If we are talking about the bare essentials of hiking, let us get this out of the way:
In general, you need at least a litre of water per 10km. The more, the better.
On any hiking trip, food planning takes precedence. The amount of water to bring varies among individuals, but always remember that your body also loses a lot of salts while sweating so electrolytes and isotonic drinks are recommended for long hikes to prevent cramps.
Consider dissolving rehydrating salts into your water bottles.
Then comes food. If you are overweight with an inch or two of belly fat or love handles, there is nothing to worry about on a day hike. A good, strenuous hike will even help compel your body to burn off some of those fixed deposits.
But if you are lithe, at your ideal weight even, bringing along sustenance will keep bone-deep fatigue at bay. Think energy bars, power gels, nuts and dried fruits, or even hard-boiled eggs and a few slices of cake.Quick note: resist the urge to drink out of streams unless you have sterilising tablets or special filtration gear. Even a minute cross-contamination of rat urine in stream water can give you a world of pain.
Besides wild animals, plants with thorns can also hurt you. A good pocket knife with scissors, pliers or a saw is useful should you be snared by a rattan vine, which hikers nickname the “machinegun” vine. Once these thorns hook onto your attire or skin, forcefully pulling them off will rip your clothes and skin, so it’s best to snip it off.
Always carry a first aid kit even on a day hike, with paracetamol, gastrointestinal medication and antiseptic wipes and plasters inside.
Attire-wise, wear what is comfortable.
A hydration bag will ease your mobility as the compactness prevents the water you carry from sloshing around and affecting your stride.
Your knees and ankles take a lot of impact while you hike so if you have weak joints, use a hiking stick and wear knee or ankle braces.
The weather can be predictable; a quick check on the morning of your planned hike will tell you if a storm is on the way.
Generally, wet weather is part of hiking, but if you anticipate the heat of a burning sun, wear a cap or visor which can be flipped up so it does not block your vision of trees and branches overhead.
During the monsoon or rainy season, a lightweight waterproof jacket will keep you warm. An emergency blanket will help you survive a night out in the storm should you get stranded while hiking.
Even if you’re only planning a daytime hike, always have a torchlight in your pack with the batteries fully charged.
“The single most important rule is to never hike alone. Have a buddy to tag along and bring your mobile phone. There is always a risk of getting lost, bad weather, wild animal attacks and injury.
“Having a buddy and a mobile phone is like having a safety net,” says Roger Choo, a professional ultra trail runner and fitness coach.
Avid hiker and environmentalist Rexy Prakash stresses the need for GPS-enabled navigation applications such as Strava or Gaia, which help with route navigation and backtracking if one gets lost in the jungle.“Also, having antihistamine pills and analgesic balm in your hiking bag is essential as they provide quick relief from insect bites and stings or muscle cramps,” he says.