People often think that hiking only means taking long walks in nature surrounded by idyllic views. This is certainly true, but it is only part of the truth. Walking for a long time, far from the cities and sometimes in really isolated places difficult to reach can expose you to some risks. An accurate and careful preparation is essential for a pleasant and successful excursion. That's why if you are approaching hiking for the first time or if you are a beginner, here is the list of the 8 things that you must have in your backpack during your next hike!
As you know by now, we live hiking as a pleasant break from routine, a way to take back our time together, relax ourselves and be in harmony with nature. That’s why the accurate preparation of an excursion is so important to us: we do our best to be sure to maintain only good memories of each excursion and we do our best to minimize the risk of unforeseen events.
After a careful selection of the itinerary, in fact, an essential part of any excursion’s preparation is certainly to decide what to put in the backpack, carefully selecting what is really essential for you. We, after several attempts and some more or less serious mistakes, finally managed to prepare our checklist of the perfect hiker. Obviously, it can depend on the type of route you intend to walk, the season and the duration of the hike, but if you’re approaching hiking for the first time or if you’re a beginner, here’s the list of 8 items that you must have with you on your next hike!
GPS app for map reference
In mountain hikes it’s often difficult to find clear landmarks and get your orientation. In addition, on some types of trails, especially if rocky, the marked path can sometimes be barely visible, which increases the risk of losing your way and getting lost. That’s why the first thing you should absolutely bring with you is a paper hiking map or, even better, its modern version: a map app for smartphones with free access to your GPS location. We use Outdooractive, we talked about it here in an article dedicated to the six essential apps for hiking in Switzerland. For us, it’s the perfect app both in the planning and route selection phase (it has a huge archive of freely searchable routes), and to orient us during a nature walk. The app can be used for free, after registration. The free version provides access to the main features, but for more demanding users there are of course also Premium plans available. If you’re not sure if you want to subscribe it, the app allows all new users a free 30-day premium PRO or PRO+ subscription, which can be cancelled at any time before it expires.
Water and energy bars
Did you know that during a two-hour hike a man can lose up to two liters of fluid? Obviously this is an estimate and the amount of water to be reintegrated after a hike may depend on the type of route, the outside temperature and many other factors. We always make sure to start our walking with at least one liter of water each. However, the one certain thing is that water is an essential resource during any hike, especially in the summertime and when the sun is beating down. So make sure you have enough for the duration of the trail, because many mountain trails do not offer any refreshment points and you probably won’t be able to buy it on the spot. During the trail, drink a few but very often sips so you will not overdo it and stay hydrated up to the end of the trail. Green tip: don’t buy water in plastic bottles! Buy a good water bottle and if possible fill them with tap water! Here you can find some proposals to buy one at good quality and good price. However, we suggest you to spend a bit more to buy a thermic model, so you can bring with you not only fresh water, but also hot drinks during a winter excursion! Either way, though, the planet will be grateful to you 😉
Also, be sure to bring some food with you: don’t think only about lunch! During a long hike, you may need to recover lost energy in order to continue. So bring some energy bars to eat during the hike, so that you can regain your strength and energy to get to the end of the hike and to keep a fast and safe step. We buy our snack bars at this online shop. Do you need some advice? We like this one and this one! Try to guess which one is the preferred by the two of us!
Sunscreen and lipstick to prevent sunburn
The sun in the mountains beats down a lot. This is because the higher you go, the thinner the atmosphere is. This means that ultraviolet rays are less filtered and can penetrate our skin with more strength.
Furthermore, at high altitudes the temperatures are usually lower and there is often a slight breeze that makes us feel less warm. So, we often realize that we have sunburned only when it is too late. That’s why your backpack cannot miss a good sunscreen with a high protection factor. Also, don’t forget to protect your lips! Usually people are not worried about that, but if you want to avoid that annoying feeling of dry, cracked or split lips, remember to buy a hydrating lip stick with UV protection.
Sunglasses and hat
As mentioned above, protecting yourself from sunburn in the mountains is really important. And it’s just as crucial to protect your head and eyes. So remember to bring a hat with a visor to wear throughout your hike. Choose washable and breathable materials. This way it’ll be comfortable to use even for a long period and does not hinder perspiration and heat loss. Here you’ll find plenty of choice for good quality products.
And for the eyes? Even the eyes need to be protected from prolonged exposure to the sun. Protection is a must if the route includes snow or glaciers, which reflect the sun’s rays and multiply the risks. Therefore, choose comfortable glasses, made of lightweight materials and that cover the eyes completely. To enjoy the highest level of protection, choose products marked UV400.
Often underestimated, trekking sticks can be a great help on uneven terrain or narrow and exposed trails. They provide additional support and improve balance, thus preventing falls and slips. More than once they have been a valuable support for us, allowing us to choose routes that we would probably have avoided without them. For this reason, we absolutely recommend them. For occasional hikers, basic aluminum models might be sufficient, but for the most demanding hikers, we recommend a carbon model, which is light and rigid at the same time. On the market, you will also find one-piece, two-piece and three-piece telescopic models.
We suggest you choose at least a two-piece model, which is easier to carry around and less bulky when closed. Of course, make sure the telescopic closure is of high quality and that it is not at risk of breaking or closing unintentionally! You’ll find some great ones here.
Swiss Army Knife
It’s an authentic Swiss icon, so going to the mountains in Switzerland without putting one in your backpack is really not possible! The legendary Victorinox Swiss Army knife has a very old history. It was born at the end of the nineteenth century as a multifunctional tool for the army. Since then it has come a long way and today the most advanced models even offer over 15 tools, all cleverly hidden inside a bright red shield. Having one with you on a hike can prove to be a true blessing, both for practical needs and in case of emergency.
What could be nicer than sharing with our loved ones the wonders of the places we visit during an excursion? And to do so we take with our smartphones an endless series of photographs that we then send through the messaging tools or upload to the social networks. The result of all this, apart from the joy of sharing, is that we often find ourselves halfway through the hike with a dead phone battery, watching a completely black screen. The problem is that in the mountains a cell phone is often the only way for contacting civilization and, at the same time, the only tool that can really help save our lives in case of danger. So no: hiking with a dead smartphone is not a good idea at all! That’s why among the eight things to put in the backpack before every excursion we put a power bank!
First aid kit
We’ve figured it out by now, the mountains can be dangerous sometimes. And we are not only thinking about the risk of slipping or falling, which can have serious consequences, but also about more simple situations of difficulty such as small wounds, scratches or insect bites. Both in the first case and in the second, carrying a first aid kit can really make a difference. Being able to disinfect and medicate an open wound will allow you to continue the excursion without too many worries, just as being able to give first aid to a person injured or in difficulty will certainly be a great help to him.
On Bergzeit* there are many types, some perhaps too essential. We recommend that you choose a model that also contains a small thermal blanket, useful for keeping a person warm in case of trouble until the arrival of emergency vehicles.
So, now you have your checklist and you are ready for your first excursion! What do you think about it? Is there anything you would like to add to this list? What do you think you really can’t do without and what do you think is superfluous?
Let us know by leaving a comment below!
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