I’ve clocked my fair share of hours on the mountain since I was a young kid, but I still consider myself an amateur hiker. The only advances that I’ve made since the days of hiking as a kid are that many of my hiking buddies are friends instead of family, and I am now able to walk more than 1 kilometer without complaining. I would consider myself a ‘weekend hiker’, with my hikes consisting of no more than one day in order to get the weekend started, as opposed to long hiking treks, as much as I would love to tackle those more often. For those weekend warriors like myself who enjoy nothing more than inhaling the crisp morning air into our lungs until our nostrils burn and exhaling a cloud of frosty breath while the sun is still climbing a little higher in the sky, whose boots crunching on the gravel beneath us shake off all the time that we spent sitting at a desk glued to our laptop screens... for those people, I have designed a hiking and packing guide for an easy to moderate day out on the trails. Below are my top seven essential categories:
- Sufficient water: I can count on both hands the number of times that I have underestimated my need for sufficient hydration because the hike was just meant to be a quick one. Take into account the length of the hike and whether there is a source of fresh water along the way.
- Water Purification Tablets
2. Snack Time
- Food: One can never have too many snacks! I for one, particularly love the taste of freshly cut fruit on a hike, so cutting and preparing some fresh fruit the night before a hike will always be a rewarding treat. It is, however, a lot easier to carry sealed snacks such as trail mix, dried fruit, nuts, and energy gel packets. For any South Africans reading this, nothing tops a long day of climbing better than a packet of biltong.
3. Sun Protection
- Sunscreen: ALWAYS pack and repeatedly apply sunscreen.
- Sun-protecting lip balm: My recommendation—which may come as a shock to many guys out there—is nipple cream. It’s the one thing that heals chapped lips, chaffing or any cracked skin in no time at all. If you’re too embarrassed to buy it yourself, just ask a favor from your girlfriend or wife. I’ll leave it up to you to explain why.
- Hiking footwear: this is the one item in this list that truly determines whether your hike will be fun or not. Invest in good, comfortable, and breathable shoes that will last you for years to come. My current pair, which I absolutely love, are my La Sportiva Synthesis Mid GORE-TEX SURROUND® Boots. I have trekked through flowing streams and not felt so much as a drop of water seep through to my socks while wearing these boots.
- Rain jacket:The weather is often very unpredictable in the mountains. Be prepared.
- Warm clothes
- Spare underwear, socks, and a quick-dry towel: I almost always hike past a natural pool or waterfall, and trust me, after a hot day hiking in the sun you will want to be prepared for this moment. You don’t want to be chaffing all the way home.
5. Survival Essentials
- First aid kit: A small first aid kit should always be kept in your bag. Take note of which items are used and replace them as soon as you return home. Create a kit with items you deem necessary to your adventures. My suggestions include bandages, headache tablets, pain killers, and nausea tablets.
- Duct Tape: If your dad was anything like mine, he solved most problems in life with a roll of duct tape. Duct tape has saved me in numerous situations. It has held a dashboard together on a bumpy road trip, repaired shoes when they broke, served as a giant plaster (this one was a bit short-sighted as I hadn’t thought about its removal), and it has even been used to cover up several holes on my dad’s surfboard. Even if you don’t think that it’s necessary, pack it just in case.
- Lighter and/or matches
- Bag for trash
- A map of the hiking region in case your GPS fails
- A pocket knife
- Phone, money, and identification
6. Creative Essentials
- Camera: Whether you use film, digital or just your phone’s camera, taking snaps along your hike serves as a great way for you to remember the trip and to let others share in your experience.
- Notebook and writing utensil: I gain a lot of my inspiration for my writing from being in and around nature. It helps me to jot down ideas or write down a beginning paragraph of a story when I think of it right then and there.
7. The Fun Stuff
- A friend: Because hiking alone is not always smart and they’re more fun than talking to yourself.
- A sense of humor: Maybe a hike turns out longer than expected, you get a little lost, the weather turns for the worst, your feet have blisters or your clothes are soaked through. In instances like these, always remember to have the right attitude on the mountain. A positive outlook makes all the difference for your frame of mind as well as those around you.
Happy hiking! :)