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Equipment List for Day Hikes

This list is intended as an aid to novice hikers encountering typical New England conditions. The equipment listed here is sufficient for a day hike only, and only from late spring through early fall (May through September, depending on weather). You should only attempt to hike on well-marked, well-maintained trails. Orienteering is not covered here. It is assumed that you will only attempt to hike in good weather. Intentionally ascending during a thunderstorm, fog, freezing weather, or other adverse conditions requires more equipment and training than you will find described here.

Legal Disclaimer: the following information is provided in the sincere belief that it is accurate and useful (perhaps life-saving). However, I do not accept responsibility for anything that happens to you under any circumstances, ever. Climbing mountains is inherently risky. This information is provided without guarantee or warranty, express or implied.

what to bring
what NOT to bring
suggested extras

What to Bring

 Good hiking shoes have the following properties:
  a) they fit comfortably
  b) Their soles have deep treads to reduce slipping on both mud and wet rocks.
  c) They won't fall apart when wet.
  d) Ideally, they have some ventilation.
  e) may provide some ankle support (if desired)
 Most trails _can_ be climbed in sneakers, but keep in mind that you are likely to encounter
 mud, puddles, wet & slippery rocks, and (at least until July), patches of snow.  

  Remember, the typical adult needs to consume about 3000 kcal a day when exercising moderately.
  You don't need to pack quite that much if you assume that you'll eat a big dinner (at least 1000 kcal)
  once you're off the mountain, and that you'll have some breakfast (maybe 500 kcal) before you arrive.
  So 1500 kcal is a good target for a day hike. 
  About half of that should be in a form you can munch while walking, eg granola bars.
  The rest should be in the form of a picnic lunch.
    You want to pack food that is lightweight, compact, and can take a bruising.  On a hike, count the
    calories and forget what you think you know about "healthy food."  Fats and sugars are your friends!
    I'll typically bring:
      Picnic Lunch:
      about a quarter of a hard salami (120 kcal per ounce)
      a couple of hard-boiled eggs (75 kcal each)
      sometimes a small apple ( pratically zero cals, but a nice break from salami)
of a variety like McIntosh that stands up to bruising pretty well
      Food on the Go:
        Four or more Clif bars (240 kcal each)
        Three or four granola bars (200 kcal each)
   I used to bring Powerbars but they have two serious problems:
             -they make me very thirsty
             -they melt when it's hot and become tooth-breakingly hard when it's cold

    At least two liters.  More if the weather is hot & sunny.
    Water is the heaviest single item you'll pack, but it's also the one you'll miss most if you
    don't have enough.  My advice to novice hikers:  bring three liters on your first hike (try to
    convince a friend to carry the extra bottle for you), then adjust next time based on how much
    you actually drank. 
    If you're desperate, you can sometimes find a stream to refill your water bottles in, but the health
    authorities do NOT recommend this anywhere in New England.  Consider a water treatment system (see 
    Suggested Extras below) if you find yourself tempted to resort to this.
    Some people carry Gatorade instead of water, but I find that water is better.  (I'm already getting
    lots of sugar from granola bars.)  

  see predicting the weather
  see cotton vs wool
    Something windproof and completely waterproof.  With a hood. 
  fleece / sweater 
     Wool or comparable synthetic.  For warmth and resistance to moderate damp.  A high, zip-up
     collar is ideal.
  rain pants
     A waterproof outer layer in case of rain or wind.  Gore-tex pants are ideal, though somewhat 
    expensive.  If you're expecting good weather, nylon warm-up pants will block the wind and are 
    good enough in a brief shower (but seek shelter if you're out in the rain for long).
  long underwear / leggings
    Wool or synthetic.  For warmth.
  Ordinary pants
    NOT jeans (see cotton vs wool below).
    An extra layer above long underwear, or an intermediate-warmth step instead of shorts or tights, 
    and a place for pockets.
    For warm weather. 
  long-sleeved shirt
    For warmth.
  T shirt
    For warm weather.
    Bring three pair, at least one of which is wool:
     Cotton (or synthetic wicking) socks for warm weather
     Wool socks for cold weather or wet conditions
     A spare pair to change into if your feet get wet. 
     For warmth.  I used to bring two pair:
     a thin leather pair that gives some warmth while allowing me to grip things (like rocks) easily,
     plus a thick wool pair for extra warmth.  Now I have a pair made of windstopper fleece with leather
     A thick woolen hat for warmth, plus
     A hat with a brim to provide shade (for white folks, mostly)

 sunscreen & insect repellent
   You can slather these on at the trailhead, then leave them behind.

 toilet paper
   never leave home without it!

   whatever you might need in the course of a day, for example antihistamines.  
   Plus your regular prescriptions, if any.

   suitable for covering blisters.  Can also come in handy for repairing stuff, and closing
   or covering wounds.

  eye wear
   If you wear prescription glasses, consider contact lenses.  They don't fall out easily (and can be
   replaced if they do), they're more useful in the rain, and you can wear sunglasses over them.
   If you wear contact lenses, you may want to bring a pair of prescription glasses as a backup.

  safety gear
    Handy for figuring out when you're on the wrong trail.  

    this is just for emergencies, so bring the lightest, smallest one you can find.

  trail map (waterproof)
    A good map clearly shows all the trails, the direction of North, and a scale of distance.  
    An ideal map also shows topological features, streams, and the treeline.
   At state parks, good trail maps are usually available at the ranger's station.  USGS topo maps can be
   found online (eg, topozone.com), but these often don't show trails clearly (and they often don't show 
   the names of trails, which you'll need to know).  
   Frequent hikers may want to buy a trail guide in a bookstore.  
   You can make any map waterproof by enclosing it in a freezer bag.
   Actually you just need some cash and an ID in case of emergencies.
   Maybe a credit card too (in case your car dies and you need to rent
   one to get home).  I wrap these together with rubber bands and leave
   the leather wallet at home.  I also don't bring car keys unless I'm driving.

   to carry all this stuff
   see choosing a backpack on my Advice for Novice Hikers page

Suggested Extras


  trash bags
   Always seem to come in handy.  Make a good emergency poncho, waterproof slipcover for a backpack, etc.

  walking stick
   Give your legs a break by leaning on your arms.  Lightweight telescoping poles sell for $75 and up,
   but a broomstick works fine if you carve a grip into it.  (The telescoping ones are nice when you have
   to scramble up boulders, though: you can just fold them and hang them from your backpack, leaving 
   both hands free.)

    Small, light, and easy-to-use are the key requirements.  You'll take more pictures if it's not a big
    production to do so.  Personally I'm very fond of my Canon Powershot s100 "digital Elph".

    Let you see the view better.  A luxury, but can make you the envy
    of the mountain if there's rare wildlife about. 
  water treatment system
    Lets you carry a smaller water bottle IF you can count on finding
    water along the way.  Really intended for longer trips, to prevent
    having to carry several days' worth of water.  Still, can come in
    handy in a pinch.  There are two types: filters and additives (iodine or chlorine).
    Filters require pumping, but additives require waiting around.

What Not to Bring

  Anything crumbly or squishy, expecially food.
  Anything fragile, brittle, or expensive.
  Anything toxic, caustic, highly flammable, pressurized, or explosive.
  Anything that might splatter, splash, spill, pop, or burst into flame
   under rough treatment.
  Anything you can't replace if it falls off a cliff or into a
  Anything that will be destroyed if it gets wet, cold, hot, or dry.
  ANY CLOTHING MADE OF DENIM (see Cotton vs Wool)
  Anything unnecessary, especially if it's heavy or bulky.
  Cell phone.  Please! 

Also see my Advice for Novice Hikers page.

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