A list of essentials for the Michigan day-hiker: Part 1

Planning a hike or another outdoor activity? Be prepared ahead of time with these hiking essentials.

Gearing up for spring weather and outdoor activities such as hiking? If so, being prepared ahead of time with hiking essentials will make you all the more confident in case of an emergency or a sudden change of plans. Anticipating your needs and preparing for uncertainty can make an active day outside all the more pleasurable.

Whether it is a day hike or a multi-day backpacking trip having specific items is essential. But before we identify the must-haves for these activities defining them is necessary. First of all, what are day hikes and what is multi-day backpacking? Day hikes are just that, hikes that can be done in a day or less. Multi-day backpacking is essentially hikes that take more than one day and often involve overnight stays either in a tent or outdoor facility of some kind. Both activities require a list of essential items; however, day hikes require less due to shorter distance and therefore less time.

When going on day hikes having these items can help ensure your activity will be more enjoyable:

  1. Water bottle (with water): Be sure to bring plenty of water no matter what time of year it is. Plan for drinking more even though you might just be taking a short hike. The Mayo Health Clinic recommends three liters a day for males and 2.2 liters for females.
  2. Food: It is always a good idea to bring some sort of snacks that can provide you with energy and nutrition in case of an emergency or if you simply get hungry. Michigan State University Extension nutrition institute has a number of resources related to healthy eating.
  3. Extra clothing: Don’t be shy to bring an extra hat or long-sleeve shirt (or rain coat) no matter what time of year it is. This applies to gloves in the winter too. You can always take it off if you get hot, but if you don’t have it then you cannot put it on if you get cold.
  4. Hat: A hat can be a good idea if it gets cold or if the sun comes out unexpectedly. Protecting yourself from the sun can decrease your risk of sun-burn and sun-stroke.
  5. Cell phone: Most people don’t leave home without their cell phone these days. Taking it with you on a day hike is a good idea for a number of reasons, such as to use in case of emergencies, to take photos, possibly use GPS, flashlight, and/or perhaps listen to the news or music. Keep in mind cell phone reception isn’t always reliable in areas and battery life can drain quickly when searching for signals or using other services on the phone. If you have a smart phone, one thing to consider would be to put your phone in airplane mode to prolong battery life.
  6. A whistle: If your trusty cell phone fails you due to low reception or battery power then having a whistle can help when all else fails.
  7. Additional items: Hikers might want to consider flashlights, compass, maps, sunscreen and insect repellant as well. Tissue on hand just in case is a good idea too.
  8. Backpack: Carrying all of these essentials wouldn’t be feasible without a backpack. Most backpacks come with whistles attached on the sternum buckles, pockets for water bottles, and plenty of room to store clothes, hats, food, and other necessities.
  9. Good footwear: A good pair of shoes or hiking boots with ample arch and ankle support is also important for longer hikes. Shoes or boots should be worn-in to minimize the chances of blisters. Avoid sandals or loose boots, like rain boots, unless you’ve hiked in these before and forecasts of wet weather might make your shoes/hiking boots even more difficult to walk in.

These are the items I typically carry any time I venture out for the day to one of Michigan’s many county, metro, state, and national parks. Hikers certainly can carry whatever they choose to that will suit their needs best. By no means is this a comprehensive list that will suit all your needs on any day or multi-day backpacking adventure. Residents and visitors to Michigan are encouraged to consult with experts ahead of time to determine a list of essentials based on their hiking plans.

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