Having the right gear is essential to ensure your safety and comfort in the woods and mountains. We’ll be speaking from personal experience and recommend you items and brands that we’ve personally tested and vetted.
If you don’t have any you will need to spend some money on getting the basic gear to get started. But when it comes to price remember more expensive does not necessarily mean better, on these sanctions or the vague here in three basic categories basic gear which mainly covers survival and contingency planning for short day hikes. Extended gear which is your basic gear plus overnight items for backpacking and special gear which covers items needed for unusual or extreme environment.
Your basic gear is designed to accomplish two missions. Number one is to sustain you for up to 48 hours in the wilderness. And number two is to provide communication and signalling in case of an emergency.
You’ll carry your basic gear in a day pack. Theoretically, you could get by with any standard backpack but if you have the money as suggest investing in a dedicated outdoor bag obviously it must be rugged, water-resistant and reproof.
It’s important to ensure your pack has sturdy stitching and thick resistant fabric. A day backpack for very easy hikes should be light and compact, to weight between four and six kilos when fully equipped. It will be heavier if you´re going on ice-climbing missions or a bit difficult hikes, up to 14kg. It’s essential that the pack is narrower than your shoulders. This way if you are navigating through the thick bush, for example, and managed to get through your pack will follow and you won’t get stuck.
Additionally, it’s good for the pack to have many compartments to help you keep your gear organised. Quality packs will also include multiple adjustment straps for comfort when it comes to size. You don’t want them too bulky but also not too small. 15 to 25-litre volume capacity is a great choice for short and light hikes. I will talk about backpack sizes and shapes in another article.
I personally recommend that Osprey Tempest-20 day pack or even 30 litres to be more comfortable and be able to pack for other adventures.
The Osprey hiking packs are also an exceptional choice and it’s what many are using for a backpacking rig. You will spend between 80 and 160 dollars in a backpack. I would advise against a tactical fanny pack style bags since they tend to swing wildly and get in the way when hiking and scrambling.
One more brand that I find really sturdy is Deuter, I have this backpack for all kinds of adventures. Might be a little bit heavier than the Osprey one but extremely resistant. Also, I have a Deuter 70L for Multi-day Hikes.
Let’s talk about the content.
This is very dependent on your given environment and skills. So it’s up to you to decide what you think you’ll need on your given adventure but this serves as a general guideline.
A map and compass, GPS device and knife can be used to make shelter, cut ropes, make fire and more. Other tools like a small portable shelter is an invaluable tool for shelter to protect you from the elements in emergency situations. This one is very light and practical.
A map and compass will tell you where to goes. You can get back to your trail or civilization. Have a GPS device, use it from time to time to check if you are on a right path or to track the trail. Use your GPS instead as a backup, not as a primary device. If you rely only on the GPS, you might quickly realize that in cold temperatures, GPS will run extremely fast out of batteries. In this case, if you don´t use a manual way of checking where you are going, you might be in big problems.
Let’s go through the rest of the list: water containers. I personally use a few types of bladders and bottles. I love bladders or Camel Bags, especially on my hikes or even on multi-pitch rock climbs, thanks to them I stay hydrated without having to stop or slow down to drink. You have to make sure to get a good one, so it doesn´t leak and it´s resistant. It´s worth spending a few dollars/euros more on something of good quality rather than end up with a leaking bottle in your backpack.
In colder temperatures, I will use a bottle, as the bladder´s hose might freeze. For multi-day hikes, I will have a bladder and a bottle. The bottle you can use to warm up yourself, make tea, dry your wet socks, put hot water and put it in your sleeping bag, transport snow for melting if you need and other general-purpose tasks.
Hiking poles to make your life easier on the hills. They really help to spare your knees, and if you are walking on steep terrain, these are like an extra pair of legs. I have Aluminum/Carbon Folding Black Dimond poles, and I am extremely happy with them. They are super light (290g), foldable and I can use them for trekking, hillwalking or trail running.
Depending on where you´re going and on what kind of hike you might want to carry a small fire kit together with your Jetboil.
Make sure to keep it waterproof with some lint—waterproof matches and Flint of steal. Water purification kit depending on where you are going you might want to carry a kit with purification pills or a simple Livestrong might suffice.
A portable first aid kit (EXTREMELY IMPORTANT/ I will dedicate an article to tell you what do I keep in my first aid kit), flashlight and headlamp for signalling and visibility. Important!!! Remember to Carry spare batteries!
Now I personally have a Petzl Actik headlamp which has very nice extras like reflective details, incl. emergency whistle. What I find super cool that it has a hybrid mode where you can use a rechargeable battery and AAA too. So it is both practical and environmentally friendly.
Optionally you can carry a flashlight. Your headlamp and your torch should be waterproof and have at least one of them have a red filter. This way you won’t lose your night vision at night, and you’re not going to have bugs swarming all over you when you turn it on.
A dry bag which is an awesome tool to keep your phone, first aid kit and other valuables waterproof in case of rain. I normally have two with me. They come in different sizes for different purposes. It´s good to have at least two small ones.
An extra pair of socks and base layer is very handy too. For more details on what clothing and boots to bring you can read my article “SO, WHAT DO I WEAR WHEN HEADING TO NATURE?”
This is a list of the basic gear you should consider for going on a one-day hiking trip. Now you have everything ready. It’s time to put it together.
There are three principles to follow when loading your pack.
Number one be space efficient. Imagine you’re playing real-life Tetris so try to be creative and make use of every cubic foot inside your bag.
Number two put the heavy items at the bottom and close to your centre of gravity to make it easy on yourself and hike. And number three get the pieces you use most at an easy reach. So that way you’ll have to turn your pack upside down every time you want to get a snack wearing your pack. Make sure everything is tight and conform to your body took in any loose buckles and try not to have anything hanging outside the pack.
That’s it for basic gear guys if you have any questions posed them in the comments below and we can discuss any idea you have. In the next articles, we will go through more details on gear for different kind of adventures, first aid kit, multi-day hike packing and food planning.