If there’s one magic piece of gear for your day hike, it’s duct tape – use it to fix a cracked water bottle, torn piece of clothing or even prevent a blister from forming. An easy way to bring duct tape along is to wrap a few feet around your water bottle or hiking pole, so you always have it at hand and never have to dig around in your pack for the roll.
After some time on the trail, kids and adults alike love a treat. Fill a thermos with hot chocolate (for cool days and evenings) or ice-cold lemonade (for hot days and long hikes).
You should always carry a map and compass (and know how to use them!) when you’re on the trail. But if you don’t want to keep taking your map out of your pack, take a photo of it with your smartphone – that way, you’ll always have an easy hand-held copy right in your pocket. This is a great way to capture a map posted at a trailhead, too.
If you aren’t a backpacker, you might not have a pack liner – but a garbage bag is a great homemade alternative. Simply put the contents of your pack into the bag before slipping it into the main compartment, then twist or fold over the top, and everything will stay dry if you get caught in a downpour. Keeps sweat out, too!
Here’s a neat trick to estimate how much time you have left before the sun sets: stretch out your arm and hold your hand sideways, palm facing you. Every finger between the horizon and the sun is 15 minutes of daylight.
To create a floating bobber for your keys, stick a spare key or an eye hook into a wine cork and add it to your keychain. If your keys fall into the water when you’re crossing a stream, the cork will float, bringing them right up to the surface.
Keeping your phone in your pocket means you’re always ready to snap a great photo, but it puts your device at risk from rain or sweat. A clear plastic snack or freezer bag will keep your phone dry, and most touch screens will respond to your finger even through the plastic.
On really hot days, staying cool is extra important. In addition to drinking water, you can dip a hat, handkerchief or headband into a stream or bottle – putting the wet cloth on your head will cool you right off.
The night before your hike, fill your (BPA-free) water bottle halfway and put it in the freezer; in the morning, top it off with cold water. The ice will slowly melt over the course of your hike, keeping your water cool and your bottle replenished.
Chances are you’ll want to stop and rest at some point during your hike, and there may not be a clean seat just waiting for you along the trail. A hand towel is a fraction of the weight and size of a camp chair, and it turns the dirtiest rock, log or stretch of ground into a perfect seat for a quick rest.