I’m not a Type A hiker, but I believe in the power and convenience of a well-stocked daypack. In addition to the usual essentials like a compass, first-aid kit and headlamp, I carry a few favorite items that I consider indispensable. I have back and neck problems and am very conscious of the amount of weight I carry while hiking, so nothing on my list weighs more than a few ounces.
1. A multi-tool
I used to hike with just a knife, mainly to save weight. Then the tiny Leatherman Squirt changed my world. It has a knife blade, but also has pliers (can easily crimp a tent pole repair sleeve or double as tweezers for splinter removal), scissors for opening stubborn snack packaging, a bottle opener for a post-hike beer and lots of other features that come in handy.
2. A waterproof notebook
Rite in the Rain notebook. I have yet to come up with a brilliant idea, but in the event that I do, I can safely write it down regardless of weather. Rite in the Rain paper makes sure journal entries and trail notes stay dry in a downpour.
3. A tick-removal tool
The Tick Key weighs almost nothing and literally unlocks a tick embedded in skin. Bonus: The Tick Key works for removing dogs’ ticks too.
4. A loud whistle
The saying goes, “If someone can hear you, someone can rescue you.” Some new packs come equipped with a rescue whistle on the sternum strap. I prefer to carry a safety whistle anyway, since an emergency might separate me from my pack and therefore my whistle (if it’s built in).
I almost always have my hair covered by a bandana while hiking. I feel less vulnerable to bugs, it keeps hair off my face and can also be a handy first-aid item in the event of a broken bone or bad cut.
6. Water filter
One of the ways I save weight while hiking near a water source, like a river, is to bring a Sawyer filter. It fits over its own pouch or adapts onto a bottle or hydration bladder and almost instantly makes water safer to drink. I use the filter to stay hydrated while not having to carry more than one small bottle of water at a time.
7. Hiking pole
I usually only take one pole, and it suits my needs just fine. My pole is height-adjustable and can be helpful for balance on rough terrain. If I sprain my ankle or acquire some other common hiking injury, I can either use the pole as a crutch or a splint.
Duct tape fixes almost everything. Whether your water bottle springs a leak, you roll your ankle or the sole of your shoe separates from the upper, duct tape can at least temporarily put you back in business. I keep a couple feet of it wrapped around my hiking pole for easy access.
9. Wet wipes
These are part of my bathroom kit. I prefer the individually packaged kind while hiking.
10. A plastic shovel
Some sort of plastic shovel or trowel is another bathroom kit essential, because you never know what could happen with high-fiber trail mix.
11. A supply of toilet paper
I either strip some at home or bring a small, camping-specific roll. No need to waste pack space on a cardboard tube.
12. A sealable plastic bag
A quart-size bag with a secure zipper works best. I keep my toilet paper in it and then use the bag as a carryout package for dirty paper and wet wipes. That may sound gross, but it’s not nearly as bad as leaving those nasty items for another hiker or wildlife to find.
13. Bring your own bathroom
The pStyle is the biggest prize in my wilderness bathroom kit. It’s a simple plastic chute that works wonders. Squatting to pee is awkward, makes tired legs even more tired and can leave your business wide open to biting insects and unseen poison ivy. With the pStyle, I pee with less hassle and less nudity.
Spending time in the woods is one of my favorite adventures. I hike every chance I get and record some of my adventures on my blog. I live just a few minutes from the Florida Trail and have covered many miles through its swamps and forests.