Dayhike Essentials and Extras

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.

Essentials

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.

Some Extras

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?

Tips for Planning an Outdoor Adventure

I’m a planner. It’s one of the qualities my wife finds most endearing about me. She’ll have the great idea, and I’ll take over from there. That being said, below are just a few things I do before just about any trip, especially if it’s my first time going to an unfamiliar destination.

1. Look at a Map

There’s really no excuse for not looking at a map anymore. Gone are the day when you had to rely on picking up a trail map at the trailhead, or digging the one from your previous trek, before you could get a good idea of what lay ahead of you. There are tons of trail maps available online, and if that fails, many trails are even depicted on Google Maps.

Get an idea of the distance you’re going to cover, what the terrain looks like, and any interesting things you want to see along the way. This doesn’t just apply to hiking, as even a quick overview of a river can at least give you an idea of the distance you’ll have to paddle. Sure your put-in and take-out points might be 10 miles apart by road, but if that river serpentines for 20 miles you’re in for a much longer day on the water!

This tip also applies to your drive to your adventure! Don’t just rely on your GPS to guide you to the right spot, especially if you’re going through some backroads.

2. Do a little research

Some quick online searches should find you at least a little additional info on your destination, and a little bit of knowledge about what to expect might be the difference between an enjoyable trip and a experience you won’t want to repeat. Websites, magazines, blogs, guidebooks etc are all wonderful resources. Use them!

3. Tell someone about it

Don’t just wander off alone without telling someone where you’re going. Have a friend or family member who’s your designated check-in person before and after your adventure. Even if you’re going with other people it’s prudent to have someone outside the group who knows where you’re going, and when to expect you back.

This is by no means an all encompassing list, but at least these few steps lay the groundwork. One of these days I’ll get around to writing about a particularly epic misadventure in Alaska where I’ll point out some of the various points in both planning and execution that led to a crazy day on the river.

Cheers!