As we continue to spend more time indoors and practice social distancing, many of us have turned to home workouts to stay sane and healthy. However, you can still enjoy the great outdoors during the coronavirus outbreak (so long as you are always six feet away from the nearest person). In fact, according to the New York Times, long walks and hikes can help ease the mental stress associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. At the time of writing, some U.S. national parks were open for day hikes, and certain state park systems were waiving entry fees to provide people with uncrowded places to get some fresh air. Be sure to abide by recommendations and restrictions in your area. While planning and packing for a day hike is less intensive than traversing the entire Appalachian Trail, you do still need to plan ahead. To make it easier for you, we've rounded up some of the best gear for day hikes.
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When it comes to choosing a backpack, you’ll want something that’s lightweight yet can hold everything needed for a day hike. The Osprey Packs Talon 22 is a favorite for its comfortable straps, 22 liters of capacity, cushioned hip belt, multiple pockets, and weight of under two pounds. Its helmet and trekking pole attachments are also handy, as is an external hydration sleeve. But perhaps the biggest pro is that Osprey will repair any damage or defect — no matter the reason — free of charge, regardless of when it was purchased.
One of the biggest rules when hiking is to avoid wearing cotton clothing. Instead, opt for naturally wicking materials like wool. Merino has all the main layers — shirts, leggings, socks, and pullovers — to keep you covered. The breathable sweat-wicking material helps you stay cool and dry in warmer weather, as well as warm in cooler temps. This is one of the quickest-drying materials available, which is not only more comfortable, but can also protect against hypothermia. Don’t forget to bring enough (read: extra) layers based on season and differing elevations.
Whether you’re a plastic or collapsable water bottle person, having enough water on a hike is vital. We’re going to give the edge to the Platypus Platy Bottle as it can hold a whopping 70 ounces of water, yet its compact and flexible design means it can be flattened and rolled when empty. It weighs a mere 1.3 ounces, is BPA-free, and doesn’t give water a plastic taste. A possible downside, however, is that the small cap makes filling from a natural source difficult. If there’s a possibility of needing to filter your own water, opt for a hard water bottle like the Nalgene Wide-Mouth or bring along Purewell Filtered Water Bottle.
Don’t think about wearing your typical gym or street running shoes on a hike. Traction, water resistance, and comfort are essential for quality hiking boots, and the Katahdin Waterproof Hiking Boot from LL Bean (available in men and women sizes) hit the mark for all. They’re solid and high-quality, but still have flexibility, unlike some hiking boots that are on the heavy side and don’t offer much in the way of ankle movement.
You’re not going to win any style awards with the Sunday Afternoons Unisex Ultra-Adventure Hat, but for a day in the sun, it’s hard to beat this accessory. This lightweight hat is water-resistant, and has a sweat-wicking band, ventilation at the crown, and adjustable sizing. Its brim and neck cape keep the sun out of your face and off your neck, and a lock for sunglasses helps keep them in place.
It’s always wise to have a knife and scissors on hand while hiking, and the Leatherman Rebar Multi-tool is a good, well-priced option for day hikes. Clocking in at 6.7 ounces, this 17-in-one tool contains knives, pliers, screwdrivers, wire cutters, an electrical crimper, a wire stripper, bottle and can openers, a file, a saw, an awl, and a ruler.
Although you’re likely aiming to complete a hike before sundown, in case of unexpected delays, having a light of some kind is very important. A standard flashlight will do the job, but we like the Black Diamond Headlamp so that hands are kept free for consulting a map, digging in a backpack, and traversing trails. This headlamp has two brightness levels, is fully stormproof, and has an extensive battery life.
As the saying goes, better to be safe than sorry. If you end up having to camp overnight or wait out a storm, the S.O.L. (Survive Outdoors Longer) Emergency Bivvy is what you want to have in your pack. It measures 84 inches by 36 inches to fit an adult, is made of a waterproof and windproof material to combat the elements, and reportedly reflects up to 90 percent of your body’s heat back to you. It comes in a sack that fits in a hand, so it won’t take up precious space in your backpack.
Smartphones may be many people’s preferred method for navigation while hiking, but there’s nothing more reliable than a quality compass and physical maps of the area. In addition to maps of the trails, bring along the Suunto M-3 G Compass, which is hardy and has luminescent markings for working in low light.
From bug bites and splinters, to blisters and a fever, hikers are bound to encounter a variety of issues requiring basic first-aid. The Adventure Medical Kits Mountain Series Day Tripper First Aid Kit covers all the basics with bandages, gauze, tick removers, alcohol swabs, Ibuprofen, tape, and much more. You can also make your own first-aid kit, but we like the variety of supplies and the affordable price of this one.
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