A starter packing list for any nature lover looking to explore the outdoors.
I have been guilty of going on many a hike without being prepared. Luckily, I’ve never had any problems, but I know how quickly that can change given unpredictable Canadian weather and how easy it is to get turned around. These tips, from Sarah Bulford, a British Columbia-based park ranger, are great additions to your hiking packing list.
1. Extra socks and a hat
“Warm hats and socks are kind of a given,” says Bulford. Even if you find yourself hiking on a warm day, the evening can turn cold pretty quickly, especially if you’re further north or in the mountains. “You don’t want to get hypothermia if you unexpectedly have to spend the night outdoors.” Having an extra pair of socks is a good idea regardless of the weather. Stepping into a creek or river by accident will not make for a pleasant hike if you spend the rest of the time with wet toes.
Darn Tough Hiker Socks, $27, mec.ca.
2. Head lamp
Despite using a head lamp for nighttime reading, it’s also very helpful to have for keeping your hands free while moving around in the dark. It’s a must for any overnight camping trips, but is worthwhile to bring on every outdoor adventure, just in case you’re expectedly spending the night.
LedLenser MH5, $67.50, ledlenser.ca.
3. Plastic bags
As we noted in our article about outdoor adventure tips, using plastic bags to keep dry socks away from damp shoes will save your feet in the long run.
Multi-tools have come a long way, so there’s no reason why you can’t find one to take on your next trip outdoors. For outdoor adventures specifically, a tool that has a flint, scissors, a whistle, a knife and any other useful gadgets will help free up backpack space too.
Leatherman Signal Multi-Tool, $138, leatherman.ca.
5. First-aid kit
Make sure to customize your first aid kit to include only the essentials—and not just the items that came in it when you bought it. This includes extra gauze and bandaids, abdominal pads and disinfectant wipes.
Adventure Medical Day Tripper First Aid Kit, $25, mec.ca.
6. Water bottle
Having a water bottle is key almost anywhere and for any activity—but especially if you’ll be exerting energy outside the vicinity of easily-accessible drinking water.
Hydro Flask Standard with Flex Cap, $40, well.ca.
There’s nothing like a sharp piercing noise to bring people together—literally. A whistle is a great tool if you become separated from your group or you need to alert someone to your presence.
Ultimate Survival Technologies, $7.50, amazon.ca.
8. Fire starter
Having matches or a fire starter is key for building a campfire. You can also pack dryer sheets, which are great for starting fires if you’re worried about finding dry kindling.
Red Bird Matches, $6, canadaintire.ca.
A tarp will keep you and your stuff dry in unplanned for rain and if you do find yourself lost, can be used to contribute to your shelter.
Guard PolyTarp, $6, mec.ca.
10. Trip plan
Having a plan before you set out is essential—and making sure to let someone know that plan before you leave, even more so. This way, someone (a family member, friend, neighbour, etc.) knows when to expect you back and whereabouts you'll be during your excursion. Which is crucial if you get lost of waylaid or if the weather suddenly turns. At least one person can alert help if it seems like you may be stuck.
11. Water purification
Keeping water close at hand is key, but it won't do you much good if you can't drink it. And while filling your water bottle before you leave is good, making sure you can drink the water available if you run out is better. Opt for purification tablets or other water purification devices (like this straw) when you're on the move.
Lifestraw Personal Water Filter, $25, amazon.ca.
Whether the goal of your hike is to find a nice lunch spot for some homemade sandwiches (like these great chicken curry sammies) or you're headed on a day-long fitness quest in the outdoors packing snacks (and extra snacks just in case) is super important. Think nuts, granola bars, fruits and energy bites.
13. Navigation and communication devices
A handheld communication and GPS device may take some of the allure of disconnecting away from your adventure, but it's absolutely essential, especially if the worst should happen. Make sure to have one charged and in your bag just in case you need to call for help or get in touch—especially if the area you're headed doesn't have cellular service.
Garmin ETREX 10 Handheld GPS, $130, canadiantire.ca.
14. Sun protection
We've said it before and we'll say it again: sunscreen is super important. Which is why you should carry it at all times and apply it every day. But, when you're headed outdoors to spend some time (even if the forecast doesn't call for sun) it's important to pack sunscreen, hats, sunglasses and other SPF-rated clothing so that you don't wind up getting burnt if you're out there longer than you think.