Hiking is a great way to explore nature and get some exercise. Whether you’re venturing out on a short or extended hike, there are a few items that are essential to make the most of your trip. As a seasonal and experienced hiker, these are the items I recommend you make sure to pack!
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Your feet are the most important aspect when it comes to hiking. Let’s face it, if your feet are uncomfortable, you aren’t going to have a good time.
Hiking shoes come in a lot of different styles and the quality of the shoe can make a massive difference. When you are looking for a hiking shoe you should look for good arch support, waterproofing, ventilation and ankle support. Whether you choose a low or mid-rise hiking boot will depend on what type of hike you plan on completing.
If you plan on doing a day walk or short hikes, a low rise hiking shoe will be sufficient. If you plan on doing a multi-day or strenuous hike with steep ascents and descents, a mid-rise hiking boot will be more suitable. Below is a list of hiking shoe brands I can recommend. Before buying, always do your own research to make sure they are right for you.
Low-rise Hiking shoes:
Mid-rise Hiking Boots:
– Prior to your hike, make sure to wear in your shoes! You don’t want to get blisters.
– Tape up your hotspots on your feet to prevent irritation. “Hotspots” refer to spots on the feet usually prone to blisters. Usually, the heel, big toe, little toe and the outside of the foot. Fixomull is an excellent tape to use.
– If you are trying on shoes in-store, wear the socks you plan on wearing hiking. This is to be sure that the shoe fits properly, as hiking socks are usually thick.
Like shoes, what backpack you get will depend on what type of hike you are planning on doing and how much capacity you will need. When looking for a backpack, first thing to look at is the quality of the material. A backpack should last and handle being scratched or rubbed against rough materials. Secondly, look at the part where the shoulder straps attach to the backpack. If the stitching doesn’t look secure or isn’t stitched several times, chances are that backpack isn’t going to last. A good backpack should have good ventilation, a good support system (I’ll explain this shortly), plenty of accessible pockets and a space for a water bladder. A good support system refers to the shoulder straps, load and hip belt adjustments. A backpack that can be adjusted to suit your body shape is essential to a comfortable hike.
Finally, the weight of your backpack should always be transferred onto your hips, this is the best way to avoid injury. Two backpack brands I can highly recommend are Deuter and Osprey. I have the Deuter Aircontact Pro 65+15 SL Women’s hiking rucksack. This pack is in the higher price range, however, it has travelled with me through multiple countries/hikes and never failed me. Given these points, a backpack is something I recommend spending a little bit more on purely for quality.
There are heaps of water filtration systems on the market today. Although I always recommend carrying enough water with you, sometimes you need to fill up at alternative water sources. If you don’t need to filter a water source, I recommend a SteriPEN. The SteriPEN emits UV light that kills up to 99.9% of bacteria, viruses and protozoa. My favourite thing about this item is it only takes about 1 min to purify 1 litre of water. Making it a quick and easy purification source. Another product I can recommend is the LifeStraw. This product can filter up to 4000 litres of water in its lifetime, and doesn’t require any batteries. Simply drink from the water source through the straw. LifeStraw removes 99.9% of waterborne bacteria and protozoan parasites. It can also be purchased in a waterbottle system.
The type of clothing you wear or pack for your hike will depend on what terrain and climate you are trekking in. I recommend spending money on good quality clothing, as it will either keep you dry/warm and will last. There is nothing worse than buying a cheap ‘waterproof’ jacket, only to find out during your hike that it actually isn’t waterproof. When it comes to wet weather gear, I recommend looking into gore-tex jackets and pants. There are heaps of lightweight gore-tex jackets on the market which will keep you dry and warm. Brands I’ve used and can recommend are Mountain Designs and The North Face. These can range from under $100 up to $500. Obviously, the more expensive will be better quality but the cheaper ones can still provide good weather proofing.
Light weight shirts are great for hiking in hot conditions. In addition, remember to pack a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen! If you are hiking in Australia, I recommend wearing long pants or buying gaiters. This is to protect you from snakes, especially if you are walking through heavy bush or undergrowth areas. For colder conditions, a good fleece jacket, thermals, beanie and windproof jacket are recommended. I personally haven’t done any snow hiking, so I don’t have any brands to recommend. Before purchasing, do your own research into brands and read reviews to make sure you provide yourself with the best product.
If you are planning on doing a multi day hike, you will need to pack sleeping gear. The most important thing when packing for a multi day hike is to try keep your pack as light as possible. When looking into sleeping gear, such as sleeping bags, sleeping mats and tents, look for ones that are low in weight.
Sleeping bags come in multiple shapes and materials. Below is an explanation of the use of each one in detail. Which one you choose, will depending on the climate you plan on hiking through.
- Mummy sleeping bags: Best for maximum insulation and minimum weight/volume. This shape is narrow at the feet and tighter around the body, providing less empty space so your body can warm up quicker and stay warmer for longer.
- Semi-rectangular sleeping bags: Provides more leg room and can be used as a blanket. These have a tapered cut and provide good heat retention for multiple climates. These provide more leg room then the Mummy sleeping bags and can be unzipped to be used as a blanket.
- Rectangular sleeping bags: These are best used in warmer climates and provide the most space. The bottom is the same size as the shoulder width, so it provides more room for movement.
- Synthetic fill: These types of sleeping bags have a hard time absorbing water, so they can provide extra warmth even if soaking wet. These don’t compress as well as natural fill sleeping bags, so can be bulkier and harder to carry. Sleeping bags with this material can be machine or hand washed.
- Natural fill: These are usually down, wool or cotton filled. These provide excellent insulation and warmth, best for cold climates. They are more expensive and when they get wet need to be dried out to. If you purchase one of these I recommend putting it in a waterproof case or keeping it in a place in your pack that will keep it dry.
– When choosing a sleeping bag make sure to look at the temperature rating. Sleeping bags can be rated anywhere from 2 degrees C to -20 degrees C. What rating you choose will depend on where you are hiking or camping.
– Secondly, look at the sleeper height of the sleeping bag. General rule of thumb is to choose a sleeping bag with 25-30cm above your height, to provide maximum comfort.
– Manually inflated: These require to blow into a valve or use a pump to inflate them. They are simple, light and reliable, providing a good amount of cushioning. Some come with a insulating layer of foam, making it great for heat retention. The only down side of this type of sleeping mat, is it can easily be punctured by a sharp object. Its recommend to carry a repair kit for this type of mat.
– Self Inflating: These are very similar to manually inflating sleeping mats, however they have a open cell foam layer that allows the mat to self inflate by opening a valve. They are slightly heavier and bulkier than a manually inflated mat.
– Closed Cell: This is the simplest and cheaper mat on the market. They are made using a dense foam filled with small closed air cells. They often have a heat reflective layer on one side to provide extra warmth. Down side, they don’t provide much cushioning and are only able to be rolled up, meaning they have to be carried on the outside of your pack.
Shape and Size:
Similar to sleeping bags, you will need to pick a sleeping mat that is slightly bigger than your height. Width will also play a part. Most sleeping mats are shaped in a mummy shape, which are roughly 20 inches wide, and serve the ‘average size’ camper. If you are a bit broader or prefer to have a bit more room, a rectangular shape may be a better choice.
R Value refers to the sleeping mats ability to insulate from the ground. The higher the R value the greater the insulation. Some brands don’t use R Value and simply rate there mats by temperature.
If possible, I prefer not to take a tent with me when long distance hiking. However, there are certain conditions where it is essential and will provide more comfort or protection from the elements. Things to consider when buying a tent are weight, size (is it for 1 or multiple people), single skin or double skin.
– Freestanding: These have a sturdy pole system and are usually dome shaped. They provide good space and are great for terrain which can be difficult to use pegs. They take up a bit more space and weight, but will provide more comfort.
– Semi Freestanding: These have a separate pole system and can stand up without being pegged. However, it is recommended to do so in order to provide full stability.
– Tarp tents: These cannot stand up on their own and require securing with trekking poles or pegs. They are single walled, ultra light and provide the least amount of protection from the elements.
When buying cooking accessories, keep it simple. Only pack what you will need for the camping trip to minimize weight. Most hiking stoves come with pots and pans that can be easily packed away with the stove. Collapsible cups and plates will help with space issues, and a multi use utensil. There are a few stoves on the market, the one I use and recommend is a canister stove. I prefer these over others because they are small, light and easy to use.
- Jetboil Zip: Quick boiling system, compact and efficient.
- Jetboil Minimo Carbon: Similar to the Jetboil Zip, but can hold more fluid and better for eating straight out the cup.
- Alpha Set 4.2: Lightweight pots, cups and bowls, that fold up into one compact set.
- Jetboil Mightymo: This is just the burner component of the stove. Small compact and provides simmer control.
When packing food items, its always best to go with dehydrated or freeze dried foods. They are light and simple to cook. You will need food that will provide you with sufficient energy and nutrients to get you through your hike. You can either cook your own meals or purchase them pre made. I tend to lead towards the asian cusine when buying pre packed meals, as they tend to provide better flavour then some of the western meals. This is purely based off my preference and experience!
Good Pre packaged Meals:
- Back Country Thai Chicken Curry
- Back Country Freeze Dried Mash Potato
- The Outdoor Gourmet Company Thai Green Curry
– Trail mixes: I usually pop a few lollies, M&M’s or skittles in mine. I’m not bothered about sugar when I complete long distance hikes, but each person has their preference.
– Dried Fruit
– Muesli/Energy/Protein Bars
– Nuts and seeds
– Beef jerky or meat sticks
– Tuna sachets and crackers
Emergency or Location Devices
Although these items aren’t necessarily essential, they can provide reassurance incase something doesn’t go to plan. I carry a personal beacon device with me on my hikes and travels, especially when travelling to remote areas. There are several types of beacons available, I recommend a PLB (Personal locator beacon) as they are best for individuals. When pressed in an emergency these will give emergency services a narrowed down location where to search. Other items to consider are emergency glow sticks, emergency lights, a GPS or at least a phone with good service.
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