Let’s admit: I am among the ones with a strong tendency of bringing “my whole house” with me; by consequence, I look with substantial envy the ones going light; so, bear this in mind.
However, I never regretted to have brought with me something that I did not use.
Nor I missed something that I did not have, but only since this seldom happened.
There are things that, in my opinion, we must have:
- Enough clothes, also to face emergencies; Ok, summer and winter are different matters, but keeping a stable basic equipment into your backpack is not a bad idea.
- Waterproof clothes: I did some hundreds hikes avoiding serious rains, but perhaps because I planned well. But, if the rain comes and you are not equipped, you can face unpleasant moments.
- A hat: the sun is everything but a friend.
- One thing not often mentioned: also in full summer, an ample and light shirt, with long sleeves; as a screen from burning sun, when necessary.
- A change, at least of your socks and underwear T-shirt
- A whistle: in case of emergency, you will be better heard than using your voice
- At least during the sunny season: a full protection sunscreen cream.
- A first aid kit.
- A front light: it can happen to be late and be back when already dark.
- For food and beverages, see the dedicated paragraph.
- Your mobile phone
In summary, I would say: get acquainted to have with you a decent basic equipment, without exceeding. This standard weight of your backpack will become usual, and you will never regret.
And here comes the difficult part: it is enough to enter a shop to get lost.
Choosing what to buy is a trial-and-error procedure, also requiring substantial previous experience.
Feet are your means of locomotion, so must feel well. And this will mostly depend on the shoes and socks combination.
Socks. Personally, I have now a consolidated preference for the Merino wool socks, available of different thickness. There are many brands, not all the same, especially with respect of duration. For socks of synthetic materials, similar considerations hold.
Shoes. You can find any type of ground during your hikes. Try to exclude shoes with too thin, not well sculptured soles. Then, you can range from light trekking shoes, but with adequate sole, to the classical mountain boots. The first can be attractive in summer, especially if they have a net-like upper, keeping your feet fresh; but, combine them anyway with adequate socks. If know how to “walk well”, you can go almost anywhere with these shoes, in warm and dry weather. On rocky ground you will certainly feel the stones on the sides of your feet, and you may regret more robust shoes. Especially in woodlands, with the ground covered by leaves, almost anything will enter into in your light shoes. It is finally a matter of fact that, if you seek for impermeability, or thermal insulation, light shoes are not appropriate.
Generally speaking, I would say that light shoes are be feet-friendly for shorter hikes, otherwise, more robust shoes tend to win.
In my opinion there is a fundamental point, in choosing shoes. Forget about the old story that new shoes can give you pain initially, then you will get acquainted: it can be catastrophic. When you try shoes, you must immediately feel well with them. And with “well”, I intend not tight, without any kind of rubbing, anywhere, and that your toes do not impact the shoe tip.
Similar considerations hold for backpack. It must be first of all comfortable; and here the thing is not easy, since you will try it empty. Then, forget about mini-backpacks, that are generally of little use. If you can afford, buying two backpacks of different size can be a good idea: for sure for a half a day spring walk you will not bring the same amount of things as for a full summer daily hike, when you be loaded with liquids, or for a winter one, when you are loaded with clothes. The rain cover is a not negligible accessory. Backpacks are very variable, with respect to the material they are built of: some of them rip off very easily, sometimes not exactly in relation to their price… but more than this, I cannot say.
Clothes. An advice, not original, anyway: dress in layers; bring with you all what you may potentially need. Take off or put on your clothes each time you need, do not be afraid of losing time. As an example, during winter hikes along the Ligurian coast it commonly happens to shift from a T-shirt, when ascending steep slopes, to T-shirt+shirt+sweater+paddled jacket+ K-way, during pauses to eat, at relatively higher altitudes.
Hiking poles and your bottom. I was born without hiking poles and I am pretty slow to adopt new technologies. But, every now and then, I use poles and they can be useful to relief you knees during demanding descents.
What I can say, for sure, is that you must walk on your feet and legs, not on your arms. You must all the time have firm support on your feet. Given for granted, in some cases, the utility of a balance, most people that I see walking slowly, unstable and at risk of falling are the ones leaning on their walking poles instead of staying firm on their legs. Walking poles can be helpful for your uphill progression at two conditions: you have to be able to use them properly and your arms must be fitted enough, otherwise you will be soon exhausted.
A note about the use of your bottom; generally, we tend to use it downhill; it can be a comfortable help, provided we use it for one of its typical functions, that is to sit, not moving; but when we start descending again, we have to stay firmly on our feet; at maximum, use hands to help; the bottom is not prehensile, and is of a shape that will never hold us.
Hiking Apennine. piudimille.com
Liquids. Somebody needs to drink a lot, somebody less. It happens to me to drink 6-7 litres of liquids, during full day summer hikes. For sure, you must timely re-introduce the liquids you lose.
I cannot tell you that mountains are idyllic places with plenty of water; besides the fact that this is not always true, then:
– you will not always being walking on the mountains;
– water is not always safe; be always cautious with surface water, even from apparently clear streams; and be also cautious with spring waters, especially downhill of grazing areas.
You should know your personal needs, in relation to your hiking program; you should know if you will meet reliable water points; and bring with you all what you need. Of course, each litre is more or less an additional kg load, but there is no alternative.
Together with water you will lose salts; excessive salt loss may cause muscle spasms, and also lowers mental attention, that is instead very important to preserve. Try to get acquainted, recognise this symptom and relate it to liquid losses.
Then you also burn sugars to produce energy; if you burn too much of them, you may at least experience hypo-glycemic crisis and feel very weak.
Drinking can be a way to attenuate both problems. Several drinks containing both sugars and salts are commercially available. Having with you some of them, besides water, is not a bad idea. Otherwise, if you really do not like them, you can use powder integrators, to be dissolved in water. Other options are tea, or whatever else can be of personal likes. I use a lot thick fruit nectars, sometimes diluted in water, that are food and beverages at the same time.
Food. You must have an adequate amount of food with you. That means, some cookies, or dried fruits, for short hikes, to all what you need for intense full day hikes. Also in this case, personal likes are fundamental, besides dietary and common sense basic concepts, that I will not recall here. Pasta, rice, bread, and something to accompany bread; I recommend to bring something juicy, fruits or vegetables, that help a lot. Above all: bring food that you like, that you can swallow easily.
Cookies and dried fruits are anyway useful, to chew anytime you feel the need.
Candies, the ones with sugar, not the “light” ones, together with a saline-energetic beverage, can give you a push of energy when you need to produce a peak effort: sooner or later, it will happen to be late, or to accelerate to escape bad weather.
Hiking Apennine. piudimille.com