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What to Pack When You Hit the Trail

I've cleaned out my trusty hiking backpack (sort of) and was amazed by the items that I'd collected over the years.

Going through my hiking backpack is a bit like going on an adventure in and of itself.

I never really know what to bring on a trek through the woods, even if it’s only for a mile or two or up Mount Washington (yes, I was one of those people — not vehicles — who actually climbed Mt. Washington).

I always remember water and some sort of a healthy snack like granola, a peanut butter sandwich, or a bagel with hummus and cheddar cheese. I usually forget a trail map (thank goodness for smart phones!) and always forget a sweet snack; this doesn’t help when I get a major craving for chocolate when I reach my destination.

Then there is the other stuff that has seemed to take up residence in my hiking pack over the 10-plus years that I’ve owned my Camelback Hawk (do they even make it anymore?).

The cowbell (you never know when you’ll need a cowbell), the OFF! bug spray (I need to check the expiration date on the bottle) and fistful of matches that have been safely tucked way in a Hefty sandwich bag with zipper top for probably six years. I’m not sure any of these items have seen the light of day on a real hike.

Then there is my rain poncho that might not even be whole when I finally take it out of its plastic wrap and the Space Emergency Thermal Protection Bag just in case of … well, just in case.

And don’t forget the hand sanitizer and cash (I found $9)!

When it comes to the contents of a hiking pack, the author of the hikingdude.com says it best: “The amount of fun packed into a hike is inversely proportional to the amount of stuff packed into your bag.”

Curious about what I should really pack for a day on the trails, or just an hour, I looked online for some tips. The ones that I think are worth noting include:

  • Always make sure you have a basic first aid kit, according to livestrong.com. This is common sense, but is something I don’t think to bring on a quick trip around Pachaug State Forest.
  • Pack the necessities: compass, map, sunglasses, rain gear, a knife (I lost my Swiss Army knife a while back and need to replace it), flashlight and bug spray. And your camera, don’t forget your camera.
  • Nutrients. Even on a short hike a healthy snack can be important. Make sure to separate the dried goods from, say, that cooked chicken breast that you tossed into a baggy before walking out the door. And keep the cold stuff cold.
  • Water, water, water. Definitely have enough to keep your body hydrated. There’s almost nothing worse than being 2 miles along on the trail and realizing that you forgot your Nalgene bottle in the car (yes, this has happened to me).

As long as my pack doesn’t get too heavy, I’ll make sure I follow these tips the next time I grab my pack and take a hike.

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