My day hike hiking gear (perhaps overkill, but I like to be prepared).
This blog post is a list of sorts, outlining what gear I usually take on my hiking excursions and why I feel the need to take said items. I generally tend to over pack, partly because I am training to climb several fourteeners this summer and the extra weight will help build muscle and endurance, but the more important reason is due to the fact that I can be somewhat paranoid and wish to have medical supplies, survival gear, and items that will help me survive outside in case of disaster. Mind you, this pack is purely for a day hike, no overnight stays and generally used for hikes ranging from 2 to 8 hours. While the added weight can be taxing (and sometimes I truly want to just take it off), I would rather have it and incur a slightly tougher hike than leave it and end up needing it. This has all been said as an introduction to my gear post, so lets get into the meat.
Now one may begin with the pack (the unit that holds all the other gear) and while it is very important, I will start with footwear and the socks that reside within them, two of the most important items you need to consider that can make or break a longer hike. Having the proper shoes/boots for you and your feet can make all the difference in whether you have a memorable or miserable hike.
First off, you need to do some research on different types of footwear, brands, and what kind of hiking you will be doing to understand what brand/type fits your foot the best. Footwear can be grouped into many different categories, but I will just mention three: sandals (something like Teva makes, an outdoor type), something you can use in dryer flat areas during shorter easier day hikes, tennis shoes for moderate hikes (still for easier hikes in warmer weather), and boots (now this category has three major subcategories, which I’ll get into), which are used for heavier day hikes, backpacking trips, and higher level mountain hiking/climbing. Now because I am writing about mountain hiking and discussing that gear, I will focus on the boots.
There are three major different types of boots as I stated before and with those differences come weight changes, coverage changes, and major price differences. Its important to find the best boot for your foot and for your activities, otherwise you can end up with a shoe that is ill fitting, to heavy/bulky for your activities, and a pair that will cost you more money. I opted for a high-top hiking boot because the vast majority of treks I take are day hikes (with the periodical backpacking trips) so I don’t need anything more substantial. The boot comes with a waterproof membrane on the inside and has a solid rubber sole with great traction. The boot is lightweight and comfortable, even on long rugged hikes. I will say this, although the boots work well and are sturdy, I have discovered that the use of crampons for a long period of time can cause some foot discomfort (this would likely not happen with heave mountaineering boots, but I don’t use them enough to warrant the heavier and more expensive boots). For the best way to find your own hiking boots, I suggest you read reviews, take into consideration types of hikes you take (or will take), budget, and go to a store and try different types on to get a feel for fits. Here is a good link for a more through readout of hiking footwear ( http://www.rei.com/learn/expert-advice/hiking-boots.html ).
Secondly (now I will get to the pack), the pack you take on your hikes is very important. As with the shoes, it all depends on fit, duration of your hike, and what type of and the amount of gear you need. What you take on a hike can range from a belt that holds a couple of water bottles for a shorter hike to a large day pack containing a gallon or more of water and survival gear. Packs themselves can range from ultra light weight to heavy duty military style bags. Again,like the boots, it all comes down to what fits you and your needs the best; if you take longer hikes that are more difficult and perhaps more dangerous, you may want to think about a larger pack to hold more items, if you have shorter easier routs, a lighter pack will suffice. I personally believe that everyone hiking any moderate distance (2 or more miles) should take some type of bag to carry food, water, and emergency supplies. You don’t need a lot of items, but the basic necessities should be brought with you incase of trouble.
I bring this military assault pack on all of my hikes, regardless of distance and difficulty. It is a tad bit heavier than some of the packs made by several companies, but I like the durability of military made gear (I can be rough on gear at times and the strength of the pack keeps it intact). This pack also has many MOLLE attachable areas so that I can build the pack the way that fits me best. It also makes it easy to add and remove items for different hikes. In the pack, I carry a three quart camel bak and a one quart canteen on the side, this allows for easy access to my water so I don’t have to stop or take off my pack for a drink. This pack also allows you to attach a small pack to attach to the side or shoulder strap to carry any food, again so you don’t have to stop to eat if you do not want. Military assault packs aren't for everyone, but I like the versatility and ruggedness that comes with them. One point of caution with some of the military packs I use and have seen, is that they can have a problem with some to the straps connecting the top shoulder area to the assault pack slipping at the top, so I used some metal pressure crimps to secure them in place (see picture below). These are not heavy in a material sense and keep your pack from moving during your hike.
Now to what I carry inside my pack; there are four major compartments: top, bottom, middle, and back. In addition, I have a medical bag I filled myself attached to lower back using ALICE clips. In the top pouch, I carry most of my survival equipment such as fire starters, multi-tool, mylar blankets, life straw water purification system, head lamp, K-Bar knife, straps and tie offs, 550 cord, carabiners, ACE bandage, two Snickers bars (for emergency energy),head lamp (the one pictured is a low end Energizer model but am looking to replace with a mid-level option), and metal wire (see picture below).
I understand that all this may seem like a lot (for just day hikes), but trails can be dangerous at times with the snow, uneven ground, wildlife, and unforeseen events, I simply choose to be prepared. These items are what you will need in a pinch and allow you to survive a few nights in the wild if need be. In the future, I will add a poncho as well, but for the time being, I am trying to decide functionality vs. weight. Meaning, I would like it to serve as a shelter half and rain slicker without being too heavy.
The next pouch is the bottom front of my bag. This holds my energy bars (I make them myself, but that’s for another blog), gloves (when I’m not using them), shemagh head and neck scarf (again, when I’m not using it), and crampons.
The middle larger section of the pack generally holds an extra pair of socks, shirt and underwear, and extra camera lenses (when I take my camera to photograph the environment). It also holds a waterproof bag (incase it begins to rain or my bag is going to be submersed) and a cell phone waterproof sleeve. I can always place my important things in the bag to keep them dry. In the rear and final internal pouch, I carry my Camel Bak bladder and the Life Straw. These are the items I generally take on my day hikes. Most of the items I never use, but all of them are important incase I need them. And the items I do use are easily accessible on the open trail, that is key for a good hike.
Like I stated before, I also carry a medical pack with me on all hikes. This is attached to back of my assault pack because its out of the way, but readily accessible if its needed. And also as I stated before, I built my own. This is the reasonable thing to do because it allows you to build it in a pouch/bag that fits your gear the most effectively. It also allows you to only pack the medical aids that you believe that you need and you can add higher quality items than the ones that come in standard store bought first aid packs. Homemade packs also are much cheaper overall; its true that some kits are cheap in store, but they will not have the quality items and the number of said items that you can purchase on your own. The final reason to build your own is that you will have to research the different medical items needed, this will increase your knowledge of first aid in general and of the items in your kit, which in a life threatening scenario, will greatly increase your chances of survival.
To detail out the items of my first aid kit, I will begin with the general items. These items include bandaids, antiseptic towelettes and creams, anti-itch cream, dental cream, pain relief cream, anti-acids, antiseptic spray, tweezers (sealed in package), one safety razor, and ACE bandages. On the more severe front, I pack four compression gauze bandages, two regular gauze bandages, one medical gauze tape, one wound seal kit, one military grade tourniquet, one CPR face shield, and (perhaps most importantly for deep lacerations wounds) a QuikClot bandage. And the last item I have in my first aid kit is a Boy Scout first aid scarf (which can be used for a sling/splint if need be), which has useful information on burns, broken bones, shock, bleeding wounds, and general important information on how to stay calm and address a medical situation.
Finally, we come to some of the external gear (outerwear).
This is a used British Army jacket that I use for colder hikes. Here in Colorado, the winters tend to be not too cold (even in the snow) and if you stay under 10,000 ft or so, this jacket with layering will suffice. I like this jacket because it is semi water repellent and very tough, It has many pockets that come in handy to carry things within arms reach and its hood has a metal (but pliable) wire running through the outside edge, which allows you to mold the hood into the perfect size around your head. Another perk of this jacket is that it was only 25 dollars. Sure, some higher end jackets are better in some areas, but they cost much more. Now if you are hiking in harsher environments and/or are going to summit peaks above 10,000 ft, I suggest you invest in a heavier jacket.
The pants I generally use are North face convertible non-insulated bottoms. These work remarkably well in both the summer and winters in Colorado due to the sweat wicking technology and the fact that the bottom half detaches, they are very comfortable in almost all weather patterns. I have hiked to around 10,000 ft in the winter in Colorado in these pants and have yet to feel too cold. They are comfortable and loose, they wick sweat and are fairly waterproof, and they move well with your body.
Lastly, the items I always take are a baseball style hat and sunglasses. These are two of the best items you can have. In the mountains (aside from cloudy weather days), the sun is very bright. The sunglasses take the glare away (which when glancing off the snow can be very bright and can hurt your eyes) and the hat helps with the sun, with sun exposure to your head and face, and with sweat. All in all, I would not go hiking without either.
In summery, these are the items I generally take on my day hikes in the mountains. My gear is usually changing and becoming more complete, but I have found that everything I take is important for safe hikes.