Whether you are trekking into a jungle, walking a desert trail or enjoying a hiking adventure to a specific attraction, hiking is a hugely popular activity for many backpackers on the gap year or travels around the world. Here is your ultimate guide on what to pack for a day’s hiking adventure.
I love hiking, ever since my first gap year where I spent four days and five nights hiking through the jungles of Northern Thailand from Chiang Mai, the adventure activity has been a staple of many of my trips over the last 20 years.
Apart from being a great way to stay fit and healthy on your travels (and work off all those second helpings of street food), hiking is an easy way to discover more of the country you are visiting and see some of the hidden natural beauty spots that many tourists just won’t see, and lets face it many of the worlds bucket list destinations like Machu Picchu involve trekking at least part of the way. It is all part of the experience!
I have trekked through tropical jungles, hiked up active volcanoes, explored stunning mountain ranges and essentially had some of the best adventures of my travel career through hiking.
But as every traveller knows, what and how you pack is absolutely essential when you travel, and the same is true for when you go hiking.
It is important that you protect yourself from the elements as well as any unforeseen accidents and it is always a good idea to be prepared for any eventuality. The question is how do you do that when you are only on a short day hike with at most a small day pack?
Whether I am going on a short half day hike to a specific local attraction or whether I am hiking for multiple days at a time these are the items that I always make sure I carry with me.
First Aid Kit.
As a qualified emergency nurse I can’t stress enough the importance of carrying a good, basic first aid kit. It doesn’t have to be overly complicated, all you need is enough basic dressings and wound cleaning kit to sort out any minor cuts, bumps and scrapes. If you need more serious medical intervention than basic minor injuries and you aren’t medically trained then it is very unlikely you will know how to use the equipment anyway, so why carry it? And in those cases it is always better to get professional help.
Again as a nurse I always advise carrying some form of sun protection with you. This really should go without saying, but when you are hiking out in the sun, you need to carry and wear sunscreen! You need to make sure the sunscreen blocks both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB), so read the label carefully, and should have a sun protection factor (SPF) of bare minimum 30 with at least 4 star UVA, but the higher the better.
Remember, sunburn, heat exhaustion and heatstroke are no joke, so it is also important to cover up and not rely on sunscreen alone to protect you from the sun. Wear the right clothes that cover your skin and it is always a good idea to carry some form of hat, scarf or shemagh for your head too, and last but not least a good pair of sunglasses to protect your eyes.
Packable Rain Jacket.
Just as important as protecting yourself from the sun, is protecting yourself from the rain. Weather can change quickly in some areas and if you aren’t well prepared you can find yourself soaked through with no protection, and that is not a good position to be in on any hike. A simple, lightweight, waterproof jacket can quite often be a lifesaver in many situations, even if it is just a simple foldaway one if you want to save space and weight.
An Extra Layer.
It isn’t just the sun and the rain you have to consider, but the temperature as well, as the weather can change considerably on any hike, especially if you are hiking up a mountain where temperatures can drop considerably. It is always a good idea to have an extra fleece to throw on as an extra layer if you need it. You never know.
A Refillable Water Filter Bottle.
Staying hydrated on any hike or during any strenuous activity is absolutely essential, and again as a nurse I cannot stress this enough. You really don’t want to end up dehydrated as it can lead to further serious health problems and get you in a lot of trouble if you are out somewhere remote.
The problem is that if you carry a lot of water with you, that adds weight, and the more bottles you have the more single use plastic you will be wasting.
That is why it is always a really good idea to carry a refillable water filter bottle on your travels too, this way you can not only make sure you are drinking enough through the day when you are out exploring by being able to fill up at an water source you come across, but you are reducing your single use plastic waste and spending less on bottled water too!
Using a good insect repellent is essential on your gap year in general to reduce the risk of getting bitten and contracting insect borne diseases such as dengue, malaria, zika and many more from mosquitoes or other disease carrying insects, or even in the best case scenario to stop you being plagued with annoying itchy welts everywhere. This is especially true if you are hiking out in the wilderness or rural areas where biting insects are going to be more prevalent. Just make sure you choose the right, effective insect repellent with ingredients that are clinically proven to work.
Reusable Stuff Sack For Rubbish.
Leave nothing except footprints and take nothing but pictures. If you are hiking on any trail it is essential to take anything you bring with you back out again. You should already be minimising on plastic waste by bringing a refillable bottle anyway (good for you), but you will still have the inevitable fruit peel or snack wrapper too. I always carry a reusable stuff sack instead of a plastic rubbish bag, and that way I can take my rubbish home and pick up any rubbish I find laying on the trails left by other people too.
This isn’t a comprehensive list but it is a list of all the essential emergency kit I always carry with me on any hike, just in case. You of course may add one or two other things to that list dependent on your specific location and needs, but these are the bare essentials everyone should have.
I hope this has given you just a little bit to think about before you prepare for your next hike and has gotten you excited and inspired to find your next trekking adventure on your gap year! So whether you are hiking up a volcano in Indonesia or heading down the Inca trail, have a great time, be prepared and stay safe!
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