Hiking is a great way to keep fit and explore nature and is a popular pastime. Whether it is a day trip with friends or a serious hiking vacation, going prepared is vital to not only enjoying your hiking but to have a safe and rewarding time. It therefore helps to have the right hiking accessories.
10 essential hiking accessories for beginners are:
- First aid kit
- Maps and navigation equipment
- Torch and batteries
- Spare phone
- Bug repellent
- Trash bags
- Water filtration system
Having the correct equipment with you on your hike can make life safer, easier, and much more relaxing. You’re hiking for fun, but once in the great outdoors you need to take steps to be safe. Below are 10 essential hiking accessories that all beginners need.
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Thanks to the explosion of the internet, access to worldwide suppliers of hiking and camping equipment have never been easier. But with that increased access comes a veritable feast of options. An unwary hiker could end up needing a small handcart in order to carry everything they’ve purchased for their hike, and much of it could be unnecessary.
The difference between essential hiking accessories and frivolous equipment that does nothing but make your pack too heavy, and your wallet too light, is often a blurry one. This is especially true for new hikers who just want to enjoy the outdoors in safety.
It was with this in mind that we created the list below, to help navigate the pitfalls of what you should have in your backpack, and what you should avoid at all costs.
Having a first aid kit in your backpack is essential. It’s an item that, with luck and good judgment, you won’t need to use, but it’s a must-have for any hiking trip. Bandages, band aids, scissors, gauze, and tweezers, the list goes on. But with a first aid kit, a fall or a scrape can be cleaned and bandaged up to prevent infections.
When purchasing a first aid kit for your hiking trip, put thought into the type of terrain you will be dealing with, as well as expected weather conditions and the overall experience of the hikers in question. A first aid kit that could be perfect for hiking around your local park wouldn’t be much help for a serious hiking trip across mountainous terrain, so buy according to your potential needs.
Your first aid kit doesn’t have to be huge, but it should have all the essentials inside to cover most small injuries. You may also want to look at taking a free first aid course if you have the opportunity. The better prepared you can be, the better.
A good map can guide you as you go exploring the great outdoors and should be one of the first items in your backpack. You can pick one up at most national parks. Especially if you plan to go hiking in one, picking one up from reception before heading out is always a good idea.
Even the most relaxing of hikes warrant a map. You may decide to go off-trail at some point, or simply take a wrong turn, so having the backup of a physical map is vital for staying safe. Most mobile phones have some kind of GPS facility, and you can check your location using your phone if reception isn’t an issue.
Investing in a quality compass is also a great idea. They take up very little space, and can provide directions when trails are not clearly signposted. Learning to use a map and compass correctly is a great skill to learn. Orienteering is a handy life skill, and one that for seasoned hikers is a big help.
Even downloading an extra map to your mobile phone is a good idea. It takes up no extra space, and is an added layer of protection while hiking. Some of the best hiking trips can be had by simply exploring your surroundings and seeing what’s out there, and having a map allows you to do this with confidence.
Timetables often go out of the window when hiking. People tire and slow down, or breaks get longer, a route changes, and people go exploring, suddenly it’s getting dark and you’re not quite at camp yet. This may or may not sound like your hiking trip, but even if it isn’t, having a torch in your backpack is a great idea.
There are many torches on the market that are of excellent build quality, and some that include a compass in them too. Another consideration is to purchase a head torch instead. This not only frees up your hands for cooking, but just to have your hands free while walking at night can be a big help.
When taking a torch, be it for nighttime exploring, or to help with setting up or getting to camp, always make sure you carry spare batteries just in case. And even if you never use your torch, it is another device that can be used in case of emergencies as it can attract attention if you become separated from your group.
Many of the items needed for a well-stocked hiker’s backpack fall into two categories: safety items, or daily essentials. Food, water, and clothing fall into the daily essentials, while first aid kits and spare phones or satellite phones very much fall into the safety category.
Having the extra security of a spare phone in your pack in case of emergencies or, if you have the resources, a satellite phone, for those riskier hikes can be a lifesaver. With proper precautions, these items won’t leave your backpack, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
Walkie-talkies are a more generally useful item to carry. With phone reception often poor in the countryside, walkie-talkies can allow a group to keep in contact, split up to find the best routes, and just add an extra quality of life bonus to your hiking trip. They aren’t an essential item, however, so it’s a judgment call to make when weighing up what to take on your trip.
From bee stings to mosquito bites, one thing that nature is full of is, well, nature, and every critter that crawls or flies will enjoy taking a bite out of the unprepared hiker. Investing in a bug-repelling spray will be one of the cheapest yet most worthwhile purchases you make when stocking your backpack.
The more testing your hiking, the more you’ll sweat, which in turn attracts bugs looking for an easy meal. So, make putting your bug repellent on part of your routine when taking a drink or sun lotion break.
Prepare in advance and take toilet roll on your hike, as well as a small trowel or foldable spade. Hiking is about getting close to nature, but there’s no reason not to be comfortable when going to the bathroom. Use your trowel or spade to dig a hole first and bury any waste. Leaving the environment as you found it should be a given.
As well as bathroom essentials, things like biodegradable soap, alcohol-based hand sanitizer, and a toothbrush and toothpaste are also needed. Also consider taking dental floss, and in a pickle it can double up as string!
One of the best reasons people cite for going hiking is the amazing scenery, being able to get away from the hustle and bustle of daily life, and just getting away to enjoy the beauty of nature. Sadly, not all people feel this way, and littering, discarded camping equipment, and general waste is often left lying out in the countryside.
To avoid being part of the problem and help keep our already teetering environment as healthy as possible, make sure as part of stocking your backpack you include trash bags to tidy up after yourself.
Refuse belongs in a trash can, not on a hiking trail. Wild animals can be affected, and in some cases even killed, by people thoughtlessly leaving trash around. So, be courteous to yourself and fellow hikers, and pick it up.
Most national parks or hiking trails have designated areas for getting rid of refuse, so it is always worth disposing of your waste there. In areas where bears are a consideration, the dangers of leaving waste in areas that aren’t monitored become even more relevant.
Another quality-of-life product that should definitely make its way into your backpack is a decent pair of binoculars. These are a perfect way to watch nature at its best without being too intrusive. A good pair of binoculars doesn’t break the bank and allows hikers to see vast distances.
Your binoculars can even help plan routes. Checking for the best trail to take can make for a better hiking trip, birdwatching becomes a breeze, and this simple addition to your backpack can bring countless hours of enjoyment while out hiking.
Having a knife or multitool in your backpack can be an invaluable addition to your kit. For any unexpected needs, or even for simply cutting food or fixing a broken tent peg, there are plenty of superb options on the market, and are well worth the purchase. Take precautions to keep these items away from children, however, as some can be extremely dangerous if misused.
By now your backpack will be full to the brim, you couldn’t be safer on your hike if you took the Marine Corps with you, but given how heavy your pack now is, perhaps the four gallons of water were a little excessive!
With that in mind, investing in a water filtration system such as a filtration bottle could make life that little bit easier. Always take enough fresh water with you when possible, but for those times when you are taking advantage of natural sources, a filtration bottle will ensure you can drink with impunity.
As well as meaning you don’t have to carry all of your water with you, a decent filtration bottle could even replace your standard water bottle, taking up even less space, and ensuring that as long as there is a local water source, you’ll never be short of much-needed H2O.
Hiking is one of the most enjoyable outdoor activities around, and one of the cheapest too. Getting the right accessories for your backpack at the start is a huge help, and they will help make your hiking trip as safe and as enjoyable as possible.