The Day Hike
Now that we have the clothing covered, there are a few other items you should have with you. Please remember that some of these items will change depending on your environment.
Knife-I strongly believe that a knife is an essential tool. It is possible to get by without one, but I don’t consider it good practice. My favorite is the Mora #2. It is a great knife, and costs only $11. In my opinion it is hard to do better for the money. The smaller Mora #1 and the Mora Companion are equally good and cost about the same. I recommend that you not be tempted by expensive, overly designed knives. While they provide a sense of security by virtue of being over engineered, they will not offer much of an advantage from a practical stand point. Eventually, if after you have been in the woods for some time, you decide that you want a particular design, then so be it, but when starting out, it is hard to beat the simple Mora. Remember, this is a hiking trip. You are not being dropped off in the Amazon jungle from a helicopter. A simple cutting tool is all you need.
Water Bottle-For me, I have found that for a day hike in the North East, I need at least two quarts of water. Make sure to carry sufficient water for the trip. There are many water bottles out there, but if you are keeping cost in mind, I would recommend a simple Gatorade 32oz bottle. A bottle of Gatorade will cost you about $2, and will be strong and hold sufficient water. Two such bottles will give you the two quarts of water for a total cost of $4.
Metal Cup-I have to admit that this is very much a security blanket for me. Even though you can easily get through a day hike without one, I like to know that I have some way to boil water. If you have to spend the night in the woods, being able to heat up water will keep you considerably warmer. A good cheap version is the Open Country 12oz aluminum cup. It is fairly small, but costs only $3, and is very light weight.
A good water bottle and metal cup combination is the Army surplus canteen and canteen cup. Just like with the clothing, the reason why I have not recommended them here is that they are not commercially available. You can find them in surplus stores for a very wide range of prices. If you find the set for low cost, you may want to consider it. Keep in mind that they are significantly heavier than the above option.
Fire Starting Materials-The simplest fire starter is a BIC Mini lighter. It is small, light weight, can be operated by just about anyone and costs 3 for $1. I never go out without one. A box of Coghlans Waterproof Matches makes a great backup fire starting method and will cost you $1 for the box. Avoid paper matches, as they fall apart too easily. You have probably heard of Ferrocerium rods, but I must say I am not a big fan. They are certainly fun to use, but in the hands of the casual user are not nearly as effective as a box of matches. They also require special tinder preparation, which you may not be able to do without sufficient practice. A more important thing to carry is the tinder itself. I like cotton balls and Vaseline, stored in an Altoids Smalls tin. You can put the whole thing together for under $5.
Flashlight-If you get stuck in the woods after dark, a small flashlight like the Fenix E01 can be of great help. This particular one has a microchip, which regulates the electricity, giving a very long duration from a single AAA battery. It costs only $11, and is well worth the price.
Map and Compass-Since we started this whole trip by buying a map, make sure you have it with you. Also, spend the money and buy a $3 compass. Just about any liquid filled compass of regular size (not a button compass) will do. There are many models out there that have many features, but unless you are exploring the West, making maps for the government, a simple one will do just fine. I’ve been using a basic Coghlan’s compass that I bought for $3 many years ago. It has served me fine.
Signaling Device-You may also want to consider carrying a small mirror and whistle so you can signal in a case of an emergency. I don’t get too preoccupied with them because you will most likely self rescue before anyone even starts looking for you, but if you are in a secluded area, they may be well worth the $2.
First Aid Kit-I am not going to say much about this because this is an area where cutting costs is probably not the best idea. Bring the kit which makes you feel comfortable. If you require any medication, make sure to bring it. You may want to bring some insect repellant if bugs are an issue for you, or sunscreen if the sun is a problem. If you want to see what I have in my first aid kit, you can take a look here.
Repair Kit-Here I have in mind something simple. Bring a needle with some thread, as well as a small amount of duct tape, and some string. You never know when you will have to repair an article of clothing. It should cost you no more than $2. You can see mine here packed in an Altoids Smalls tin. The string I like to use is dental floss. It is strong and compact. I also carry some artificial sinew for when I need something stronger, but some nylon string will do just fine.
Water Purification Tablets-Presumably, for a day hike, the water you brought with you should be enough. However, if you have to stay in the woods longer, or for some reason run out of water, it is good to have a way of easily purifying it. The most easily portable way (especially when used as an emergency measure) is the Katadyn Micropur Water Purification Tablets. A 30 tablet pack coasts $13, and each tablet purifies about a quart of water. They are one of the few chemicals that will kill all parasites, bacteria and viruses. It can take time to work on the tough ones, but it will work. They weight almost nothing, and there is no reason not to have them with you. Here you can find some information on Water Filtration and Purification in the Wilderness.
And lastly, don’t forget to bring a sandwich and some snacks. You will burn a good amount of energy walking up and down hills.
To carry all of it, for now a simple book bag or shoulder bag will do. I will mention a larger pack later on when discussing overnight gear, which can also serve you well as a day pack.
|Knife (Mora #2)||3.3oz with sheath; 2.4 oz without sheath||$11.00|
|Water Bottle||1.8oz (3.6oz for two)||$2.00 ($4 for two)|
|Tinder (in the Altoids tin)||1.1oz||$5.00|
|Flashlight (with battery)||0.7oz||$11.00|
|Repair Kit (in Altoids tin)||1.3oz||$2.00|
|Water Purification Pills||0.1oz (for a dozen)||$13.00 (for set of 30)|
For the above list I have used the items you see in the pictures. I’ve used two Gatorade bottles, and the Open Country cup. The weights include the containers that you see in the pictures as well as the knife sheath.
For those who are interested, the Army surplus bottle and cup weight: 4.9oz for the bottle and 7.3oz for the cup. The prices can be all over the place.
I have not included my first aid kit above because you have to decide what you want to carry. Mine weighs 9.8oz. I have no idea what it costs because I have put it together over quite some time.
I believe that the above gear should give you a good foundation in terms of what you need for a day hike. I strongly dislike approaches that center around a 3 piece or 10 piece or 20 piece kit, etc. Those are games that people with too much time play. Think about what you need, and bring it with you. I have no idea how many items are listed above, nor do I care to count. I just think that they are good to have when I am out in the woods. With time you will come up with other options that work for you.
I know there is a temptation to bring a lot of other gear in case of an emergency, but don’t let your imagination run away from you. The above gear should get you through any normal emergency. Keep things in perspective, and remember, this is day hike.