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Day Hiking Essentials

Editor’s note: Last month, Dave Shuffett wrote about overnight backpacking excursions. This month, Dave Baker focuses on day hikes.

Linville Gorge taught me the hard way about the importance of being prepared while hiking in the woods.

I’d finished photographing this beautiful area in North Carolina when I decided to bypass the trail and take a shortcut back to the rim. I scrambled up the cliff until I could go no farther. I froze, afraid to descend the slick rock.

Fortunately, my pack contained a length of parachute cord with a breaking strength of 550 pounds. I wove three strands into a makeshift rope and used it to lower myself to safety.

It never hurts to carry some essentials when you’re hiking rough terrain or putting in some miles on the trail. Your day hike will be much more pleasant if you throw a few supplies in a small pack whenever you walk more than a mile or two in the woods.

Water should be the first item in your pack. An occasional sip as you hike is better than downing a large amount at once. I like to freeze water bottles so I can have a cool drink even on the hottest summer day. Avoid leaks by pouring some of the water out of the bottle before freezing it.

Snacks are another item to have on the trail to avoid bonking, or losing all your energy. Make a simple trail mix by combining one cup each of peanuts, raisins, and M&M’s. Nibble on this along the trail to keep your energy up. Bagels with cream cheese and bacon also hold up well in a pack. Get a single-serving packet of cheese and keep the bacon wrapped separately in aluminum foil. Assemble when you’re ready to eat.

I typically carry a spare pair of socks if I’m walking more than four miles. Change these halfway through your trip, and lash the stinky pair to the outside of your pack. Let your feet dry out and cool down while you’re changing socks. This helps prevent blisters.

Always carry a compass and a trail map if one is available. A wrong turn can leave you miles away from the trailhead at dark. This is another reason to carry a small flashlight in your pack.

A few other items to consider: bug spray, hand sanitizer, a sturdy knife, a handkerchief, a cigarette lighter, binoculars, and a field guide to plants. Put the liquids in a resealable bag so they don’t leak everywhere.

Of course, don’t forget the parachute cord or length of rope—because if you need it, you’ll really need it.


Get a hot shower after a long hike by staying at a state park. Three of my favorite resort parks for hiking are Pine Mountain in Pineville, Natural Bridge in Slade, and Pennyrile Forest State Resort Park in Dawson Springs. For more info, go online to Another excellent hiking spot is Land Between The Lakes at Golden Pond,

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