Hiking 101: What Should I Pack for a Day Hike?
The thing is – once you invest in a few essential items, you don't have to think about it anymore. I keep the essentials in my pack and just add what I need for the day. If you don't hike often, between hikes you can keep the first-aid kit in your car glove compartment for emergencies. I actually keep an extra one in my car because you never know when you'll need to treat a wound or maybe you're stranded on the road and need an emergency blanket to keep warm while you wait for help.
If you're hiking with others, I recommend that each person carry their own first-aid kit because even if you're hiking together, you might get separated. When I was hiking The Crack at Killarney Provincial Park, I had a major fall that luckily wasn't as bad as it could have been. With a few surface scratches – I quickly grabbed my kit and treated my wounds right on the spot and continued along the trail.
As I mentioned in my confessions – I hate carrying things, so what I have in my pack is minimal.
Here's what I keep in my backpack at all times:
1) 3-litre waterproof bag (Seems odd to have this? Read why I won't leave home without it below)
2) Emergency Bivvy and blanket
6) Flint for sparking a fire in the absence of matches. Plus matches may not light if wet, defective or if it's too windy outside.
7) First-Aid kit with adhesive bandages (i.e. Band-Aids), polysporin, alcohol pads, stick-free gauze pads, adhesive tape, tweezers, single-use eye drops, small scissors and hand sanitizer). Tip: I personally don't like store-bought first-aid kits. They aren't cheap and often the quality of the items are bad – for example bandages that don't stick and tweezers that don't pinch together. I think that you're really just paying for the bag it comes in. I bought my own pouch which happened to have First Aid written on it (you can use any pouch) and bought my own supplies. A water resistant or waterproof bag is best.
8) Gloves. Even if it's not cold outside, gloves are great if you need to grab onto trees/rocks for support. Often trees and rocks are coated with moss/algae/lichen – which I personally would rather not touch with my bare hands. The surfaces may contain bacteria as well. When I was at the mini falls at Niagara Glen Nature Reserve I put on my gloves. I saw that others were disgusted by touching the wet slimy rocks while I was perfectly content.
9) Snack bars. I keep extra in my pack in case I get hungry or need a boost of energy on the trail.
Before I head out I'll add:
1) Portable charger. Your phone battery can drain quickly if it's cold outside and/or used for taking videos and photos.
2) One-litre bottle filled with water – my personal choice is the Nalgene brand because their bottles are made with heavy-duty plastic (I can pile stuff on top of it and it won't get crushed), they don't leak and have a handle (great for being able to hook it onto the outside of my pack if there's no more room inside).
3) Coconut water for extra hydration.
4) Fruit/lunch/extra snacks
5) Extra clothing such as a rain poncho and accessories such as a hat, as applicable.
6) Trail maps, if needed.
What I'll be adding:
1) Kinesio tape – great portable support in the case of a sprained ankle. I bought a foam sprain board, but it's just not practical to carry it around.
2) Swiss Army knife. Haven't decided on one yet.
What I keep in my car:
1) Phone charger
2) Extra bottle(s) filled with water
3) Full change of clothes
4) Extra pair of shoes
5) Life jacket (if there's ever a chance that I might be near water). Rental jackets are usually slimy and nasty in my opinion. I'd much rather have my own where possible.
Follow me on Instagram for my latest adventures
What's in my pack
Why I won't leave home without my 3-litre waterproof bag
When I was at Point Pelee National Park, they were selling these bags for $20 each at the canoe rental place. I debated if I should buy one but decided against it. It was a sunny day, but suddenly dark storm clouds rolled in while I was in my canoe and the rain started to fall in sheets. I started to panic that my cell phone and car remote would die. I was far from home and my car cannot be started without the remote (there's no key – genius eh?). There was no visibility, the strong currents were pushing me in the opposite direction and the canoe was filling up with water. Though I was already drenched with water, I put my phone and car remote in my underwear to try to save them. It's funny the things that you're thankful for in critical situations – in this case I was happy that the cards in my wallet were plastic and that Canada changed its bills from paper to plastic. Eventually, the storm died down and I found my way back to shore. After that day, I vowed to buy and keep this small portable waterproof bag with me at all times. Whenever it's raining, I put my valuables inside then put the bag into my backpack. I also use my bag whenever I'm kayaking or around water.
Fast forward to a drier day…
When I went to Elora Gorge, I thought that the river tubing season was over (because the website showed that it was done) so I wasn't prepared to go tubing. When I saw people floating in tubes in the river, it was obvious that the season was extended. Spontaneously, I decided to go tubing in the Grand River. I grabbed my life jacket (which as I mentioned above – that I keep in my car) and grabbed my waterproof bag. I put my wallet, keys and cell phone inside the bag, sealed it and clipped it onto my life jacket clasp…and coasting down the river is where I went. Ok, so you wonder – didn't my clothes get all wet? Yes, I was soaked and shivering but smiling knowing that I had a full change of clothes in my car. Being comfortable in nature is number one. Always plan ahead. Going back to my special waterproof bag – without it my river tubing adventure would not have been possible. It's not really possible to carry a backpack on a tube. That day, there was a lady that dropped her car key into the river. She had to call a tow truck. Lucky for her, she lived only 45 minutes away.