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 terrain and conditions, "appropriate footwear" could be anything from sneakers to snowshoes. Solid traction is essential and waterproofing is highly recommended.

Absolute. The idiots that say cellphone need to learn about maps, trails, nature. Stay in the city if you can't live without your obnoxious cellphone obsession. We hate you on the trails.

Absolutely. Crocs just won't cut it for ventures such as 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's going to happen in the woods, and it can happen quickly. A means by which to contact help and broadcast location might save your life or anothers. 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 an occasional picture.

3 Appropriate clothing

Maybe a T-shirt, maybe a parka. An extra pair of socks is a good idea--I've 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"--basically glorified ski poles. They not only exercise your upper body but provide better balance and grip on treacherous terrain.

6 A hiking buddy

Just my regular walk? 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 s/he is the kind of person you can spend a couple isolated hours with.

7 Water

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

If your out for a long time you'll need a filter to pump some more

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 no doubt be ideal, it would also be rather unwieldy. I keep a few band-aids and some disinfectant in a 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 that person who's not prepared. 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

Don't leave home without it!

13 Sunscreen
14 Fire materials

In case you get lost

15 Bear spray
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