For more than two years, the pandemic has left many of us feeling stir-crazy and longing for a chance to get outdoors. It left us with no choice but to stay indoors and take up new hobbies like baking banana bread and perfecting our yoga poses.
But as restrictions start to ease, we’re finally getting the opportunity to stretch our legs and explore the great outdoors again. Everyone is taking off their masks, slowly easing their way out of lockdown, and getting back into nature. Now is the perfect time to start planning your first camping or hiking trip of the year.
But before you head out into the wilderness, there are a few things you should consider packing in your backpack. Here are 12 essentials for your first hiking and camping trip:
1. A map of the area – or better yet, a GPS. Knowing where you are (and where you’re going) is crucial when you’re out in the middle of nowhere. You don’t want to get lost!
2. A first-aid kit. You never know when you might need it, so it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Your first-aid kit should have bandages, antiseptic cream, painkillers, and any other medications you might need.
3. A flashlight or headlamp. You’ll need this for both light and safety. If you’re hiking at night or in low-light conditions, a flashlight will help you see where you’re going. And if you find yourself in an emergency, a headlamp will free up your hands so you can call for help or signal for rescue. You can also bring a portable solar panel carry bag to charge your devices on the go.
4. A Swiss army knife or multi-tool. This is another one of those “better safe than sorry” items. A Swiss army knife can be used for everything from opening cans to fixing a broken zipper. And a multi-tool will come in handy if you need to make any small repairs.
5. A fire starter. If you find yourself in a survival situation, being able to start a fire can mean the difference between life and death. You should pack a fire starter and some tinder (like dryer lint or cotton balls soaked in petroleum jelly) so you can get a flame going even if it’s wet outside.
6. This is an obvious one, but it’s worth repeating: Always bring plenty of water with you on your hike, especially if you’re planning on being out all day. A water bottle or CamelBak will do the trick.
7. Even if you’re only planning on being out for a few hours, it’s always a good idea to pack some snacks. Energy bars, trail mix, and dried fruit are all great options. Aside from satisfying your hunger, they’ll also give you a much-needed energy boost if you start to flag.
8. A tent. If you’re planning on camping overnight, you’ll need a tent to sleep in. Tents come in all shapes and sizes, so do some research before you make your purchase. You’ll want to consider factors like the size of your group, the weather conditions you’ll be camping in, and how easy it is to set up.
9. Sleeping bag. Another essential for an overnight camping trip. Sleeping bags come in different “temperature ratings,” so make sure you choose one that’s appropriate for the time of year and the area you’ll be camping in.
10. Camp stoves. If you’re planning on doing any cooking while you’re camping, you’ll need a camp stove. Again, there are many different types and sizes to choose from, so do your research before making a purchase.
11. Dishes and utensils. Don’t forget the dishes and utensils! If you’re planning on cooking, you’ll need pots, pans, plates, bowls, cups, and silverware. And if you’re not planning on cooking, you’ll still need a way to eat your trail mix and energy bars.
12. Proper footwear. This is probably the most important item on the list. Make sure you have appropriate footwear for the type of terrain you’ll be hiking on. If you’re not sure, err on the side of caution and choose shoes or boots that are sturdy and provide good support.
Packing for your first camping or hiking trip can seem daunting, but if you focus on the essentials, you’ll be just fine. And who knows? Once you get out there and start exploring, you might just find that you love it!