Top Ten Hiking Essentials

"An early morning walk is a blessing for the whole day." - Henry David Thoreau

Whether you go to the woods to live deliberately or merely to take the air, certain items are indispensable. They'll make your experience more enjoyable, and in extreme cases, they could save your life--it's a wild world out there.

Ultimately, your experience with nature is your own, and you shouldn't listen to me or anyone else who tells you that you must do things a certain way. I can only offer a few pointers based on my own experiences with the Canadian wilderness. Take them or leave them as you wish.

All hikes are not created equal--some last minutes, others days. Obviously, their "essentials" vary.
The Top Ten
1 Appropriate footwear

Depending on the terrain and conditions, "appropriate footwear" could range from sneakers to snowshoes. Solid traction is essential, and waterproofing is highly recommended.

Absolutely. Crocs just won't cut it for ventures like these, my friends.

2 Cell phone

No, this is not essential so you can pop in earbuds and listen to inspirational music while posting oak tree selfies on every social media platform known to man. It's essential because you never know what will happen in the woods, and it can happen quickly. A means to contact help and broadcast your location might save your life or another's. Plus, it's never a bad idea to carry a camera, GPS, and field guide in your pocket.

Personally, I leave mine in "Do Not Disturb" mode and only use it to take occasional pictures.

3 Appropriate clothing

Maybe a T-shirt, maybe a parka. An extra pair of socks is a good idea - I have regretted not packing one countless times. Soakers are easy to come by.

4 Insect repellent

There are a variety of products and myths that claim to keep mosquitoes and their fellow bloodsuckers away. None of them work, but good old bug spray fails the least miserably.

I am a mosquito magnet, so this item is always number one on my list.

5 Walking stick/poles

I use "Nordic walking poles," which are essentially glorified ski poles. They not only exercise your upper body but also provide better balance and grip on treacherous terrain.

6 A hiking buddy

For my regular walk, it's no big deal. But if I'm checking out a new trail or exploring farther afield, I never go alone. Having another person along keeps you safer and can enrich the experience. Make sure they are the kind of person you can spend a couple of isolated hours with.

7 Water

It is possible to find or create sanitary drinking water in the bush if you know what you're doing. But do you really want to?

8 Food

A granola bar can work wonders if you're low on energy.

9 First aid kit

You're probably picturing some suitcase with a red cross on its side. While one of those would be ideal, it would also be unwieldy. I keep a few band-aids and some disinfectant in my pocket.

10 Mace

I've encountered wolves, bears, coyotes, wildcats, and other animals that could easily kill me. Chances are I'll never need it, but I don't want to be the person who's unprepared. Wildlife is called wildlife for a reason. Why not give it the respect it deserves? If you're not convinced, message me, and I'll describe the freshly killed deer carcass I discovered one winter morning.

The Contenders
11 A knife
12 Anti-chafing cream
13 Sunscreen
14 Fire materials
15 Bear spray
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