“Now that I have my boots and backpack…. what should I bring?” – that is the question!
You want to make sure you have enough food/snacks and water for the hike as well as a couple of basic things that you might need at the top of a mountain (even if it’s warm and sunny, there’s a good chance that at the top it might be cold and windy, so be prepared). Personally, I always pack a fleece, even when it’s 80 degree weather, just in case. If the weather forecast is good and we are only doing a day hike, I will leave the rain gear and winter hat/gloves at home.
Make sure you bring food/snacks that will give you energy! I’m a fan of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, granola bars, beef jerky and bananas. Trail mix with chocolate is also a great choice! Bottles of water or a water bladder are essential! Make sure you bring enough water and/or a water filter (find out ahead of time if the trail you are hiking has water – brooks, streams, falls) to refill. Keep hydrated! (it also helps avoiding muscle injuries).
Obviously what you pack will depend on the weather and the length of your trip. Multi day hikes require more equipment and should start with good planning – study the trail(s) map, decide ahead of time how long you are walking each day and where you are spending the night; know whether or not there’s a reliable water source; if you are cooking (as bad as they sound, the frozen dried meals are pretty tasty after a long day…There are several brands and types, we like the pouches of Mountain House) make sure you have a reliable stove and fuel…. and very important, always, always, ALWAYS make sure to hang your food away from your campsite – you don’t want to encourage bears and other creatures to come over and eat your stuff. A lot of the tent sites available have bear boxes where you can lock your food for the night.
We’ve camped in the middle of the woods and in tent sites… W. prefers the woods, I prefer the tent sites… You have a flat platform to set your tent, there’s usually an outhouse and a water source. Most of the times, these sites have a caretaker and are usually around $8 per night, per person. (You also have huts in some trails, mainly along the Appalachian Trail but those are pretty expensive!)
Regardless of the type of hike you are doing, do your homework – I’d recommend the book “The Backpacker’s Field Manual” by Rick Curtis. It is an awesome guide that covers Trip Planning, Equipment, Nutrition, First Aid, Navigation, Safety, Weather, Ultralight Hiking, Outdoor Leadership and Leave No Trace.
p.s. wherever you go, make sure you leave no trace. Always take your trash with you and make sure your campsite looks untouched.