Essentials for a Day Hike


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Hiking is the most therapeutic and exhilarating physical activity I know.

There’s something about waking up before dawn, jumping in my car, downing a cup of coffee and heading to the mountains that sends an unexplainable joy to my bones. Over the last few years, I’ve grown a deep love for the outdoors and spending time in creation. Living within a 2-hour drive from the White Mountains has definitely fueled this passion of mine, but I truly believe you can turn any type of terrain into a wilderness adventure! Hiking is the most therapeutic and exhilarating physical activity I know, and I’m overjoyed to share some of my essentials for a day hike.

Start Early. This is just my preference, but I think the morning is the best and most beautiful time of day to hike. Yes, this does require waking up pretty early—especially if you live far away—but your adrenalin will kick in and keep you going.

  • Coffee and a high-carb breakfast are a must! My go-to is a quick bowl of oatmeal with bananas and peanut butter; this will fill you and give you the perfect amount of energy for the trail. Peanut butter (or any nut butter) will jump start your need for protein too.

  • Another plus with starting the hike early is that you’ll avoid some of the crowds that tend to populate the more popular trails. Definitely do your research and check which trail heads have limited parking! Pack everything the night before to save yourself some precious sleeping time.

Bring Friends or Plan an Intentional Solo. Some of my fondest memories have been the conversations I’ve shared with friends while on the trail. Hiking provides the perfect opportunity to get to know others better while exploring the world with them!

  • I recommend inviting no more than a carful of people to keep everyone involved in the conversations. Make an intention before and throughout the day to share stories and ponder each other’s dreams and life questions. Listening to music or a podcast in the car always gets the conversations going, but I would argue not to play anything on the hike! Take advantage of the beautiful sounds of nature and each other’s conversations. Sometimes talking also helps distract each other from the workout if it’s a more difficult hike. If it is more challenging, make sure someone in the group has trekked it before and has a plan! It’s always wise to make sure someone knows the trail in case any unplanned bushwhacking comes up.

  • Company is amazing, but don’t undermine the beauty of a solo hike! Exploring the wilderness alone is a very therapeutic and powerful experience if planned with intention and precaution. If going alone, always hike somewhere you’ve been before, know will be easy or know there will be other hikers nearby. Use the adventure as an opportunity to pray, meditate, and reflect. Hike with an intention, a confidence, and a focus on the stillness and company of the wild world around you.

You can turn any type of terrain into a wilderness adventure.

Come Prepared. Preparation is KEY to ensuring your adventure goes as smoothly and extravagantly as possible. Here I’ll list a few practical things I believe are crucial to a safe and comfortable hiking experience:

  • Let creation be the star of the show and dress for comfort over fashion. Layers are a must, as you’ll tend to warm up throughout the hike and get chilly from wind at the summit. Make sure you feel confident enough to sweat, get dirty and embrace any precipitation. Rule of thumb: wear a moisture-wicking base layer, a fleece mid layer, and outer layer for insulation and keeping rain off on cold and wet adventures; avoid anything 100% cotton. Stick with quick drying athletic materials, which can also be super cute when styled well!

  • Take care of your feet! Wear boots that are broken in and comfortable. Waterproof hiking boots with ankle support are best for long hikes, but activewear sneakers with good tread for the trail are also good. If you start to feel any hot spots throughout the hike, stop immediately and apply moleskin before it starts to blister; your feet will thank you later. And if it’s snowing, spikes/crampons are a must!!

  • Stock up on snacks and plenty of water! A good mix of protein, carbs and fresh fruits & veggies will keep you fueled and ready the whole day. I like GORP (good ol’ raisins and peanuts), granola bars, apples, and bananas. Pack a good sandwich for lunch too. If it’s a sunrise hike, coffee is fun to make at the summit if you have a camp stove and French press!

  • Safety matters!! The wilderness is a wonderful place, but preparedness for emergency situations is so important in making it a safe and stress-free experience. Always bring a first aid kit, extra map, headlamp, extra food/water—and always tell someone where you are going and when you plan to return. Oh, and girl, don’t forget that bug spray and sunblock! Make sure your group has at least one phone but try not to go on it too much! Besides taking photos and maybe tracking your location, keep the technology away and allow nature to stimulate you and your friends in conversation!

  • Make an itinerary! I always find that making an itinerary of sorts is helpful while planning the hike. Give yourself wiggle room to stop, rest, take photos, get lost, and drive home safely!

Leave No Trace. This earth is a beautiful gift, but we need to take good care of it! Leave No Trace (LNT) is a list of nationally recognized policies created to help protect the planet so we can enjoy its beauty! The idea is to enter and leave the wilderness without any trace of a human being there. Here are just a few:

  • Don’t take anything from the trail with you or leave anything behind.

  • Be mindful of others on the trail, especially of any wildlife that might hear you!

  • Even if you have biodegradable food/waste, keep it with you and throw it away later.

  • Avoid stepping on any tree roots or vegetation, especially above tree level where it’s the hardest to grow! Focus your feet on rocks and dirt, staying on the marked trail as much as possible.

  • If duty calls, find a spot at least 150 ft away from trails and streams.

Take care of yourself! Leave your stresses behind.

  • Don’t wear makeup (or do, but darling, you’re beautiful either way). Recognize how beautiful you are in the midst of creation. Let yourself smell stinky. Embrace who you are and the way your body carries you up the mountain! It’s working hard!

  • If your body is telling you to stop and turn around, that is a-okay. Listen to your body, and don’t push it too hard. Take breaks, stretch often, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Celebrate every small step in the moment you take it.

  • Listen to your thoughts as you hike. Turn negativity and doubt into empowerment and self-love. You are more capable than you think you are. Get out of your comfort zone and enter your challenge zone. But recognize the difference between a challenge zone and a panic zone! Know your limits and celebrate your growth in each victory!

Image via Carmen Marxuach


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