/hairline and my face from the sun so I don’t get sunburned.
7. First aid kit – lots of injuries can happen on a hike including blisters on your feet, bee stings, splinters, walking through a thorn bush, tripping and scraping your knee or hands, ticks, big cuts, animal attacks, etc. Having a first aid kit on hand is always a good idea. And if you or someone you are hiking with are allergic to bee/wasp stings, make sure you have an epipen on hand for the hike.
8. Pocket knife – I have heard some crazy stories about hikers and campers running into some kind of “trouble”. Venomous snakes, coyotes, murders, bigfoot, and don’t even get me started on all of the Missing 411 stories (check it out on YouTube if you don’t scare easily). It’s best to just keep a knife in your backpack…
9. Flashlight – maybe you are hiking or camping at night or you stumble upon an awesome cave and need a flashlight to explore. Who knows? It’s always best to keep a little flashlight or headlamp in your hiking essentials, just in case.
10. Hiking boots or comfy shoes – blisters are a real thing. Twisted ankles are a real thing. You need the appropriate shoes when hiking. Especially if your shoes don’t have good grip on the bottom, you could easily slip and fall or twist an ankle. End of story.
11. Shower wipes – if you’re going on a long hike or a camping trip and bathrooms aren’t easily accessible, it’s best to have some wipes in your backpack just in case nature calls or it’s really muddy/dusty.
12. Emergency whistle or air horn – if you get hurt or someone with you gets hurt and can’t walk, having a whistle or air horn can help notify others in the area that you need help. Or if you come across a bear, wild bull, or another kind of predatory animal, using a loud whistle or air horn can scare them away.
13. Bear spray – if you are in an area where there are bears, definitely keep bear spray in your hiking essentials.
14. Lifestraw or water filter – if you happen to run out of water on a hike, you can always keep a lifestraw or water filter system in your backpack in case you need to drink out of a creek, river, stream, etc. Just make sure you Google if you can drink the water in the area you are hiking. If there is bacteria in the water, it still might not be safe to filter and drink.
15. Rain jacket – If it’s rainy where you are hiking (Washington, Florida, Houston, Louisiana, Rhode Island, etc.) you can always keep a rain jacket or a little poncho in your hiking backpack. If you’re going somewhere where there’s no chance of rain then you can omit the rain jacket.
16. Appropriate clothing – this is pretty self explanatory. If you’re hiking through a heavily wooded area, wear clothes that you don’t mind getting holes in. You could snag your favorite leggings on a bush. Or if you are hiking in the desert, wear hot weather clothes but keep a jacket in your backpack because it gets really cold at night. Always look up the weather before you go on a hike and dress accordingly. Don’t wear anything too fancy because it could get lost or ruined.
17. Plastic bags or trash bags – always try to leave a place cleaner than it was before. If you bring any trash onto your hike, make sure you take it back out with you. Or if you are hiking and see some trash, you can do the right thing and pick it up.
18. If you’re going on a backpacking camping trip, I recommend getting a 55L backpack like this one. It’s super comfortable, has a built-in camelbak for water, and carries so much!
19. I also recommend getting packing cubes to go inside of your backpacking pack. This way you won’t have to completely unpack everything and re-pack just to get a new pair of socks out.
Obviously you don’t need all of this stuff for smaller hikes. If you’re going on a short 1-5 mile hike, you probably only need water, comfy shoes, and a hat. But the longer hikes, especially in national forests or parks, you should probably make sure you have most if not all. Just to be safe.
I always like to be prepared for the worst case scenario. Better to be over-prepared than under, you know?
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