So you’re not summiting Everest, or thru-hiking the AT, but you want to get outside for the day. There are a few basics that anyone heading into the outdoors (even if that involves city streets instead of back-country trails) should have with them, and even a few extras that I’ve found come in handy.
Water: Because duh.
Snack: Common sense applies here so keep it small. You’re (hopefully) not surviving for days here!
A trail-map: Because you should always have an idea of where you’re going and how to get back. If you’re going to be in a more urban/suburban park then your smartphone and Google Maps might suffice, but don’t take this for granted.
A phone: Yes, I often lament “what did we do before we all had phones?”, but we all have them now so you might as well carry yours in case of emergency. Do yourself a favor, make sure it’s charged.
An extra layer: A spring and fall essential. Especially if you’re in a place with quick weather changes, or gaining/losing significant altitude. Writing this I’m reminded of getting caught in a quick squall atop a mountain in Hawaii that left us shivering! While we were luckily not far from the warmth of our tour van, that could easily have turned a fun day on the trail into a miserable experience if we still had soggy miles ahead of us.
Backpack: Small, but roomy enough to throw that extra seasonal layer in and carry your water. Make sure it’s comfortable on the shoulders.
Knife/multitool: Even if all you use it for is to crack open a post-trip beer with the bottle opener it’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.
A camera: This can truly be considered an extra now that many of us are packing smartphones with decent cameras that are plenty capable of snapping quick pics along the trail. That being said, there are still plenty of things that you can only capture with a real standalone camera.
Baby wipes: I didn’t discover these until I became a parent, but trust me, when you’re grimy and feeling “not so fresh” you’ll be happy you packed a small bag of them. Especially if you’re feeling hungry and want to stop for a post-trip meal that doesn’t involve a drive through!
I know this list isn’t all encompassing, but it wasn’t intended to be. What am I missing? What would you ditch? What’s your number one essential?