When it comes to hiking, especially those longer hikes that are 5 miles are longer, it is essential to pack everything you need, but to also keep everything as lightweight as possible. This cane create a dilemma for beginner hikers or those who have priorities that they need to address while on the trail. For example, pre-existing injuries can be an issue that require more equipment, but aside from that, the environment, who you are with, and your travel plans will typically dictate what you need to bring.
In this article, we would like to highlight a couple things that you can bring along on your hike that may make a world of difference without making any noticeable difference in the weight that you are carrying.
Those who know about compression socks are likely to think of long distance runners, or people involved in professions that require long periods of standing, such as nurses, doctors, military personnel, and construction workers. However, they are becoming increasingly popular for those who suffer from general aches and pains in their legs, and given their benefits in long distance activities, it seems logical that they could hold some benefit for hikers as well.
For example, compression socks are known to help with venous return, which is basically the ability of your body to pump blood back from your extremities to your heart. In professions that require constant standing, the blood can effectively “pool”, and the muscles that normally help squeeze the blood back up the legs are, for all intents and purposes, considered inactive. In long distance running, this enhanced venous return isn’t valued so much to avoid issues like varicose veins or DVT, but instead, to help enhance performance. Long hikes fall right in the middle of this.
So how do you know what compression socks might be the best for your hike? First, we would recommend finding socks that are breathable and moisture-wicking, which is usually stated in the product description. Secondly, these socks can come in a variety of degrees of compression. Unfortunately, there is no way to really know what is best for you until you try them out, but generally speaking, the degrees of compression are broken down into mild, medium, and strong. If you are completely unsure, we would recommend starting with medium. If it’s too much, you know you will need to go down to the mild compression. If you could use more, you can always try moving up to strong compression. Hopefully they will work perfectly the first time! In any case, while they tend to be a little expensive by socks standards, they are still quite affordable compared to most hiking equipment.
Many hikers now carry fancy GPS watches, which are actually very useful and offer an additional safety blanket while on your hike. If you get lost, these can help navigate your way back to civilization, or at least water sources to help keep you going.
If you already have a GPS that you carry with you, or you are with other hikers that have these sorts of items, then you may simply want a durable and waterproof watch that is small, lightweight, and easy to pack. In this case, something plain and simple could do the trick, allowing you to keep track of time without worrying about water damage. Additionally, watches can come in many different styles that attach to many different parts of the body, clothing, or your hiking bag. For example, lapel watches are becoming increasingly popular due to their ability to be attached to any piece of fabric, whether it be your shirt, jacket, or bag. They are also very small and easy to carry in a pocket, or simply pack in your bag for later use.
Survival Blankets and Hand Warmers
These may be quite well known to most hikers, but after having spoken with many of our peers, we were surprised to learn how many people don’t take these along with them. A survival blanket sounds like a lot to carry, but really, it comes in a package about the size of a wallet, and is more than likely lighter than your wallet! This is because the blanket is essentially a large sheet of thin, but strong and flexible, aluminum foil. If you get stuck out in the cold, or someone falls in the water, it can be used as an extremely effective heat insulator. It takes up almost no space at all, and it is extremely light.
Hand warmers are quite similar. These can be purchased from any outdoor store, and even your general convenience stores, particularly those located in cold winter climates. They are small and light, and are usually activated by shaking or cracking them, which then generates heat. Stick them inside clothing, or in your pockets with your hands, and they will remain warm for quite some time (but not all day). Again, nothing new, and nothing fancy, but something that can really make a difference on your trip out, especially if it’s chilly!
These are by no means must-carry items on all hiking trips, and they aren’t really anything innovate, but their combine weight and size make them arguably some of the most underrated hiking items that you can carry with you. Even if you decide these aren’t worth taking along with you, we encourage you to think ahead about what can be easy and practical to bring along with you or to wear on your trip. Plan for the worst case scenario because those types of situations are never expected, and you never know when the worst can happen. Lastly, in addition to the safety precautions, planning ahead can and thinking about these things can simply save you a lot of hassle of running around and buying things immediately before your trip. Enjoy the rest of your summer, and hopefully you can get out to a trail or campsite to see the beautiful Fall colors!