Essentials for Your Next Hike

The end of summer and the start of fall mean getting out in the wilderness and experiencing nature. The leaves are turning, the air smells fresh and new, and your flannel shirts are calling you. However, early fall also means there is still heat and unpredictable weather.

If you are setting out to see the local waterfall, lake, or just exploring the hills around your town, make sure you pack the following essentials for your next hike:

1. Enough water for everyone plus more.

Dehydration is one of the biggest dangers while hiking, no matter the temperature. Pack plenty of water, and then throw another few water bottles in the car for when you get back. According the the National Forest Service, some symptoms of dehydration include stomach ache, loss of appetite, sleepiness, dizziness, and headache. If you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated. Packing sports drinks to replace sodium lost is a good idea too, but don’t rely on them.

2. High protein snacks.

With all the calories you’ll be burning, you’ll need something to replenish them along the way. Stick to high-protein snacks like jerky and bars. Keep an eye on sugar content though; you’ll burn through it before you can get any benefits from it.

3. ID and medical card.

As gruesome as it sounds, you never know when an emergency might arise. Keep these on your person (in your pocket, bra, shoe, etc.), rather than in your bag, so they’re less likely to get lost and separated from you.

4. Bug spray/sunscreen.

Protect your health even after your hike with sunscreen and bugs pray. Even through the dappled light that may be coming through the trees along your trail, your skin is exposed to sun and damage. According to Livestrong, SPF 15 can block about 93% of UVB rays and SPF 30 can block about 97% of UVB rays.

Apply regularly and well, no matter what your skin tone is or how much of a base tan you’ve already built up. Bug spray helps ward off diseases like Zika, West Nile, and general itchiness that comes with any sort of bug bite. Also avoid standing water; that’s where mosquitoes tend to gather and thrive.

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5. Hats/sunglasses.

While protecting your skin with sunscreen and bug spray, make sure to protect your face and eyes with a hat and sunglasses. Retina-burning eclipse exposure jokes aside, your eyes should be shielded from the sun. A hat keeps the sun off your face and chest to avoid some serious exposure.

6. First aid kit.

Accidents happen; for minor issues, a first aid kit should cover you. Make sure it has bandages, antiseptic, hand sanitizer, basic medication like ibuprofen and benadryl, and cotton swabs. Before applying any first aid, make sure your hands and the wound are clean.

7. Face wipes.

I carry face wipes pretty much everywhere I go. They’re in my purse, in my car, bathrooms, and desk drawers. It’s nice to have them around for whenever I feel greasy. After a hike, when your face is caked in sweat, dust, and mosquito guts (it’s not all cute photo ops – hikes get gross real fast), there are few things more satisfying than wiping your face clean and feeling fresh. You go from a grease goblin to someone who can comfortably walk into a grocery store to get something refreshing. It’s not the same as a full shower, but it’s pretty dang close.

8. Change of clothes/comfy shoes.

By the end of your hike, your clothes and shoes will basically be a part of you. Make sure you bring a spare set to drive home in. Swapping your sweaty duds for a fresh set is heavenly. Just be careful when separating your shoes from your feet; there may be some blistering you didn’t realize.

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If a furry companion is accompanying you on your trek, be sure to pack some supplies for them as well. Here are 4 pet essentials for your next hike: 

Dog hiking tip: unless your dog was born and bred on the trails, they may have some insecurities that show up during your hike. My dog, for example, had to be carried across every bridge on our path, all 40 German Shepherd pounds of her. Hikes can be fun for dogs but also overwhelming between the new environment, other hikers, and other dogs on the trail.

1. Collapsible water bowl with plenty of water.

Pup needs plenty of water, too. She may not be sweating, but her furry body sure is heating up. Make sure she’s well hydrated by packing plenty of  water, and offer it often.

2. Treats/larger biscuits.

Just as you are burning calories on the hike, so is your dog. Pack treats and larger dog biscuits for her nourishment. Make sure she eats a good breakfast before you head out for your day.

3. Poop bags.

Where there’s food going in, there is poop coming out the other end. Help keep our hiking areas and parks clean. Pick up after your dog.

4. Towel.

Where there’s water, there are dogs jumping in it. After she runs through the water (and the dirt surrounding it), dry her off with an old towel. You can soak it in water to cool her off if needed too.

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Be safe and smart during your hikes this summer and fall. Live by the rule: Take nothing but pictures and leave nothing but footsteps. Keep parks clean, pick up your trash, and keep yourself healthy as you enjoy the many wonders to be discovered on a hike.