Bill Muhlenfeld

Hiking and Backpacking Essentials

It’s Summertime, and that means we’re spending a lot more time outdoors! Between the barbecues and afternoons at the pool, this time of year hosts many kinds of fun activities. One of the top favorite Summer activities is backpacking or hiking. Not only is this activity a wonderful source of exercise, but it is also a great way to decompress from every day stress, enjoy the beautiful flora and fauna, and admire the wildlife of the area. It’s also a great way to soak up some healthy sunshine. As fun and exciting as hiking can be, it can also be dangerous if you don’t bring the right equipment with you. There are some essential items that all backpackers should bring with them, to make sure that their hiking experience is not only fun, but safe too. Here is a list of essential safety items that every hiker should bring with them.


First and foremost, you need a proper backpack! You’re going to want to bring a proper backpack with you on your adventure to ensure that you’re able to carry everything that you need to take with you, on your trip. You’re going to want to avoid any kind of bag that only has one strap, like a duffle bag for example. Trying to carry bags like these will put all the weight of your items onto one side of your body. This can cause all kinds of issues and certainly make your hike an uncomfortable one. What you need is a proper, two-strap backpack. They make backpacks specifically for hiking purposes that you can find at most sporting stores. Make sure that the backpack fits comfortably and at the center of your back, so you are distributing the weight equally on all sides of your body. Make sure the backpack is sitting and fitted properly. If you’ve done it right, the majority of the weight should be felt in the hip region as opposed to your shoulders. Even if you’re confident that your shoulders can take the weight, you still don’t want it to fall there for hours on end. It simply isn’t good for your posture. Your legs are much, much stronger and it is better to properly fit your backpack so that it sits correctly at the center of your back.


The second must-have item is water! Make absolutely sure that you bring enough water for the distance you plan on backpacking. Many people underestimate how quickly the heat can leave you dehydrated. Being dehydrated can cause a plethora of issues for a hiker, such as; dizziness, rapid heartbeat, fatigue, confusion, and even fainting. It can be a very serious and very scary thing to experience, so having water to prevent that is very important. Experts recommend drinking about two cups of water for every hour of hiking. So, either bring some bottled water or a hiking water bottle with you, to ensure that you stay adequately hydrated on your hike. You can find hiking, water bottles at most sports stores. Many of them are even insulated to help keep the water nice and cool.

First aid kit

Another thing you absolutely want to bring with you is a first aid kit. Although the outdoors can be very fun and enjoyable, it can also have its dangers so you definitely want to take all of the proper precautions. Make sure to bring bandages and gauze, aloe Vera gel, an epi-pen, lidocaine, and perhaps even medications that you might need while on your hike. Once again, you can find first aid kits with these things at a lot of sports stores. It is absolutely vital to always bring one on every backpacking excursion, even if you’re only hiking a short distance.

A multi-use knife

A multi-use tool or knife can be a handy thing to bring with you while you’re on a hike. This can be used for many different aspects of your hike, but in particular with first aid. A lot of people don’t always bring a multi-purpose knife with them. Many believe that it’s overkill, but it’s always best to be prepared for anything that might happen. People can get lost on hikes, you might find that you need it at some point and it is always better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it. It’s tiny, it doesn’t weigh much, so why not just bring it be prepared?


Sunscreen should just kind of gone, without saying! This is a must-bring on just about any outdoor activity, even super short distance ones. If you’re going to be outside for long periods of time, make sure to reapply sunscreen every couple of hours for continued protection. Exposure to direct sunlight can lead to really painful sunburns and can even cause skin cancer. So, make sure to protect yourself from the heat!

A form of navigation

Forms of navigation are another must-have on any hike! If you’re exploring through a park, most parks will hand out maps of the various hiking trails and paths that people can explore. However, not all parks have them though. So, it is important to bring your own forms of navigation, to help prevent you from getting lost and finding your way through the wilderness. It can be easy to become disoriented in the woods, so bring a compass with you or a GPS device can very much come in handy. Compasses are the most reliable since they do not require a battery or a charge. It is an indispensable item that all hikers should have. A lot of people bring their phones with them as a source of navigation, but it isn’t recommended you use a phone, at least not as your primary source of navigation. Phone batteries can die and being out in the wilderness can also lead to a loss of service so it is wise not to rely on things like these. Maps and compasses are the best way to navigate safely in the woods.


Finding your way through the wilderness at nighttime can be extremely difficult without some kind of lighting. Bringing a flashlight or headlamp with you, you can prove to be most helpful in your outdoor excursions. Whether holding trekking poles, trying to cook, or setting up tents; having the proper lighting can be super helpful. Although flashlights are great, most hikers prefer headlamps. Headlamps allow you to navigate through the dark without using your hands. It still allows you to see well in the dark, while having use of both hands to work on whatever project you are working on. In any case, having a form of light can be beneficial and super helpful on your hike.


Shelter is a necessity for any outdoor backpacking adventure! Even if you’re familiar with a trail and you know you’re not staying or feel like you don’t need one, you should always still bring one. Even if you are familiar with a trail, you never know when the weather might turn or whether you become injured and can’t continue your hike. It is always best to bring some kind of safety shelter with you. You can bring an ultra tarp, a bivy sack, or even just a large plastic trash bag. These things are all pretty lightweight and won’t take up so much space. They can protect you from the elements when things get rough or take an unexpected turn.



Proper clothing is also a very important thing to bring with you if you're going to track through the elements. You want to make sure that you’re prepared for just about anything. Make sure you already come dressed in proper hiking attire. You want to be wearing good shoes and comfortable clothing. But in case of emergencies, bringing an extra set of socks, underwear, and maybe even a jacket. The weather forecast might tell you that it is sunny and gorgeous out and maybe it even seems that way when you first hit the trails, but the weather can be unpredictable, the forecast isn't always one hundred percent correct, and mother nature can turn on a dime at any moment, so it’s always best to be prepared.

Extra food

Lastly, you want to make sure that you bring enough food to last you through your outing, as well as a little bit extra. It is important to bring enough food to keep you adequately full and energized. Hiking requires a lot of energy and exertion, so it’s important that you keep yourself hydrated and nourished. It never hurts to bring extra though, just in case you get a little lost or maybe decide to take a detour. You’ve got to ensure that you’ve brought enough to keep you going, so bring a little extra is definitely not a bad idea. Make sure to bring food that will last in all kinds of weather and temperatures. You don’t want to bring foods that will spoil or go bad quickly. The best kinds of food to bring on a hike are dried fruits, jerky, nuts, and even canned goods. These will give you proteins and sugars to keep you going.

As long as you bring these things with you on your hike, you’re sure to have a safe adventure. Prepare well and pack smart. Get out there, explore, enjoy, and have fun. Above all else though, be safe out there! 


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