Hiking requires different things for different people—and it depends on where you live, too. What we can all agree on, though, is that it always requires stepping outside of your comfort zone. Somewhere between taking off into the wild on a multi-day trek and going for a stroll in the neighborhood is the sweet spot of going for a day hike somewhere without pavement, surrounded by nature.
For those wondering what to take on a hiking trip or those seeking hiking tips and tricks, here are some things I’ve learned the hard way—and from those far more experienced than me.
The most important thing to take on a hiking trip is water—which can be a hassle to carry and hard to gauge how much you need. While everyone has their own preferences for exactly how to take water with them on the trail, a safe bet is a 32-Ounce Nalgene Wide Mouth Water Bottle, which holds enough water to sustain an adult under average weather conditions for a half-day hike. If you’re planning on being out for a couple of hours, carrying a water bottle in your hands is often the easiest way to go.
Remember, hiking is exercise, but you’re often not more than an hour or two away from the car. When it comes to the best hiking tips and tricks, pack what you need, plus a little extra, and stash the rest for when you finish.
Rock the Fanny Pack to Pack Wisely
If you’re anything like me, one of the best parts about hiking is reaching a scenic vista and enjoying a well-earned snack in a lovely setting. Everyone has their own preference for a trailside bite, but I’ve learned from experience that once you bring food and water into the equation, you need some way to carry them.
Having both hands full is a recipe for disaster on even a mild hiking trail. The classic JanSport Fifth Avenue Fanny Pack is still one of the best ways to bring the small essentials with you, and it is possible to rock one of these without feeling like a tourist in a cheesy 90s movie!
With plenty of room for a cellphone, trail mix or a few snack bars, a small tube of sunscreen, car keys, and other small items you may consider essential, there’s no better way to bring the things you need with you—and to prevent you from overpacking. Nothing makes hiking less fun than a full backpack swinging all over the place and weighing you down.
Dress for Success
Unless you’re planning an epic all-day adventure in dynamic weather conditions, most technical hiking gear might be overkill. Still, when it comes to what to take on a hiking trip, supportive shoes that offer more grip than your average running sneaker are critical for even well-maintained trails. Hats keep you protected from the sun, which is always stronger out in nature than on shaded neighborhood streets.
Getting out and enjoying the nature in your area isn’t about the gear you have—it’s about using a few smart items to maximize your enjoyment on the trails. One of the best hiking tips and tricks I’ve learned is that it’s better to start small and learn from experience than to show up for a short stroll overprepared. It’s tempting to imagine every foray off the sidewalk as a rugged adventure, but being overprepared can make it harder to simply get out there. Go for a short trek with a snack and sufficient water, and see what you wish you had—then plan a longer one with more gear and bigger goals next time!