I was hiking over the weekend with some friends and one of them asked how heavy my backpack was. I proceeded to take off my backpack to let them hold it and they were surprised by the weight! For summer day hikes, I carry the same black backpack whether the hike is shorter or long so I can have the basic things I need to be prepared for whatever may come my way. The weather in Colorado and many other mountainous regions can turn from sunny to stormy in a matter of minutes. I learned early on in my hiking career that it’s better to be over prepared while exploring the mountains than under and the contents in my backpack help ensure my safety in unforeseen situations.
So, today I’m going to go through what I carry for every day hike I do in the summer.
- Water! I drink at least a liter of water to get hydrated before a hike and I carry at least a liter of water on the hike. On longer day hikes, I may carry 2 liters of water. I prefer insulated water bottles so my water stays cool throughout the day. Keep in mind this is where most of my backpack weight comes from. If you know you will be near flowing water and would like to filter water instead of carrying 2 liters, I would recommend this easy squeeze water filtration system.
- Water purification tablets– Water purification tablets are light weight and do not take up much room in my pack. I carry these for emergency purposes if I run out of water and I desperately need more. I’ve only used these once on a backpacking trip and I’m happy to keep them with me during my day trips as well. You don’t need these if you are already carrying a water filtration system like mentioned above.
- Pocket knife– Pocket knives have so many uses I feel like I should carry one on me at all times! You never know when you’ll need to cut something. Hopefully not your arm off like Aron Ralston…
- First aid kit– A first aid kit is a must on the trail! In mine I have: bandaids, medical tape, Neosporin, mole skin (which is a life saver for blisters!), allergy medication, anti-itch cream, DayQuil, Tylenol, antibacterial wipes, tissues, hand sanitizer, an epipen and an inhaler.
- Bug spray, sunscreen and chapstick with sun protection– These are must haves to protect your skin from the elements.
- A pen– Some trails require you to fill out a permit to hike so a pen comes in handy for this.
- Polarized sun glasses– Protect your eyes and limit face wrinkles from squinting as my mom would say 🙂
- Layers– Rain jacket, extra fleece jacket, down puff vest, fleece gloves, ear covers and an extra pair of trail socks may come in handy too!
- Headlamp– I use this a lot when hiking before sunrise.
- Pepper spray for trail safety– This is good to have especially when hiking alone.
- Food– Depending on the length of the hike it’s good to have multiple protein or granola bars, candy, pb&j sandwich, beef jerky, or your favorite trail snack!
- Compass– This may be for show as I don’t carry a physical map 🙂
- Bear bell– I used this mostly when hiking in Alaska. I typically don’t have my bear bell out unless I am alone in bear country.
- Crampons– I carry these until about mid-July. Winter snow sticks around for a while in the mountains and conditions can get slick quickly so these are always nice to have for extra grip.
- Occasionally my Eno hammock if I’m planning to relax somewhere on the hike 🙂
All of these items, including the water I carry, make for about a 15 pound pack which is a very doable weight for me to hike around with throughout the length of a day hike. Before heading out on the trail I also recommend downloading the trail map on your phone using the All Trails app or something similar. If you’d rather opt for a physical map, more power to you but make sure you have a trail map! A good hiking watch is beneficial to have as well. I use a Garmin Fenix 6S watch for tracking my hikes, milage, elevation gain, and to make sure I’m staying on trail. This may seem like a lot to bring during a hike but these items will help you be prepared for whatever may come your way. It’ll also give you peace of mind so you can get out there and just have fun! Stay safe and…
Until the next tale… Happy trails.