Hiking Tip #5: Bring more than you think you’ll need
I am no expert on hiking. Do hiking experts even exist? Maybe you could call guides and search and rescue workers expert hikers. Anyway, like I said, I’m no expert. I have run out of water, gotten lost on the trail more than once, and have surely made other hiking mistakes. However, I have hiked quite a bit, especially in National Parks, over the years. I’d like to think I’ve learned from my mistakes and have some tips and ideas to share with others who might not have too much hiking experience. I don’t know if these will help, but even if they can help just one person that would be good enough for me.
Check out my previous hiking tips:
#1 Hike early
My fifth tip is to bring more than you think you need. This can apply to a whole array of things. I’m going to focus on four such items; food, water, clothing, and first-aid. Each of those deals with safety. Enjoying a scenic trail is awesome, but that really doesn’t matter if you don’t return safely in one piece in the end. More things should be considered depending on the length, difficulty, and terrain of your hike. I’m thinking mostly along the lines of longer day hikes with this tip. Backpackers may not agree with me due to the desire to cut weight.
Let’s start with food. This is obviously an important one since you need food to survive. When it comes to hiking, especially longer day hikes, it’s a good idea to have a few different food options. Like I said before, it’s just safer this way. A number of things can happen causing you to need more than you may have originally thought. You could get lost, hurt, or have to take shelter during a storm. You could also do everything right, but encounter another hiker who is in need. When it comes to food, there are a lot of options. Everyone has different preferences when it comes to trail food. The key is to bring food that can give your energy a boost. I also prefer to eat quickly and easily so I can either eat while hiking or return to the trail after a quick snack break. I like to bring fruit, specifically apples or bananas. Salty snacks are often recommended as good trail food. I’ve brought pretzels and potato chips. Energy bars and/or Snickers bars are also atop my list. I also like to bring trail mix (I’ve just gone with store-bought mixes, but you can certainly make you own). Beef jerky and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches can come in handy on longer hikes. My friend and I actually ate steak sandwiches on the top of Half Dome, but I would not recommend that. They did not hit the spot.
No matter how long the trail is you should be sure to bring water. If it’s a long trail bring extra water. If it is especially hot out bring extra water. If there is a lot of elevation gain bring extra water. Do you notice a theme here? No matter what, bring more water than you think you’ll need. It hasn’t happened often, but I have run out of water on the trail a couple of times. I’ve also shared water with other hikers who have run out. I can say it feels good to help out another hiker in need.
Clothing can be another big one. I would generally put it after water and food, though. This is another one that will vary greatly on the trail and the accompanying conditions. If it’s hot out and there isn’t a cloud in the sky, you may not think you need anything special or extra, but a hat and sunglasses would be a wise choice. If you’re hiking up a mountain you should bring warmer clothes and raingear in case it is cold or raining near the summit. Even if the forecast is good, changes in the weather can happen suddenly, especially high up on mountains. The Rocky Mountains (and others) get hit with afternoon thunderstorms almost every day in the summer.
Lastly, I want to mention first-aid. If you’re hiking a trail that is long enough that you are bringing a backpack I think it’s a good idea to have a little first-aid kit with you. It can just be a small basic thing, but it’s good to have something with you in case of emergencies. Most would at least have Band-Aids, gauze, a roll of bandages, bee sting relief, sterilizing wipes, and pain relievers. In a pinch you could make a splint using bandages or rope with a stick or trekking pole.
On most hikes you won’t need a first-aid kit, extra water, food, or clothing. But if you do enough hiking, you will encounter some times when you will wish you would have brought those things along. It’s better to plan ahead and prepare. Carry a little extra weight and be safer. You should still be able to carry a pretty light load as long as you aren’t backpacking. It can be easier than you think to get lost or hurt on the trail. And remember, even if you do everything right and have no problem of your own, if you are prepared you can help or even save the life of another hiker in need.