When I go day hiking there are certain things that I wear–and certain things that I pack–in my day pack.
The first thing I do is choose my clothing wisely. Fall or spring mornings? Choose breathable layers, like a polyester/cotton tee shirt, with a fleece pull-over I can remove when it gets warmer later in the day. Maybe shorts, maybe long pants–depending on how wild the hike will be, and daytime temps. And I always wear a hat, especially one with a brim to block the sun.
Wearing the right socks is a huge deal–bigger than you think. I have several pair of Merino blend wool socks woven specifically for hiking many miles. I learned the hard way that bad socks can ruin a good day of hiking. Barring a severe wool allergy, you should buy and use heavy-duty, soft knit wool socks when hiking. Forgo cotton, or even a cotton/poly blend. Your feet need the wool, which is a fiber that naturally wicks moisture out and away from your feet. When buying hiking shoes or boots, take a pair of thick wool socks and try them on with the shoes to make sure you have the right fit with your socks–which, next to water, might be the most important thing you need to have when hiking. The fit of the shoe or boot should be nice and snug, with the sensation of a super-cozy house slipper. If you feel the shoe or boot moving around on your Achilles tendon, you might be setting yourself up for blisters later in the hike. Choose a pair of shoes you’ve worn before and broken in.
Now for the pack check list:
- Two to three liters of water. Some people like to use bottles. I use the MSR 3-liter hydromedary system, which is a heavy-duty bag with a drinking tube I can snake through my pack’s lid.
- Non-perishable lunch. This can include jerky, chips, crackers, sausage, cheese, energy bars, and a fruit cup or piece of fruit. Sandwiches don’t seem to keep very well through a morning of hiking, especially when it’s hot.
- Lip balm and sunblock. The older I get the more I use of these things.
- A signal whistle, mirror, knife or multi-tool, lighter, and first aid kit.
- A rain jacket. I have a nice lightweight shell that squishes into a small ball I put in the bottom of my day pack.
My pack is a Vaude Ultra Hiker 20. I love this company, and I love that they are environmentally and fair labor conscious. But please, pick a day pack that is right for you, physically and for the things you need to take when you day hike. Maybe your list is a little different; everyone has their favorite things and tips for a good day hike.
Once you get home, be sure to rinse out and air-dry your hydration system and /or your water bottles. A little preventative maintenance goes a long way to ensuring your gear is clean and in working condition for a longer period of time.
And please, if you are hiking alone, leave word with somebody about where you will be hiking and when you will return.