It's true, breakfast is the most important meal of the day! A morning meal that includes cereal or oatmeal will provide carbohydrates for energy on the trail. Keep your energy level up throughout the day by sipping water and nibbling on fruits and nuts.
Tell someone where you are going and when you expect to return. Let family or friends know your hiking plans. If you're overdue, rescuers will know where to look for you
Changing weather conditions can create problems on the trail. Rain swells rivers and makes crossings more difficult. Lightning is a major danger and by attempting to find a safe location, you might stray off the trail. And In cooler months, sudden snows can obscure trails and cause you to get lost too.
Why? The buddy system of course! There's safety in numbers. But hiking with a friend can also be more fun. In a pinch, if you don't have a friend to bring, bring your four-legged buddy with you. The exercises and outdoor time is good for both of you and your dog. Help each other and share the adventure!
It is important to know where you’re going. Pick a trail, then check a map and familiarize yourself with the terrain where you’ll be hiking. It may be too difficult based on your abilities & experience. Are there stream crossings? Are there multiple junctions or intersecting trails that could be confusing? The more you know, the more prepared you will be and enjoyable the hike.
If you’re hiking in the afternoon, check to see what time the sun will go down. Fading daylight can lead to a feeling of panic if you start becoming disoriented and will increase the risk of making bad decisions that exacerbate the situation.
Most of the time for an easy or moderate trail, regular old tennis shoes are adequate. However, even an easy trail can become dangerous if it is wet. That’s when a good pair of hiking boots or walking shoes designed for off-road terrain is essential. Not only will they keep your feet dry and warm, but they are designed for maximum support and traction. You'll encounter a lot of different surfaces on a trail: grass, mud, water, rocks, gravel, puddles, downed trees, and more. And unlike a paved sidewalk or road, the uneven terrain can make your footwork a little iffy.
For hiking, a good pair of socks should be breathable, yet insulating, and water repelling. Wear a taller pair of socks than your shoes, hopefully ones with a little extra cushioning for your foot. Investing in a good pair of socks can even protect your feet from blisters!
It is always a smart idea to wear some hat to fend off sunburn or to act as protection from the rain. It is also a smart idea to wear high protection UV sunglasses, as the sun can be a pest when trying to navigate through harder terrains.
Even in warmer weather, long pants are a good idea for hikes to help protect your legs from twigs, brush and other things you might run into as you go. But if you're taking a well-maintained trail, shorts can work just as well. Another idea is a pair of convertible pants in a lightweight and breathable material. You can wear them long, roll them up (many have buttons to hold them up in that case), or zip off the pant leg to convert them to shorts.
Dress yourself in several thin layers. This way, you can strip off layers if you feel too warm. Choose a soft material that absorbs sweat for the layer next to your skin. For your outer layer, try a light, breathable windbreaker. Also, toss a sweatshirt into your pack.
Even if rain doesn't look likely, it's best to come equipped with rain gear. In wet weather, a wet hiker can become frostbitten and hypothermic, even if the temperature isn't all that low. Consider bringing along a large, foldable poncho for protection if rain is expected.
Water is THE most critical survival item - don't even think of starting on a hike that takes you more than a kilometer from home without bringing a bottle of water. You should have at least two litres of water with you and drink 1/2 to 1 cup every 30 to 45 minutes. Keep the water coming into your body even if you don't really feel very thirsty. If you are hiking, you are losing moisture and you need to replenish it. By the end of a 4-hour hike, you should have drunk both litres of water and you should be able to use the toilet. If you don't need to, then all that water came out as perspiration and you still need to drink more water to stay hydrated.
A walking stick or trekking poles are not a must-have, but if you plan to do a lot of hiking, they sure are nice! Not only are these good for balance and traction but they also relieve your legs by taking pressure off of your lower body joints. If you go for long hikes, or hike multiple days in a row, it can make all the difference in your ability to stick it out and stay comfortable. If necessary, they can also be used to protect or defend yourself, help with stability when wading or crossing a river, mark your route, clear your path of bushes or spider webs, and lastly as an emergency crutch should you injure yourse
Even if you have hiked a trail a hundred times, you should carry a map. Unexpected trail closures, an injury requiring a shorter route, bad weather, or animal encounter can all result in a sudden change of plans. Having a map assists in this greatly. You don't have to carry topographical maps for a regular day hike. You can find maps online and print them before you leave. If hiking in Provincial Parks, visit the welcome centre for a park specific map.
Depending on where you hike, you may or may not always have cell phone service. But when you do, it can be especially useful if you get lost, stay away longer than anticipated, get injured, or run into trouble. Remember to charge your phone before leaving! Consider bringing a pocket battery recharger if you are going on longer hikes, taking pictures, videos, utilizing the compass, GPS or maps.
Most of the hikes that you go on will probably have clearly marked trails, and have other hikers along the same trail, so the thought of bringing a compass may sound a little extreme and old fashioned, especially since GPS units are so popular now. You may be thinking, “When would I ever need this?” Hopefully you won’t ever need to use it, but what happens if the batteries in your phone or GPS are dead? Then that one instance comes, when you really need it, and you don’t have one. A compass weighs less than 5 ounces! Bring one along.
A good survival whistle is essential to carry when hiking. The sound a whistle makes travels much further than your voice ever could. You can also use it to communicate with others in your group, say some one is too far ahead, or falling behind. You should always carry your whistle around your neck, and not in your pack. All hikers should carry a whistle and know the whistle code:
One blast = STOP,
Two blasts = COME TO ME,
Three blasts = COME TO ME QUICKLY!
Bring a first aid kit. Simple stuff does the trick. Adhesive bandages, adhesive tape, gauze, a small squeeze bottle to irrigate wounds, antibiotic ointment, and pain relievers are the basics. Also, a bandanna works as a cravat bandage or a sling.
Bring a light source. Flashlights or headlamps are essential gear, even if you don't plan on being out after dark. Pop an ankle or wander off trail and, suddenly, your quick hike can take a lot more time. If you are heading on a multi-day trek, toss in a back-up flashlight and an extra set of fresh batteries to be truly prepared.
Don't let the bugs ruin your adventure! Depending on the season, time of day, and weather, your hike may be spectacular or burdened with insects bothering you the entire time. From late fall to early spring, insects are less of a concern, however as the summer progresses, it’s hard to avoid those nasty little critters. A little bug repellent goes a long way!
Okay, so you have all this stuff to bring. Where do you put it all? The answer is: your backpack! If you're just bringing a few lightweight items, take any pack that is comfortable for you. Only when you're carting a lot of weight (more than a dozen pounds) would you need a specially designed backpack for hiking. These packs are designed to better distribute the weight your carrying over your hips to relieve your shoulders, and they're also completely adjustable for the most comfortable fit for you.