Packing for a day hike

Home & Family, Outdoors
on September 24, 2000

Falls cool temperatures make it an excellent time for day hiking, and a little preparation can make the activity even nicer. And safer.

A hikes length and difficulty determine what supplies you should take, says Bill Greer, a 25-year hiker and founder of, an outdoor enthusiast and adventure travel website. If youre going for at least three hours, take about two quarts of water per person, fruit, bread, cheese, or other snacks.

Youll probably be hungrier than usual since youre burning calories, he cautions. So take extra food in case you end up taking a wrong turn and covering more ground than expected.

Packing for the unexpected is also essential, says Katie Miller, an avid hiker and librarian for the New River Gorge National Park in Glen Jean, W.Va.

Everything you take should be something you can use if you arent able to get back home when you planned, she says. Always take a flashlight. It will pick up your spirits if youre stranded overnight, she says, speaking from experience. And take toilet paper. Youll be more comfortable, and it can also start a fire.

Matches, a whistle, extra shoelaces, a first aid kit, knife, and a small mirror are essential, Greer advises. The signaling power of a mirror is amazing, he says.

Both experts urge taking an ample supply of sunscreen and bug repellent, a rain jacket, appropriate hat, and sunglasses. Miller also advises hikers to wear blaze orange vests or hats during hunting season. A map and compass can be helpful, says Greer, but only if you know how to use them together.

Cell phones may not be the lifesaver you think. They can be a lifeline in dire circumstances, but people take unwise chances because the phone offers a false sense of security, Miller says.

Take it with you, but dont be surprised if it doesnt work from your location, or that you could be so lost that you dont know your location, she says. Greer agrees that its a good safety backup, but should be used only in emergencies.

Finally, all supplies should fit comfortably into a good-sized fanny pack or small daypack.