Top day hiking essentials for beginners | Great Lakes Guide

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Top day hiking essentials for beginners

Published May 2, 2018

A day hike is a great, low-stress way to get outdoors. Even if you live in a big city, there are often lots of trails that you can easily get to using public transportation. And the best part? It’s free!

Hiking can be super convenient depending on the level of difficulty. But you’ll have a better time if you come prepared and bring some extra things to make sure you get the most out of your hike.

To start, you should do a little research on the difficulty level of the trail you want to hike. If it’s super flat with a little climbing, then you can probably get away without bringing too much stuff. But if you’re hiking up a mountain, then you’ll want to be more prepared. Find more tips on how to select the perfect hiking trail for you!

    So, what should you bring hiking?

Here are the top essential items you should bring on your next hiking trip for a safe journey out in the woods.

  • Appropriate footwear
  • This will depend on the type of hike you’re doing. If you’re heading out on a short day hike, then a good pair of sneakers are perfect. But, if you’re doing a more strenuous hike on rougher terrain, you’ll want to invest in a good pair of hiking boots.

  • Backpack
  • How else will you carry your stuff? Bring a backpack that is comfortable and won’t hurt your back. Make sure it’s waterproof or you have a rain cover. Keep the straps tight, but comfortable, and don’t let your backpack hang too low.

    We recommend designating a backpack as a “hiking pack.” That way, you can keep the things on this list in there permanently so you’re ready to hike at a moment’s notice!

  • Map and compass
  • Most parks will have trail maps, or there will usually be a map at the head of a trail you can look at before you start. If you’re going on a longer hike, a paper map and even a compass can help you if you accidentally get turned around.

  • Lots of water
  • Always bring more water than you think you’ll need. When you’re actively hiking, you should try to drink 1 litre of water every 1-2 hours. Depending on the length of your hike and your hiking speed, you should be able to get a general estimate of how much water to bring. If it’s particularly hot, though, you should bring extra.

  • Food
  • You will likely get hungry during your hike, so you should always bring some food. Plus, you’ll want to stop somewhere, either the top of a lookout or next to a waterfall or stream, and enjoy the scenery. What better way to enjoy the scenery than with a satisfying snack!

  • Layered/Extra clothing
  • You would be surprised by how cold it can get as you climb up in elevation or as the sun starts to set. You might be in a short-sleeve shirt when you start your hike, and by the time you’re done, you’re begging for a sweatshirt. If you layer your clothes, then you can take pieces off and on as needed.

  • Rain clothing
  • Weather can be unpredictable, so even if the forecast is for sunny skies, you should still bring something to protect you just in case it rains. We wouldn’t suggest an umbrella, since an umbrella could severely hurt your mobility as you hike, but a good waterproof jacket or poncho work well.

  • Sunscreen
  • Protect your skin!

  • Sunglasses
  • In the middle of your hike, surrounded by trees, you might not need sunglasses as much. But you’ll thank us when you reach a lookout and lose shade from the trees.

  • Whistle
  • A whistle can be useful in emergencies, if you get lost or injured and need to signal for help.

  • Flashlight
  • Yes, this is a list for a day hike. But you never know — you could get so immersed in your hike that you lose track of time. Or it might start getting dark before you get back. A flashlight will keep you prepared so you can see your map and the trail in the dark.

  • First aid kit
  • You should always carry a first aid kit when you’re outdoors. It’s better to be prepared! This kit should contain bandages, disinfectant, pain relievers, tweezers, instant ice pack, and a flashlight.

  • Pocket knife or multi-purpose tool
  • For a day hike, this may not be needed. But again, preparation is key! You never know if have to cut a piece of cloth for a bandage or take out a splinter.

  • Trekking poles
  • Depending on the difficulty of the terrain, trekking poles can be a lifesaver when hiking, especially when you start to get tired.

Explore the map to find hiking trails near you. Make sure to check the weather information before you set out on your next great adventure!

On your next day hike, make sure to tag us @greatlakesguide and use #greatlakesguide for your chance to be featured!



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