5 Things I Take On Every Long Hike

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I love hiking, but I especially love a long hike. What is a long hike? As my super Google research has shown me, there doesn’t appear to be a standard definition. For the purpose of this post, my reference to a long hike is definitely not a thru-hike or a multi-day hike. Instead, my long hike definition is a day hike of five or more miles. For example, I recently hiked just over seven miles along the Appalachian Trail in Maryland, and I would consider that a long hike for the sake of this post, as well as my quads. 
Are you a hiking newbie? I have some tips for first-time hikers that you can read here, and here are some additional tips from the American Hiking Society

The list doesn’t include every single item you could possibly need on a long hike. For that, I recommend checking out this post from REI. Well, then what the heck is this hiking post about?

You know how there are a set of things that you have to pack for a certain activity every time you do it? For example, every time I play in an outdoor volleyball tournament, I know I have to pack a ball, a chair, water, a hat, and sunblock. Is this everything I need to play a volleyball tournament? Of course not! Instead, these are the most essential things I don’t want to forget. That’s what this list is! So now, I present to you, 5 Things I Take on Every Long Hike.

Trekking Poles

I love my trekking poles*! Full disclosure: I used to call these “old lady walking sticks” before I knew any better. They’re not for everybody, but if you are curious about whether they’re for you, I recommend reading these posts to help you make the decision. 
For me, they’re a must-have for my longer hikes, with the exception of trails where you’re scrambling over rocks the entire time (e.g. the Billy Goat Trail along the C&O Canal on the Maryland side of the National Park). I find that I have increased circulation in my hands, better stability, and upgraded smashing capabilities. (That last one is totally unnecessary. Also, that’s part of the reason I love hiking sneakers, which is coming up next.)  
Hiking Shoes/ Hiking Sneakers

Some of my friends like to hike in trail running shoes, but I’m a hiking sneaker kinda lady unless snow and ice are on the ground, in which case I use hiking boots. I’ve been wearing Merrell hiking sneakers since I ever owned a pair of hiking sneakers (so, about 15 years), and I’ve owned exactly two pairs. Granted, I bought the second pair because I lost the first pair – which were in impeccable shape and still looked brand new (those shoes went hiking and 4-wheeling all over Maui and Oahu on their first trip) – but I later found the first pair, and probably won’t have to buy another pair of hiking shoes for the next five years – if ever again! These are similar* to my current Merrell hiking sneakers.

Hydration Backpack/ Hydration Vest

This backpack is getting a little old, but it does the trick. This one* looks just like mine (minus the color), but they have updated versions. I believe I originally purchased mine for my first relay race, so I have used it for many long runs, but it’s great for hiking! One recommendation: Don’t wear a racerback tank top with this one unless you have somebody hook you up with some Body Glide on your back. I learned that one the hard way two summers ago, but somehow miraculously wind up in racerbacks with the same tore-up back at least once every couple of months. 😐 Hey, I never said I always learn from my mistakes…

Good socks

I cannot emphasize this enough! I will not go on a long hike wearing bad socks. Seriously. That’s a quick way to end up with gnarly blisters or bare feet. No thank you! Now THAT is a lesson I actually did learn, thank you very much.
I recently purchased my first pair of Smartwool socks during an awesome sale at REI, and they’re great! But I have some great hiking socks made by Columbia as well. I love some cushioning in my hiking socks, and moisture-wicking is a must! The hiking socks I have are very well made, and while they cost a hair more than my regular athletic socks, they’re definitely cheaper than compression socks, and they’re also worth every penny!
Water and snacks

Another reason that hydration backpack/vest comes in handy: It doubles as a backpack! I can store all kinds of first aid tools, my car keys, snacks, sunblock, and of course water in the pack. I don’t know about you, but I definitely don’t want to get caught out five miles from my car and without cell service without water or something to eat. I don’t know wild mushrooms or berries well enough for all that. 
I usually pack some protein and some dried fruit and/or nuts. On a rare occasion, I’ll pack something heavier, like a thin sandwich. Generally, I don’t eat or drink a ton while I’m out on a long hike, as I’m more of a grazer in these situations, but it’s best to be prepared and make sure you have something in and when you need it.
So there you have it! Any surprises? What do you consider to be a long hike? What are your must-haves for going on a long hike?

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