I discovered something. Hiking is hard. Sometimes you’re wet, sometimes you’re hurting and sometimes you’re downright miserable. But there are some little helpers that make the hard moments more bearable and the good moments even better. Here is a list of my favourites.
I am sure we all consider different items essential gear for our trips. Thanks to the internet, the gear lists of hundreds of hikers on different terrain are available to us for reference and inspiration; I am constantly trying to refine mine. In the process, I found that I am particularly fond of some items over others, either because they solve a certain trail problem for me, or simply because they’re morale boosters. For this list, I summarised what I like about each item and what it does for me.
Let’s start with a very basic item that I found to have a great impact on how I feel on the trail, and that’s a handkerchief. I dangle mine down from the front of my pack so that I can wipe down my face from time to time. This helps me with a dusty face, a runny nose, or a sweaty forehead; also great as a quick fix for slippery hands, or to dry a damp surface. When it’s rainy, I still try to hang it from my body, but under the raingear. The cloth stays dry, but is still accessible. It feels great in the rain to dry wet hands and face!
Hikers are gross, and that’s okay, but be mindful of what you use your multipurpose cloth for, to avoid creating unnecessary breeding grounds for germs. If you do, one simple item can solve all sorts of problems.
2. Steri Pen
We continue with a very much non-basic item. Water filtration or purification is an essential topic for every multi-day hiker, and the respective gear is mandatory. The Steri Pen still counts as a little helper for me because it saves me from seeing a mandatory task on-trail as a chore or as daunting. I have so much fun using my Steri Pen, as it makes me feel like some high-tech chemistry lab mad scientist. Insane laughing included.
It is certainly not the lightest option for water sterilization out there, but one of the least bulky, and also one of the quickest (after squeeze filters). That makes my Steri Pen a morale-booster for me.
Some consider headlamps a bit redundant, as almost all phones come with pretty powerful torches these days. That is true, and it is certainly possible to navigate camp or night hikes with a cell phone torch; I have done both. But the comfort of having your hands free in the dark is not only sometimes handy – it also increases safety. A good headlamp is also a multipurpose item as it severs as your torch outside (hands-free) and can be hung in your tent as a reading light (without having to awkwardly balance your phone in the right position). Win-win!
4. Mini drybags
Drybags come in all sorts of sizes, and I personally use different sizes that I found useful as a clothing bag, my food bag, and my electronics bag. But I’ve also recently discovered that I am a huge fan of compartmentalising my pack. I love how dry bags feel, and prefer how they close over, e.g. zip lock bags. Using them to keep my pack organised and to tidy my camp somehow makes me feel more on top of things when I pack, and more at home when I unpack. Hygge on the trail!
Earlier in the article, I said something about items that make hard moments more bearable and good moments even better. This, to me, is the dictionary definition of food. We all know the power of comfort food and culinary pick-me-ups. A boost of energy for the body, a wave of serotonin in the brain, and a carrier of pleasant memories and feelings. Food can do a lot to improve one’s mood.
Likewise, food can enhance an already positive situation, like the lattÃ© on a nice day out or the crisps for a movie night. This feeling can be easily recreated with delicious trail foods as part of a reward after a challenging situation, or as a treat in a particularly scenic spot.
Make some effort to plan your snacks and pick up foods that you really, really love. For me, my snacks serve as a huge motivator when I get tired. I agree with myself on a certain spot where I can have this super tasty snack that I am looking forward to so much. Motivation to reach that spot will be instantly increased. So, snacks are not only vital for you to function, they are also a reward, comforting and motivating!
There you have it – my top five little hiking helpers that make my time on-trail more pleasant.
But wait, that’s not all!
Honourable Mention: Trekking Poles
They are more gear than helper, which is why they didn’t make the list, but there is a lively debate whether or not they are actually helpful and should be considered in gear lists. As they massively increase comfort whilst walking for me, they are my choice for the honourable sixth item on this list. They’re a helper for walking longer, faster, and with less impact on my body. And twirling and flailing them around cheers me up.