What to Expect When You Go Hiking: a Gear Story

It seems like Social Media has inspired a new generation to get outside, but as Mr. Baggins wisely observed, “It is dangerous business going out of your door.  If you don’t keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to.”  The uncertainties of the journey are, in my opinion, the reason for the uncertainties of what to bring with you. So what I’m going to do is walk you through what happens on a hike and the gear list will create itself!

  1. You see an incredible photo on your Instagram feed with a quote that says something to the effect of “your life is meaningless unless you quit your job and live in the wilderness doing whatever you want all the time.”  You decide to remain gainfully employed but resolve to visit the waterfall in the photo next weekend.  
  2. A quick Google search leads you to https://www.alltrails.com/ or another useful internet asset.  You may even try something so archaic as a book. This is officially the start of your trip, in my opinion!
  3. As you fantasize about your trip you start to think about that movie where the rock falls on that guy’s arm in a canyon and he’s stuck for a month and has to cut his own arm off to escape and you start to wonder how you can make sure you have all your arms when you get back.  So you download this FREE planner and Search and Rescue Cheat Sheet at https://cactusandcolt.com/collections/downloadables-1 to help plan your trip and give you the appropriate info to leave with a friend who wants you to come home. Living to post pics another day is priority #1!   GEAR: PLAN
  4. With the appropriate maps downloaded to your phone and/or GPS, you realize that cell signal may not be available where you’re headed so you PRINT A HARD COPY of your map!  GEAR: MAP
  5. You check the weather and get dressed.  You’ll probably look like you’re going to the gym.  GEAR: CLOTHES AND ATHLETIC SHOES
  6. The gravel crunches as you arrive at the trailhead early Saturday morning, well, technically afternoon. You had an excellent breakfast of the finest gas station pastries and energy drinks on the way out and as the wild breeze hits your face you’re filled with a savage sense of freedom!  But first you have to go to the bathroom.  Luckily, like most trailheads, this one has a restroom (or foliage of respectable size to hide your shame).   GEAR: BIODEGRADABLE WIPES (or TP if you must) AND HAND SANITIZER
  7. A few minutes down the trail, you realize you’re embarrassing yourself with your enthusiastic skipping and you find a rhythm more compatible with a sane person who is used to being allowed outside. Eventually the thrill of outdoor sights and sounds absent of digital filters loses its edge and you start to realize three things: it’s hot, you’re not sure what to do with your hands and you’re thirsty. Time for a drink. Camelbak™ has an excellent hydration calculator to help you determine how much water you need to bring/drink on your hike  at www.camelbak.com/en/hydrated/hydration-calculator . The hike is six miles round trip and kind of steep so you plan for about 2 miles an hour in this frigid (for Arizona) 80 degree heat.  The calculator says you’ll need 3 liters of water, so you greedily extract one of the 3, 1 liter bottles of that fancy water you got at the gas station out of your trusty old Jansport and pretend you’re at the glacial spring on the label.  GEAR:  BACKPACK AND WATER (and snacks!)
  8. Your treadmill-worn tennis shoes drag the last dusty yards to the overlook. As you push past the throng of bikini-clad Instamodels, the setting sun throws the cascading mist from the waterfall into a shimmering memory of a rainbow.  The Internet was right!  You have reached self-actualization! ...or are you starving? Maybe realizing your full potential feels like starving hunger pangs?  To be on the safe side you find a flatish rock that’s reassuringly similar to a chair and pull a bag of gas-station trail mix from the ol’ Jansport.  Unfortunately, advancements in modern snack packaging makes it nigh-unopenable.  From inside your pocket nimbly appears a classic Victorinox Swiss Army Knife that makes quick work of the offensive mylar/adamantium bag.  While it’s out, you scrape some cactus spines out of your leg, neatly extract a splinter from your finger, cut some string to fashion a quick-draw sling for your selfie stick, and shave in a manly fashion. GEAR:  KNIFE (or anything sharp enough to open your snack of choice)
  9. As the last of the “golden hour” light fades so does the snappy sound of the DSLR’s, well, except for the tripod-wielding star-pic guys.  You make a mental note to invest in a decent tripod...and some decent lenses…and photography lessons...and a camera.  The tripod guys click their long-exposure remotes and then all is silent except for the constant drumming of the waterfall. You feel the occasional mist from the water as you watch every star blink into place. The world, your life, feels alive and real again. The distant complex problems of modern life have been replaced by the simple, straight-forward challenges at hand.  For example, how do I get back to the car?  Following trails and remembering landmarks is remarkably easy during the day, but you admit to yourself that the ability see more than six feet in front of you is a key component of your navigational strategy. With a promising zip and a confident click, your Petzyl Zipka headlamp wraps around your head and illuminates an attractive photographer who points you back the way you came.     GEAR: FLASHLIGHT (extra batteries and/or an extra flashlight is a good idea too)
  10. Before long you see the glint of cars as the trailhead comes into view. The click of your keychain is followed by a friendly beep from your trusty steed. Your much lighter backpack slumps off your shoulders into the back seat and the dome light feels like home sweet home.  You trade your tired shoes for some flip flops you forgot were in the back seat and realize a blister needs your attention.  The Jansport renders a ziploc bag with a sharpie cross drawn on it. A puff of your asthma inhaler, some Mole skin or duct tape for the blister, antibiotic ointment and a band aid for scrape on your shin, an antihistamine for the allergies you feel coming on and some ibuprofen for your knees. GEAR: FIRST AID KIT
  11. The a/c hits your face a half second after you crank the engine. You turn it off and roll your window down instead, feeling the cool night air and point your tires toward home.  You have to pee again, but you decide to hold it because you know there’s a Del Taco on the way back with a flushing toilet and...ya know...churros.  












That’s what happens on a day hike!  Stay tuned for more unsolicited advice on adventure gear and activities at https://cactusandcolt.com/ !