There’s lots of advice on what to take on a hike, and I strongly recommend reviewing that advice from time to time even if you’re an experienced hiker. For this article, we’re going to look at some things you can skip.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a strong supporter of the Second Amendment, but honestly, unless you’re hiking in grizzly country or hiking off-trail into mountain lion country, and you’re carrying a weapon with a caliber sufficient to make the animal notice it’s been shot, it’s just extra weight. I’ve seen several guys with their 10mm Glock in a chest or hip holster on a trail that’s so busy, most animals avoid it like I try to avoid rush hour freeways.
Perhaps they are thinking animals aren’t the problem, the people are. Have you talked with folks on the trail? They are some of the most non-threatening, easy-going, folks you’re going to meet. Now, there are nature trails near some cities where people have been attacked, so there are exceptions to this one, but other than that, save some weight, attach bells to your backpack, and bring along some bear spray. In a pinch, it works on humans too.
Makeup and Perfume
I know for many, the reason to go on a hike is to find the perfect scenic spot and take a load of photos for social media. Looking good is important. I get it. On every hike, I spend an extra hour or two just shooting videos for my YouTube channel, Amputee Outdoors. Nonetheless, makeup and perfume have strong scents that can attract unwanted attention from bugs, bees, wasps, rodents, and even bears. And for those that like to put on a little extra cologne or perfume, the smell can ruin the outdoor experience for folks. Impress your subscribers and followers with your natural good looks and authentic self.
Large Bottles of Soda
Have you ever been on a trail and suddenly heard a belch that seemed to last minutes? You can bet that person is regretting bringing along that two-liter bottle of soda that’s been in their backpack for the last hour. It’s been bounced up a down, and the sun has brought it up to a nice 80F. They opened it up only for it to go full Mt. St. Helens on them, and then taste awful at near body temperature. And of course, they’ve drunk a load of it because they’re thirsty and found a mile later that they don’t feel so good.
Bring along two of those tall one-liter bottles filled with water. If you want flavour or some electrolytes, buy one of those little bottles of electrolyte concentrates, and add that to your water.
There have been lots of times back at the trailhead after a hike when I’ve watched folks take off their backpack and rub their shoulders complaining about the pain. That’s going to happen when you hike up a mountain with a backpack designed to be worn for about half an hour. Do yourself a favour, scour the secondhand shops, Craigs List, or Amazon, and find a hiking backpack. One with a waist strap and sternum strap. Together they will keep the pack from moving around straining your shoulders and the waist strap will help put more of the load on your hips.
I recommend a pack with a padded waist belt and some form of internal frame to stiffen the pack and reduce the pull on your should even more.
Lots of Food
You should always bring a little more food than you plan to eat, just in case. This doesn’t mean that you need to bring a 12-inch Subway sandwich, an apple, two Snickers bars, ½ pound of trail mix, one pack of beef jerky, and last night’s leftovers. Now, if you’re planning to hike up to some alpine meadow with a romantic picnic lunch to create a moment you and your special someone will remember forever, (don’t laugh, I’ve seen it done and yes, it was very sweet), go for it. Otherwise, keep your food to something that won’t get smushed or melted, that you can snack on over the course of the day, and that will provide you with calories and protein.
Rambo Knives and Survival Tools
It’s a powerful temptation, (especially for us men folk) when we see those tacticool survival tools and big elk skinning knives. And I do have some of those tools, they come in handy when I’m doing a little bush crafting. But for a day hike? Sort of like carrying a gun, lots of weight with no benefit. I’ve done a review of one of those 15 in 1 survival tools and honestly, only about four or five of the items in the kit will ever go on a hike with me and I had those tools in my kit already. If you have the Ten Essentials, you’re going to be fine.
This isn't about trail runners, folks that wear trail running shoes know their trails and aren't foolish enough to try and run up slippery, rocky, muddy trails in the mountains. This is about the folks that wear jogging shoes, Keds with no laces, Doc Martins with two-inch soles, slip-ons, etc. I've seen so many folks enjoying their day until they've slipped in the mud and taken a fall, twisted an ankle, stopped every 50 feet to massage their arches, made their calves burn from the extra weight, or ruin a pair of expensive Nikes. If you're just doing day hikes, do yourself a favour and buy a pair of mid-ankle hiking boots from a local department store. You'll be happier for it.
This list of what not to bring is just for day hikes, for an overnighter the list of what not to bring is even longer. Maybe I’ll get to that list another time. For now, enjoy the great outdoors, and see you out there!