From, Adam, our Trail Guide:
This is a very general list and should be taken as a suggested gear list only. To save money, many of these items you probably already own.
Decent hiking gear can be purchased at Walmart, Big 5, REI Outlet, Campmor.com, sierratradingpost.com, Steepandcheap.com, Overstock.com.
Before you set out –
Check the weather, tell someone where you’re going and when you’ll be back, purchase/obtain permits if necessary. At the trail head, lock your car, display your parking permit if necessary, do not leave food or scented items in your car if you’re parked in an area with bears. Try to leave your car when no one is looking (so they don’t know that your just taking off and you’ll be gone for several hours). Know the dangers of the environment you’re going in – Are there bears (need a bear container), Mountain Lions, Poison Oak, Rattlesnakes, Steep Cliffs/ high drop offs, Trail/Bushwhacking, Flash Floods, etc.
For any hike in the backcountry you should have the 10+ essentials.
- Map (and know how to read it!)
- Compass/GPS (and know how to use it!)
- Extra clothes/ rain gear
- First Aid Kit
- *Communication device – Cell phone (fully charged & with an extra battery if possible), Sat. Phone, Radio, etc.
Clothes – (always dress in layers) You will need a base layer, warming layer, waterprook/wind proof shell and smartwool type socks. Avoid all cotton material. Remember the closer to your skin the layer is the better. If the clothing is loose, it provides space for cold air to form. Gloves & beanie’s on elevated hikes.
Shoes/Boots – Comfort and stability are key. They have to be comfortable! Cheap hiking boots are available everywhere, but they will only last a short while. There are no hikes that we are doing that you have to have hiking boots, however, they would be a plus on some of the longer hikes. When choosing boots, think about what you want to use them for. Waterproof boots are overrated and they don’t usually work that well. Simple day hikes you can get more flexible, gym shoe type boots. For longer hikes when your carrying weight, you will need something more ridged and ankle supporting. *one thing to remember is you don’t want your foot to slip around in your boot when you’re walking. That will cause blisters quick! Once you’ve bought your boots, consider putting better insoles in them.
Headwear/ Hats – I recommend some sort of hat or head covering for hikes in the direct sunlight. Get something that breathes. A hat that does not let the hot air out will cause you to sweat more and overheat quicker. My choice is the Airflow Tilly Hat. It is a wide brim, light, crushable breezer hat. Good sun protection, light and easy to carry.
Backpack – Any pack will do, however, the more hiking you do, the more functional and comfortable you’ll want. Again, discount stores offer packs that are good to start out. Many of them have hydration bladder pockets sewn in which is a good thing. Deciding how long you want to hike determines how big your pack should be. For our purposes, a small daypack – 1300 to 1500 cubic inches in size. Janson, Kelty, Osprey, REI, Cabella’s all make good packs. Having one with a hydration bladder included saves money. If you don’t know what a hydration bladder is, think Camelbak. You will need at least a 2 liter bladder for any hike we do. 3 liter + for longer hikes. You can combine a bladder with water bottles too. I personally like pockets on my pack. More places to put stuff! Some packs are very sleek and don’t have a lot of pockets on the outside. Personal preference. Get one with padded shoulder straps, a chest strap and a padded waist strap preferably. To the extreme, you can go to REI and they will fit you with a backpack.
Hiking poles – I don’t usually carry pole(s) unless I am hiking in a location that is uneven surface or someplace I might need more balance. Most poles are adjustable and can range in price from a few bucks to expensive! Most poles are collapsible and have padded grips with tethers to go around your hand. (so you don’t lose it) As an emergency precaution, I have duct tape wrapped around my pole in case I need it.
First Aid Kit – Take a small first aid kit for minor scratches and cuts.
- Hand sanitizer
- Band Aids of different sizes
- 2”-4” Gauze
- Protective gloves
- Medical tape
- Antibiotic cream
- Alcohol wipes
- Safety Pins
- Small triangular bandages
- Moleskin or something for blisters
Water – This will be the heaviest weight in your pack! We touched on this above. Take more water than you think you’ll need. On hot days, I recommend 4 liters per day. On cool days, 2-3 liters depending on your exertion. Remember, water is not the only thing your body is losing while exercising. Replacing electrolytes is important also. Drink enough water to keep peeing! If you stop urinating, you’re starting to dehydrate. If you’re thirsty, you’re dehydrated. Remember, the color of your urine indicates your hydration level. If it’s a golden brown/ yellow, you’re dehydrated. If it’s clear you’re doing good. If you want to know how to make a urine solar still in the sand, let me know. Purifying water is a different subject. If you want to know different options to purify water, ask me.
Fuel – take foods that are high in calories and protein. Much like race fuel, you’ll eat the same stuff only more.
o Trail Mix/GORP – Nuts, Pretzels, Raisins, Craisins, M&M’s, Banana Chips, Chocolate Chips, cranberries, sunflower seeds, Reese’s Pieces, Granola, etc. Any mix of these provide a ton of nutrients for snacking along the way.
o Clif Bars, Gu, Gel, Shot Bloks
o Dehydrated foods are fine, but on short day hikes it’s kinda overkill.
o Peanut Butter and Jelly!
o Tuna / Shredded Chicken & Crackers
o Tortillas & Nutella
For those rambunctious sort, I also have for you my 24 hour SAR OCSD Pack Gear List for reference as well as a BackCounty Day Packs info page. Just click the links to retrieve them.
Please let me know if you have any questions.
Supervising Park Ranger | OC Parks
Mid-County Operations Group ~ Laguna Niguel and Mason
28241 La Paz Road
Laguna Niguel, CA. 92677
Office: (949) 923-2241
Cell: (714) 277-9023
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