Essentials for day hikers. Being prepared makes all the difference in making hiking an enjoyable and safe experience.
THE THREE BASICS
Your backpack is your best friend, friendly to your back, hips, and shoulders, and it keeps you happy hiking all day. The size for a typical day pack usually is 20-35 liters — enough room to carry your day hiking essentials and any extra layers you might need.
These are my three favorites depending on a chosen trail length and altitude.
In the hiking community, the newest trends in footwear for day hiking and thru-hiking are Altras and Hokas.
Each item listed below is small and easy to carry, and once purchased, they live in your pack, and some only require refills, such as your first aid kit, electrolytes, and snacks.
1. Emergency Blanket, If you’re in Colorado, every season can turn to winter, or you could become injured on your hike and need to wait for help or wander off the main trail and become lost. They are easy to pack with you and may just save your life. I have never been lost, injured, or needed to use mine. But, just in case!
2. First Aid Kit, Bring a good first aid kit on any day hike, no matter the length. We’ve had our share of non-serious yet unexpected injuries! Extend your first aid by taking a class with the American Red Cross or a Wilderness First Aid Class.
3. Map & Compass, Bring a map of the area you are hiking (so you can find help if needed), a campground, a fire tower, a road, and the direction out if lost. GPS and cell phones are nice to have but not always reliable like a map and compass.
4. Fire Starter, Just in case, you never know if, for some reason, you’ll have to stay overnight, or if a storm develops, temperatures drop and prevents you from continuing for a while. Before starting a fire outdoors, review Leave No Trace principles. Check current regulations on any fire bans where you are hiking. Fire Bans are very common in Colorado and the western US.
5. Whistle, A must-have! Everyone on the hike, kids too, should have a survival whistle.
7. Hydration & Electrolytes, Nuun, and Skratch Labs are my go-to brands. It’s easy to dehydrate at high altitudes, on short and long trails, and by simply walking, especially in Colorado. A necessary “extra” to carry with you on every hike.
8. Water Purifier, Drink plenty of water before starting out, and drink throughout the hike, trying to always leave some for later. (you never know if you will find a water source to replenish & use your purification source).
9. Headlamp or Small Flashlight for Inclement weather, injury, finding you are lost, the hike is longer than you anticipated, and it’s getting dark. There really is no reason why you should not have one!
10. Multi-use tool comes in handy in so many ways. Add small duct tape and safety pins for any repair needs.
EXTRAS TO CONSIDER
Just about every hiker I know uses trekking poles, and they swear by them. Great for joint stability, protecting your knees, balance & keeping a rhythm while hiking. Often I use them to cross creeks and test snow depth ahead on the trail.
Always bring even on clear days! The rain in Colorado is cold. Rain at high elevations is shockingly freezing! I could tell you numerous stories about being at high elevations, starting a hike with warm sun, turning to rain, then sleet and wind, and sometimes even snow in one hike.
My new favorite extra that attaches to my backpack for when above treeline where the sun exposure is extreme and of course for rain and sleet.
Noise! It works. If hiking in a quiet, non-crowded area, it’s recommended that noise is the best way to keep the wildlife away. My bear bell clips onto my pack, and I never go without it, even in hibernation season. Easy to use, you can have it jingle or be silent. Just keep it with you. Mountain lions don’t hibernate!
Better than a Bear Bell for peace of mind! I carry it but have not had to use it … yet!
One of the best things in Colorado is its lack of insects, but the mosquitoes can be crazy and abundant. Pull out your snack or lunch, and the horseflies appear. Small, compact, and works well for us.
Bluebird skies that we all love in Colorado come with intense sun exposure in all seasons. Use it when cloudy and hiking in the snow too.
PEACE OF MIND & SAFETY
FOR SAFETY on extensive hiking adventures, I highly recommend a Garmin GPS. I have the Garmin inReach Mini 2. It gives me peace of mind for any emergency with interactive SOS to the 24/7 search and rescue and allows me to communicate by text with family and friends. It works wherever you are, which is fantastic.
WINTER HIKING ESSENTIALS
Living in Colorado and having experienced tremendous weather changes within an hour (sometimes minutes), I now carry hand warmers in my pack every season. Yes, even in summer.
Hiking on snow-packed trails or snowshoeing in winter foot warmers keeps your feet toasty. Easy to use, they last for hours. I do not recommend toe warmers; they bunch up in your toes & cause discomfort. The foot warmers stay put with adhesive to the bottom of your socks.
You will use them on snowy and icy trails. Easy to hang on the outside of your pack. It makes hiking so much easier and safer in winter/spring conditions. I highly recommend them.
I love these for hiking in the snow or snowshoeing because it helps the snow from getting in my hiking boots and keeps me dryer and warmer.
are made for cold, snowy trails and keep you warmer!
are easier to use than most people think. Click them onto your boots and hike like you usually would.
Once you own your hiking gear, getting outside is finding a trail when the weather is perfect, on impulse, or getting away for a day. Anyone can hike. New to hiking? Start slow…
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