Gear Check: Essentials for a Day Hike
This month, the Alite crew wanted to post some great information on doing simple day hikes. Call us inspired after the whole office decide to ditch the office one day and hike Steep Ravine in Muir Woods. (More on that later…) So we decided to put together this Gear Check for folks who are interested in embarking on simple day hikes. Now, to be clear, this Gear Check is written for the person who has NOT hiked the Appalachian Trail, who has NOT hiked the Continental Divide, and who has not even thought about hiking Machu Picchu. In fact, if you considered walking from Friday’s happy hour spot to the late night BBQ food truck to be your last legit outdoor hike, then we are aiming at YOU.
National parks are great place to start for simple day hiking. They’re full of short trails that are easy, accessible, and probably not being enjoyed by you… until now. And while it might seem obvious what gear to carry along on a day hike, having a cheat sheet of hiking gear will certainly come in handy as you plan your next excursion, into the woods… that is…. not the Waffle House.
Footwear – The absence of heavy duty, thick-soled hiking boots that lace up to your knee should not stop you from hitting the trail. At the very least, you should use a pair of athletic shoes. These will have harder insoles and outsoles, as well as aggressive rubber tread on the underside of the outsoles (also known as lugs) for better traction on non-pavement areas. You can go up a step and use “trail runners”. Salomon is a popular brand for trail runners. You can also go up a few steps and scoop a pair of actual hiking boots, such as Danner. You can easily spend as much as $200-$400 on a pair of hiking boots, so there’s no shame in sporting the Asics or Nike cross trainers on your first excursions.
Clothing – At Alite, we like to keep it super simple. For clothing, use of a blended t-shirt will work (think American Apparel 50/50. If you live in San Francisco or Williamsburg, you own one.) An athletic shirt will also work (think Under Armor. If you ever decided that weight-lifting was a good New Year’s resolution, you own one.) You will want to stay away from your old Hanes Beefy T’s because the cotton will soak up perspiration and keep you damp all day. Polyester blends and athletic apparel are better at allowing moisture to evaporate. And even on easy day hikes, you’re liable to sweat a little.
Pants – Our rule of thumb: if you can ride your bike in them, then they'll work.
Socks – Stay away from thin socks (like dress socks). Otherwise, you’ll have blisters the size of Mentos on your feet. If you have gym socks or athletic socks, you’re covered. Short of actual hiking socks, you could use wool socks. But make sure they aren’t too heavy. Otherwise, your feet will melt, and when you remove them post-hike, they’ll have an effect not unlike general anesthesia on your hiking companion, and perhaps yourself.
Water bottle – At the very least, a Crystal Geyser or Smartwater will work. The bummer about those is that you may have to carry them. You can scale up and use a Klean Kanteen bottle, which is super lightweight and can attach via carabineer to your belt loop.
Daypacks – These are small, lightweight back packs. It might seem unnecessary if you’re hike is a short one, but daypacks really come in handy for bringing along snacks, water, extra layers, and other optionals that make the hike more enjoyable. And sometimes those of you whom are directionally challenged might take the road less traveled, and wind up stretching the morning hike into a full day hike… in this case, it’s nice to have extra food and layers available. We recommend the Alite Woodchuck pack, Battery Pack, or the West Bluff Pack for day hikes
Snacks – Sandwiches, fruit, and deli meat are always easy food options. We also recommend trail mix and CLIF bars to keep your blood sugar up and your calves pumping down the trail.
This list should make sure your next actual outdoor hike will be easy and enjoyable.
This next list includes some optionals that are worth considering.
Camp chair – Our furniture line is full of lightweight chairs that will comfort tired legs and make all of your friends jealous when you are admiring the view from your comfy seat. We recommend the Monarch, Mayfly or Mantis chairs for the perfect day hiking companions.
First Aid Kit – Everyone at Alite agreed that the Travel MEDIC kit from Adventure Medical Kits was the best first aid kit for simple hiking. It includes ibuprofen, blister & burn dressing, antibiotic ointment, Band Aids, and more in a neat little travel pouch.
Sun Protection – Shades, hat, and sunscreen. Whether you’re in Chinatown or a Walgreens, you can probably score all of these in the same spot. We recommend a bingo night visor for ultimate forehead sun protection.
Pocket Knife – Take along a pocket knife to cut up that tasty cheese and salami you brought along or open a celebratory beer when you reach the top.
Additional layers – Insulated shells and outer layer fleeces might be in order if you’re in colder climates. Tae Kim (the crazy Alaskan who founded Alite Designs) recommends Uniqlo’s line of affordable shells and fleeces; you can scale up with shells and fleeces from North Face or Marmot.
Flash light – If last night’s bought with Bulleit Rye kept you in bed till noon, then late afternoon day hikes can get dark in a hurry. The flashlight app on your iPhone can help out in a pinch, just make sure you have a full charge!
Charged phone – It might not provide a super solid light source, but most will nail the compass and the map requirements.
SO, to recap, here are your Day Hike Ingredients:
1 pair of tennis shoes or trail runners
1 t-shirt - 50/50 blend
1 pair of comfortable pants
1 pair of gym or wool socks
1 water bottle
1 small day pack
1 or more bags of trail mix
That should do it! Nab the items on this list, and you should easily enjoy your afternoon among the trees. Oh, did we mention to bring a (full) stainless steel flask on the hike too? That one's a Must Have.