What To Bring

By Mike Boisvert.

When out in wild country, the gear you have along is all you have to rely on. Until you get back to the comfort and safety of your home, it is up to you and whatever equipment you bring along to make your hike comfortable and safe. Failing to bring along the right stuff may mean a miserable experience or worse.

Let’s start with the Hiker Responsibility Code. Be Prepared…

With knowledge and gear [Become self-reliant by learning about the terrain, conditions, local weather and your equipment before you start.]

To leave your plans [Tell someone where you are going, the trails you are hiking, when you will return and your emergency plans. Leave a copy in your vehicle at the trailhead.]

To stay together [When you start as a group, hike as a group, end as a group. Pace you hike to the slowest person.]

To turn back [Weather changes quickly in the mountains. Fatigue and unexpected conditions can also affect your hike. Know your limitations and when to reschedule your hike. The mountains will be there another day.

For emergencies [Even if you are headed for just an hour, an injury, severe weather or a wrong turn could be life threatening. Don’t assume you’ll be rescued; know how to rescue yourself.

This stuff is essential if you are going out in the woods for more than a couple of hours.  Make sure that you are comfortable with your equipment and you know where it all fits in. Do not carry anything in your hands; do not tie a jacket around your waist. Everything should fit in your daypack. Carry your wallet and keys in your daypack, at all times.

Just like there are snow bunnies, there are hike bunnies! People that dress the part, but don't really walk the talk. Real hikers come to grips with the fact that no one looks good after grueling along for 6 or 7 miles. The clothes we wear can make the trip more comfortable and safe if not better looking!

Dress in layers. Your first layer should be a short-sleeve t-shirt (synthetic, not cotton) even if it seems cool in the morning. You will warm up. Your second layer should be a long-sleeve shirt (also synthetic). If you need extra layers, you will have your warm fleece/down sweater or jacket and rain/wind jacket. Shorts give you more mobility and keep you cooler; pants give you more protection from insects and brush.

Lunches and snacks: sandwich, granola bars, peanuts, trail mix, fruit, cookies, hard candy, etc…extra food in case of delayed return.

In your daypack

Small Pack. Day hikes don't require a lot of gear, so a small pack is just fine. Even in small packs, there are quite a few choices to make and your personal preference along with expected conditions and group size will help you pick a perfect pack.      

Hiking boots or trail runners. Your feet are your vehicle while hiking. Treat them well by supporting them and protecting them with sturdy, comfortable hiking boots or shoes and your trek will be oh so much more enjoyable. Unfortunately, there are gazillions of marketing ploys for hiking gear since it is such big business. You can spend as much as you want.

Good hiking socks. Socks aren't discussed much outside of the hiking community, but they are extremely important when you are counting on your feet to convey your tired body over miles and miles of rocky terrain. You may not realize it, but there are good socks and bad socks - choose wisely, grasshopper.

Trekking Poles/Hiking Sticks. OK, if you tired of the 10 essentials debate on your next hike, ask fellow hikers what they think about hiking sticks and trekking poles. That's sure to be a healthy conversation for an hour or more. Hiking poles have religious believers as well as nay-sayers. They can be useful, but learn to use them correctly and don't expect miracles. Many hikers like them for river/brook crossings, for balance and to mitigate wear/tear on knees for descents.       

Bandanna. Has a variety of uses.       

Two or more quarts of water in plastic water bottles or hydration bladder.         Gatorade is great to replace electrolytes.

Lunch and snacks.

Rain/Wind jacket (no matter what the forecast). For heavy rain, or wind-driven storms, a full rainsuit provides protection. For occasional showers, better ventilation, and sun protection, consider taking an umbrella on your hikes.

Long sleeve shirt (no matter what the forecast).


Sun hat.

Insect repellent.


Mostly-depleted roll of toilet paper, hand sanitizer.

Personal first aid kit.

LED headlamp with extra batteries.

Plastic bag for trash. Nothing should be thrown out in the woods.

Map (and know how to use it).

Compass (and know how to use it).

Cell phone, with a list of telephone numbers.

Above treeline: liner gloves and wool

If shoulder seasons, add:

Warm fleece/down sweater or jacket.

Rain pants

Wool or fleece hat and gloves.

Long pants or shorts with synthetic underwear bottoms.

Winter Season:

A daypack bigger than your summer one. We carry more clothing and gear in winter and need a place to put them. 

Winter insulated hiking boots.

Thick wool hiking socks [no cotton].

Trekking Poles [optional but many hikers like them for river/brook crossings,      for balance and mitigate wear/tear on knees for descents. 

Traction such as Kahtoola MicroSpikes or Hillsounds Trail Crampons.

Snowshoes [depends on trail conditions]. Have bungee cords in case you need to strap them on to your pack for later use.

Ice Axe and full crampons [depends on trail conditions]               

Bandanna. Has a variety of uses.       

Two quarts of hot water in plastic water bottles [not hydration bladders as the    line freezes]. Place your plastic water bottle in a thick wool sock or insulated      bottle parka upside down [water freezes from top to bottom]. There are now    insulated water bottles that keep liquids warm. We like to bring a very small      thermos filled with hot apple cider, hot chocolate, coffee, tea, etc.

Lunch and snacks. [On very cold days, we might not have long lunch break        and instead snack during the day].

Light or middle weight synthetic underwear; tops and bottoms

Long sleeve synthetic shirt

Outdoor Research Deviator

Fleece/Wool Vest

Down Parka

Nylon/Synthetic Pants [over synthetic underwear bottoms]


Wool Hat. On very cold/windy days neck gaiter/wool scarf, balaclava/facemask.

Heavy gloves or mittens [glove liners] and Chemical hand warmers.


Mostly-depleted roll of toilet paper, hand sanitizer.

Personal first aid kit.

Full length Z-Rest Pad [in case someone is injured] and a lightweight bivy   sack made of space blanket material.    

LED headlamp with extra batteries.

Plastic bag for trash. Nothing should be thrown out in the woods.

Map (and know how to use it).

Compass (and know how to use it).

Cell phone, with a list of telephone numbers.

Above treeline: Goggles, neck gaiter/scarf, balaclava, face mask.

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