I had difficulty in deciding on what things to bring during my first climb, which was at Mt. Maculot (~611 masl) in Cuenca, Batangas, Philippines in January 2009. My backpack then was a Jansport bag. I brought 1 liter of water and 500 mL of sports energy drink. I still did not know how to budget my liquid supply. I almost ran out of water until the next morning. After that experience, I brought with me 3 to 4 liters of water on succeeding hikes. Was I able to consume everything? No. There were times when I wanted to have the extra 2 liters of water for raffle. Haha! But my friends did not buy the idea because they still had enough water supply. I learned that I don’t get thirsty easily when hiking on a rainy day or when the weather is cool. Sometimes, I have to compromise bringing other things in order to lessen the load on my shoulders and enjoy trekking more.
Nothing beats the lessons taught by experience. So for the hiking newbies, below are 5 tips that may help you get started.
1. Be familiar with the place you are going to
“Knowing is winning half the battle.” Each mountain has its own characteristics, own set of flora and fauna, and available resources. Research on these facts and other necessary information like: Will there be a clean water source along the trail or at the camp site? This will help you assess how much water you need to bring. What kind of trail are you going to trek? Will it help if you bring a trekking pole or will you not be able to use it at all? Is it too hot to hike at this time of the year? Do you need to bring sun protection? Is it ok to use trekking sandals, or should you wear trekking shoes? If you use trekking shoes, you might as well bring a pair of slippers to make your feet comfortable after the hike. Is there a limited space for pitched tents at the campsite? Would it be wiser to share a tent with a friend? Account from others who had been there is worth listening to.
2. Read the itinerary
Always read and understand the itinerary. Do not rely to just ask others on the day of the hike. Others may have thought of the same thing and you end up clueless (it happened to me a few times). By reading the itinerary, you can imagine yourself already in the trail. Thus, you may be able to have a better idea on the necessary things to bring. Is a side trip to a waterfalls included? Then you may need to bring appropriate swimming attire such as a rashguard and a pair of board shorts, and extra clothing to keep you warm after swimming. Though it is going to be a day hike, do you need to bring a head lamp? I would recommend so, even if you will not be going inside a cave. Who knows something might come up and you will still be at the trail while it’s already dark? That also happened to our group before, but I was one of those who brought head lamps with us.
3. Make a list of the things you need to bring
Making a list of what you should put into your bag will save you from forgetting important things. classify them into two categories: a) Must have’s, and b) Nice to have’s. From there, you may be able to eliminate the things that you may not really need.
4. Pack your things early
I recommend packing things before going to bed the night prior to the hiking activity. It will give you ample time to “reflect” on the things you should bring with you. Sometimes, excitement will cause you to sleep late and you may not be able to wake up on time. Cramming may lead to disaster, which you will find out when you are aleady out on the trail.
5. Choose an appropriate-sized backpack
Bring an appropriate-sized backpack. It may depend on your destination, activities and other needs. Sometimes the right size of a back pack would depend on the weight one is allowed to carry due to physical conditions. I had slight slipped disc before. So now, I don’t use or carry a full-load 45 liters backpack anymore. When your bag is bigger than necessary, there is a chance of shoving in things that you won’t actually need, especially if you skipped tip nos. 1 to 4 above.
As you go to more hiking activities, you will learn from first hand experience how to pack your things lightly. Don’t forget to always bring the most important of all in the checklist: Common Sense. There is almost no substitute for it.