The Privileged Life: 11 Packing Essentials for a Day Hike

“…walk worthy of God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.” 1 Thessalonians 2:12

Want to go on a “day hike”? Look around your area for a new park or forest to explore. You shouldn’t have to go too far to find some whisper-quiet woods, a grassy plain, or a riverside walkway. With the pandemic upon us right now and so many other activities shut down, a day hike is a wonderful privilege.

Before you walk out the door, though, take a few minutes to plan ahead…you want to come home with happy memories, not twisted ankles, blisters, ticks, or heat stroke. I’ve learned how to pack after many years of hiking with my family to waterfalls and overlooks in the Appalachian Mountains. Here’s my list of essentials, and they don’t add a huge amount of weight:

1) The right footwear—If your trails typically are rocky or have lots of roots, invest in sturdy, comfortable hiking boots with lots of padding. These don’t have to be super-expensive (I love my RedHead boots from Bass Pro Shops). For lots of creek passages, wear waterproof sandals with ankle straps and thick soles, or just pack them along to occasionally swap out with your boots where water is too deep. Running shoes are good for mostly-level, hard-packed dirt trails or paved walks.

2) Hiking poles/walking sticks—The better ones have lever-style adjustment instead of twist locks. Budget versions are available at places like Academy Sports. Of course, you can always make your own walking stick from a sturdy sapling. I have never regretted the times I brought my trekking poles, only the times I’ve forgotten them!

3) A day pack—Get something small, lightweight, and inexpensive with comfy shoulder straps, like a school book bag.

4) Insect repellent—Spray your ankles, legs, sleeves, and pants to ward off ticks; spray the bill of a baseball cap to discourage gnats.

5) Personal-size tissue pack—This is easier to carry than toilet paper!

6) Hand sanitizer or individual moist towelettes—You’ll need clean hands while eating, and the towelettes are refreshing on your face.

7) Hand towel—Fold it up for a seat cushion when you rest. Or use it for a quick dry after pulling off socks and boots when fording creeks and wading through waterfall pools.

8) Adhesive bandages, medications—If you’re accident-prone like me, these are always welcome. 

9) Survival gear (whistle, pocketknife, cellphone, large black plastic garbage bag)—The garbage bag is critical. It can be a raincoat in unexpected bad weather, and it’s a life-saver if you get stranded overnight—wrap it around your clothing to prevent hypothermia.

10) Plenty of water—Whether days are hot or cool, stay hydrated. 

11) Happy food—Everything tastes better on the trail! This is no time to diet. Treat yourself to a good balance of proteins, carbs, and fats: protein/granola bars, mixed nuts, trail mix, a “walking salad” (cored apple stuffed with peanut butter, raisins), beef jerky, freeze-dried fruits, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and other non-perishables. Frozen fried chicken tenders and hard cheeses are good, too, for two or three hours without refrigeration…or put perishables in insulated bags along with plastic bags filled with ice cubes. If you pack chocolates, choose semi-sweet varieties with nuts to balance the sugar. Remember the “leave no trace” mantra—whatever you pack in, you pack out. It’s sad to see trails with lots of litter alongside them.

What’s on your list of “essentials” for a day hike? Share them below!

Whether you’re trekking alone or with a group, tell someone else where you will be. All too often, our region’s rugged terrain makes for difficult missions to locate those who have been injured or become trapped by rising water. Give rescuers a head start so they will know where to look for you.

If you’re in bear territory, should you carry bear bells? There’s debate on that…some people think the bells mean “dinner” to bears! But that’s not true. Any noise helps ward off bears because they’re usually inclined to avoid people, and your best bet is to talk or sing as you hike to alert them to your presence. Just make sure your path ahead doesn’t take you between a mother bear and her cubs; turn around, or wait until cubs and mama are back together and heading away from you.

If you’re blessed with the privilege of being able to walk, take advantage of it by spending a day on the trail. The exercise is wonderful, the fragrances of woods are intoxicating, and the blessing of seeing God’s handiwork is priceless. Use this activity to share quality (and socially-distanced) time with friends and family in exploring our beautiful world. Or spend it in the solitude of meditation and praise to our heavenly Father. Sing hymns as you hike, like “For the Beauty of the Earth” by Folliott S. Pierpoint—here are two of the verses:

For the beauty of the earth, for the beauty of the skies,

For the Love which from our birth over and around us lies:

Christ, our God, to Thee we raise this our sacrifice of praise.

For the beauty of each hour of the day and of the night,

Hill and vale, and tree and flower, sun and moon and stars of light:

Christ, our God, to Thee we raise this our sacrifice of praise.

May you find great joy in celebrating His love and His magnificent beauty as you spend a day wandering through His creation!

Blessed Lord, thank You for the privilege of walking. Thank You for the abundance of parks and woodlands in our country and for those who had the foresight to set them aside as natural areas. Give us sweet conversations with our loved ones and friends, and never let us take for granted the infinite beauty of a wildflower or bird in Your exquisite creation. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

P.S. What’s on your list of “essentials” for a day hike? Share them below in the comments!

Good hiking boots and poles are essentials for a happy hike
Look for unexpected treasures along the way as you hike!

#theprivilegedlife #lightbournecreative #thankful #privileged #gratitude #abundantlife #Christianprivilege #theprayerlife #quarantinelife #copingwithcovid19 #coronavirus #prayforUSA #prayforhealing #stopthevirus #prayaboutpandemic #prayforvaccine #maskup #appalachiantrail #dayhikeessentials #packingforadayhike #whattopackforadayhike #dayhiker #appalachiantraildayhike #bearbells #hikinglife #lifehiker #whattotakeonahike #howtopackforahike

© Copyright 2020 Nancy C. Williams, Lightbourne Creative

4 responses to “The Privileged Life: 11 Packing Essentials for a Day Hike”

  1. My husband and I are avid hikers, so I was excited to read your blog. A few things that you mentioned are things I don’t usually carry with me but I think I will now (band-aids, hand towel, trash bag). Neither of us have ever used hiking poles. I guess I’ve never considered them essential, but then again, I’ve never tried them. I’d be interested in knowing when you started using them and how you find them helpful. Thanks for the great blog!


    • Hi Angela! Thanks for your comments! I LOOOOVE my hiking poles–my husband gave them to me as an anniversary present some 10 years ago, one of the best gifts ever. They’re lightweight, and they have been wonderful on rugged trails (to add power when going uphill and to keep from slipping when going downhill) and when fording creeks. I use them, too, just for walking around our neighborhood. Usually I use two at a time, but even one is a big help. What are your go-to essentials?


  2. You are right to thank for the blessing of being able to walk. Frank and I enjoyed many hill walks in Scotland and some nice hikes when we first moved here. Now that those activities aren’t available to me I miss it and think people often take that ability for granted.


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