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10 Hiking Essentials You Should Never Hit the Trail Without

10 Hiking Essentials You Should Never Hit the Trail Without

Hiking may be a regular part of your life. It’s a hobby you’ve enjoyed for years. You love taking your dog and hitting the trail almost every weekend—or maybe you’re a newbie. You’ve just gotten into hiking and want to start a new tradition with your family. Regardless of how much of an expert or novice you are, there are some hiking essentials that you won’t want to leave home without. 

Hiking can be exhilarating with unbelievable views, stunning scenery, and wildlife encounters. But there are also risks every time you hit the trail. Let’s look at ten hiking essentials you want to make sure you have every time you hit the trail.

10 Things You Should Always Bring on Your Day Hikes

Heading out on a trail for the day is an exciting adventure, whether you’re climbing iron rungs in Acadia National Park or tiptoeing across the Tower Arch in Utah. But there are several hiking essentials you should never forget. Some are for your safety, and others are to help make your adventure more enjoyable.

The 10 Essentials - Never Hike Without These! (Plus Hiking Tips)

A Lightweight Backpack

This is a hiking essential you don’t want to skimp on. Buy a good, lightweight backpack—one that’s durable and waterproof. You won’t last very long toting around extra weight, so you want one that isn’t going to weigh you down, especially if you’re taking a day-long hike.

You also want to make sure it’s comfortable. Sometimes you have to spend a little more money to get a good quality, comfortable backpack, but it’s totally worth it to make your trip more enjoyable.

Caitlin from Mortons on the Move and dogs hiking together
Having the proper gear while hiking is essential to keep you safe and ensure you have a great time.

Extra Food & Water

Especially when heading into a remote wilderness area, it’s very important to pack extra food and water. You want to keep your backpack light, but you also need to have plenty to eat and drink to keep up your strength. Depending on the weather and season, you’ll want to pack enough water to sustain you all day long, plus extra in case something happens.

Navigation Tools

Even if you’ve hiked the same area 10 times, it’s important to have navigation tools with you. Nature changes. Weather causes erosion. The trail may be different from the last time you hiked it, so always take a compass, map, or some kind of tool to help you if you get lost.

Don’t rely on your cell phone, as many trails are in remote locations where cell service is minimal at best. If you’ll be hiking in an unfamiliar area, consider carrying a personal locator beacon so you can easily be found in an emergency situation.

Pro Tip: If you cross paths with some suspicious paw prints while on the trail, use these tips on How to Identify Big Animal Tracks on the Trail.

Man in a hike in the mountains
Don’t rely on cell service when hiking. You never know when you won’t get a signal and will need to navigate the old fashioned way!

A Knife or Multi-Tool

A knife or multi-tool is another good safety gadget to add to your hiking essentials bag. You can cut small branches if needed, open cans to eat a snack, and cut bandages if you need first aid. Having a good knife or multi-tool is a must when hitting the trailhead.

Sun Protection

Sun protection means more than just sunscreen. Wear a hat, perhaps a scarf or bandana, and good clothes to shield your arms and legs from harmful rays. The proper clothing is essential to keeping your skin protected. Check out quality outfitter brands that manufacture hiking clothes with sun protection. 

Caitlin from Mortons on the Move at scenic view while on a hike
Don’t let a sunburn ruin your hiking trip! Make sure to cover up while hiking about.

Extra Layers

The temperature can change dramatically from the start of your hike to the end, especially out west. Desert areas are known for having hot temperatures in the afternoon but chilly nights. Wearing extra layers will ensure that you’re ready for a wide range of temperatures. Keep them lightweight but make sure you’re protected.

Pro Tip: We uncovered Are Special Hiking Socks Overrated to help you decide if it is the right lay for you.

Emergency Shelter

Another item you may not think of to keep in your hiking essentials bag is an emergency shelter. Although you may never use it, you’re putting yourself in a dangerous situation if you get out in the wilderness and need shelter but don’t have anything. Always have a plan in case something goes wrong. These shelters won’t add a lot of weight to your backpack either.

Fire Starter

Whether you intend to make a fire or not, you always want to pack a fire starter. In case of an emergency, you certainly want something to help identify your location and keep you warm on a cold night. If you plan on cooking lunch or dinner, a fire starter makes things easier. So, not only is it a safety item, but it also makes the adventure more enjoyable.

Pro Tip: Start your fire with ease by using one of these 8 Best Campfire Starters to Bring on Every Outdoor Adventure.

First Aid Kit

Like the knife or multi-tool mentioned above, you want to make sure a good first aid kit is one of your hiking essentials. This doesn’t mean throw in some bandages and head off down the trail. All kinds of things can happen while hiking. Purchase a serious first aid kit with everything you might need, or make one yourself. But don’t skimp out on this. Your life may depend on it.

Man hiking with hiking poles through moutnains
Injuries and accidents will happen while hiking, so make sure you have everything you need to stay safe on the trail.

A Headlamp

Finally, you don’t want to hit the trailhead without a headlamp. This is both a safety item and a convenience item. The sun may set earlier than you anticipated, or you may take longer to get through a certain pass than expected.

You want a headlamp to get you back home safely. In some remote areas where there’s little light pollution from cities, you’ll need a headlamp to find your way back to your campsite or car because there won’t be any other lights to guide your way.

Pro Tip: While on the trail, beware of pesky Goat Head Thorns. Find out how to identify them and avoid crossing their paths.

Found a Plane Crash in the Woods While Hiking Grandfather Mountain | MOTM VLOG #46

Come Prepared & Stay Safe on Your Day Hikes

Hiking days are full of excitement. Maybe you’re heading out on a trail that’s been on your bucket list for years. Or maybe you’re taking your kids on their first day-long hiking adventure.

Whatever your situation, you don’t want to leave home without these hiking essentials. Some of them you hope to never use. Others will come in handy and make your experience more enjoyable. Regardless, you’ll be glad you had them all if something ever happens while out on the trail. 

Are you missing any of these hiking essentials in your backpack? Tell us in the comments!

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About Mortons on the Move

Tom & Caitlin Morton of Mortons on the Move gave up the stationary life for one where they are constantly on the move. They are full-time travelers, television hosts, and digital media producers.
They left their jobs, sold their house and possessions, and hit the road in September 2015 in their full-time “home on wheels”. Since then they have traveled the US, Canada, and even internationally by RV.
Now, they are Discovery Channel & PBS TV Co-stars of “Go North” on Amazon Prime Video, co-founders and instructors of RV Masterclass, and contributing authors for and an Arizona travel guide.

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