Backcountry hiking trails offer a cool summer alternative to the heat of the city, and getting some exercise in the fresh air can reinvigorate the soul. When packing for a backcountry excursion, the right gear is essential. From what you carry in your pack to the tires on your vehicle, here are our must-haves for a safe and enjoyable hike.
1.Maps and trail guides
Maps and trail guides are crucial for staying safe in the backcountry. You can use an outdoor recreation site like Alltrails.com for pre-trip research, but there’s no substitute for printed maps that can be used when you’re on the trail. Remember, your cell phone doesn’t work everywhere!
2. A compass
It’s always smart to carry a compass. When you’re walking in the forest, it’s easier than you think to step off the trail and get turned around. Buy a quality compass and practice using it before you head out.
3. Great off-road tires
Nothing will ruin your day faster than getting stuck on the way to or from your hike. Plan ahead and make sure your vehicle is equipped with off-road tires that can get you to your destination quickly, safely, and efficiently.
4. Day pack
Day hikes are a whole lot more comfortable with a quality pack. Look for helpful features like a hydration compartment, compartments for small items like a phone or your compass, side pockets for a water bottle or sunscreen, and perhaps straps to hold trekking poles.
5. First aid kit
You’ll definitely want to pack a lightweight, simple first aid kit with essential items like antiseptic wipes, antibacterial ointment, adhesive bandages, and gauze pads. Adding a few extras like tweezers, Ibuprofen, aspirin, and moleskin for blisters will keep you on the trail longer.
6. Fire starters
No matter how long you’re planning to be on the trail, it’s smart to bring along a fire starter. Here are a few types to consider:
- Ferrocerium rods (ferro rods) create sparks when a striker or scraper is applied to the rod at an angle.
- Tinder is what you hope the spark will catch on fire. Natural materials like dry grass or the bark from certain trees work well, as do cotton balls and lint. In wet conditions, it’s smart to have waterproof tinder, like cotton balls covered in petroleum jelly.
- A pocket lighter is a great backup. Just make sure it’s full of fluid before you toss it in your pack.
Protecting yourself against biting insects – which can carry life-altering diseases – is not only smart but necessary. The most effective repellents include the ingredients DEET or picaridin, both of which are recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for preventing mosquito-borne diseases. If you prefer a natural repellent, products that contain lemon eucalyptus have been found to be effective in warding off both mosquitoes and ticks. Or if you want to try something different, there’s a new bug repellent option that doesn’t require you to apply chemicals to your clothes or skin.
Last but certainly not least – don’t forget the most essential thing of all: a great attitude. You’re getting outside and you’ll be surrounded by the beauty of mountains and nature. With a little bit of planning and strategic packing, your time outside can be safe, healthy and enjoyable. Enjoy!