Ah, the great outdoors. There’s nothing quite like it. No really, there’s nothing like it in terms of how your body responds to the outdoors. Numerous studies have shown that time spent outdoors reduces stress, improves creativity, and increases cognition. All just by opening your door and taking a few steps outside. The simple act of viewing greenery alone is enough to set your mental cogs in motion.
So, you’ve decided to take a hike. Great, but what do you need to make sure you don’t end up on one of those “I Survived” tv shows? We’re here to help you out. Although, it all depends on where you’re going and what season you’ll be traveling in, there are a few things that you’ll always want to have with you.
Maps of both the electronic and physical variety
Sure the old days of unfolding a map that dwarfs LeBron James to get around town may be long gone, but that doesn’t mean you should give up on physical maps entirely. It’s safe to say that most national forests and BLM land are going to leave you without your trusty google maps. So, take a visit to your local outdoors store, such as REI, and pick up a map for the region you’ll be hiking in, just incase you find yourself off trail.
A water bladder, not a water bottle
Water bottles are great if you’re only going a mile or two. But after all of that driving to get out into nature, you’ll likely want to go a bit farther. That’s where the water bladder comes in. They were made famous by CamelBak but nowadays, numerous outdoor brands make their own water bladder, and many hiking packs have slots built in just for the bladder, as well as a hole in the back of the pack for the hose to run through. You’ll find they’re a much easier way to stay hydrated and you’ll hike much faster when you don’t have to stop to dig a Nalgene out of your pack.
A granola bar will get you by. But if you’re going for something seriously strenuous, you’ll want a snack with a little more substance. You might be surprised to learn that a PB&J is actually a fantastic snack for hiking, complete with carbs for energy in the bread, protein in the peanut butter, and vitamins galore in the jelly. So, whip up a quick PB&J before your hike and munch on it about halfway through to grind out those last few miles back to the car.
The great outdoors isn’t always just another walk in the park. Weather can change swiftly, wildlife can send you off trail, or you could even get injured and have to stay the night. It’s happened before to many, many unfortunate hikers. But the best way to turn the situation from a total nightmare to an inconvenience is with an emergency bivy. These emergency shelters are smaller than a soda can when they’re stored and they can end up saving your life.
You never know what can happen when you’re miles away from your car. Things like getting altitude sickness, or getting off trail can quickly turn a day hike into one where you’re walking out in the dark. So, to be better prepared for it, always bring a headlamp with you. Just leave it in your pack after your hike is done and you’ll always have it with you.
Anything can happen when you’re out exploring the untamed natural world, but don’t let it make you anxious. The vast majority of the time, everything will go smoothly and you’ll return more relaxed and rejuvenated than when you got there.