Lately we have been exploring local battlefields around the Pittsburgh area. The weather this spring has been very accommodating for our visits to learn a little history and have given us a great reason to hike through the woods. All in all a win-win situation.
Like geocaching which gets you out into nature and painlessly exercising while searching for treasures, hiking though parks is a wonderful way to enjoy nature and get some good aerobics in too.
Log Cabin, Bushy Run Battlefield Park, Jeannette, PA
But even these more casual hikes require some thought beforehand on how to best prepare for the hike and what to carry along to make it safer and more comfortable.
There are lots of lists on the internet (see below) for tips on what to carry along when you go out to hike. But it never hurts to emphasis the safety tips because even knowing what to bring, doesn't mean we bring it.
Bug spray is a given. Early morning jaunts through the forest stir up little bugs, all of which are looking for breakfast -- you. I have read articles about how some people are more attractive to bugs for some reason and end up with more bites than the person next to him or her. Whatever that unknown quality is, I have it in spades. I can wake up in the morning with bites that I have no clue where they came from. Because of this I always spray on bug deterrent in the evening if I am outside, but often forget when we are hiking in the woods in daytime. Have to do better than that.
Water is also a given.If you think you will need one bottle for the entire hike, take two. It can never hurt to have too much water with you and you never know when you might find yourself on an extended hike because of a bad map or directions. I've been in those situations where you feel you have to ration out how much water you are drinking to make sure you have some till the end. Not a great plan.
Sunscreen? Yep, another given. Even when you think you will be in shade or under cover of trees, lather up. Again it doesn't hurt anything to be proactive with the sunscreen and it can save a lot of pain and skin damage.
Trail maps. It seems that many trail maps are often either not drawn to scale or difficult to read. If you have spent some time out in the woods looking for trail markers that weren't there, it might be a good idea to take along a GPS unit or use your phone to help you find your way back to the parking lot. One pet peeve: Why can't park administrators throw in a couple of extra trail signs? It can't hurt and it would be ever so helpful to those not familiar with the trails.
Cell phone. As mentioned above, there are good reasons to carry your cell on your walk. I know, you are trying to get away from civilization and the constant beeping of phone calls and texts. And that back in the day no one had phones with them when they hiked for days on end. But I bet they would have liked to have one handy. Phones equipped with GPS can pull up trail maps, and give you a good idea where you are located. They can also be used to call for help if that becomes necessary.
Snacks. You may not think you'll get hungry on a short hike, but you might, especially if you find yourself going around in circles (see item above about trail maps.)
Trail marker, Bushy Run Battlefield, Jeannette, PA
Camera. If your phone takes photos, you may just want to carry that. But if you want better photos to record your trip, a small point-and-shoot camera works great. Slip one into your pocket and you are good to go. Carry an extra battery (There are no places to charge them on the trails. . . yet) and make sure you have lots of room on your memory card before you start out.
Small packs. A small daypack works great for carrying all of the above paraphernalia but you can also make good use of pockets in your clothes if you want to keep your hands free.
Day hikes are great and something that Baby Boomers, if they are physically able, can enjoy. They can make exercise fun, something that we all wish for. And spending time (with the right equipment) in nature is good for the soul. What to Carry Along on Casual Day Hikes The Ten Essentials