Back in 2020, when we couldn’t walk further than the end of our street, hug our parents or go for an eye test (unless you were a Tory minister, wife or adviser, of course), I wrote about my hiking essentials. These are the things that I literally don’t leave home without, packed permanently in the Big Rucksack for Big Walks. But then there are the nearly-necessaries; the bits n’ bobs that are not vital, exactly, but pretty darn good to have in your kit bag. Here are some of my handiest!
1. Hiking poles
Designed to give support over rough terrain (hello, Wales) and minimise the impact on your body, hiking poles are a late discovery, without which I don’t know how I managed for so long. Poles reduce the stress on your joints, tendons and muscles and help distribute the weight of a heavy pack, as well as saving those knees whilst coming off the mountain at the end of a long day.
You can also use them to fashion a shelter, support an injured hiker and probe the depth of streams before crossing. Read up on how to use hiking poles properly before you go – yes, it’s something of an art!
2. Waterproof socks
No matter how much you waterproof your boots, rivulets of water will find their way in during particularly sloshy hikes (hello again, Wales). I’ve therefore been very excited to trail test the Sealskinz Waterproof All Weather Sock with Hydrostop™. Fully waterproof yet extremely breathable, they look and feel like ‘normal’ socks, apart from being a little tighter to pull on initially, due to the silicone-like (but silicone-free) elastic taping around the cuff.
Wetness can lead to cold and numb feet, blisters and even frostbite, yet these magic socks keep tootsies toasty and dry in rain, snow and mud. And, best of all, they leave my feet blissfully blister-free! Sealskinz is an award-winning British brand well worth checking out for any waterproof hiking, trail running and cold weather kit. At £37.50, the All Weather Socks aren’t cheap, but they are a solid investment for year-round comfort.
3. Litter pickers and bin bags
There’s no planet B, and it’s up to all of us to do our bit to help protect the one we’re caretaking. It’s disheartening to summit a beautiful mountain and spy chocolate wrappers, banana skins and cigarette ends, but it’s even more heartbreaking for nature if we decide it’s not our problem and stroll on by. A lightweight litter picker is easy to carry in your backpack outer pocket, and you can even buy hiking poles that double up for this purpose. Look out for eco brands like Waterhaul, which solves two problems in one go with its recycled ocean plastic litter pickers. Oh, and while we’re on the subject of waste, read all about my hiking loo essentials before you go!
4. Portable power bank
I love the shape and feel of my Zippo Heatbank® Rechargable Handwarmer, which also charges USB-compatible phones, tablets and cameras whilst you’re on the move. But over the years I’ve acquired an assortment of power banks and, on very long hikes, I take more than one, as phone battery can drop quickly when I’m taking 100 photos and plotting my route all the way with the OS Maps app. Don’t forget the ‘real life’ map and compass as back-up, too (but, of course, you knew that already, because you’ve read my Hiking Essentials!).
5. Trail mix
Regular readers know I’m partial to a biscuit and raisin Yorkie and a flask of trigpoint tea, but I also pack copious supplies of trail mix to munch on the move. You don’t have to buy the expensive varieties cleverly marketed at hikers; just buy own-brand nuts, raisins, dried cranberries and apricots, and blend your own for high-energy fuel.
Note: Don’t pack your trail mix in a paper bag on a rainy hike (again, Wales). I’ve never made such a rookie error, obviously…
If you have children or have ever looked after them, this will be familiar! But did you know it’s a hiker’s best friend too? Branded ‘a little pot ready for big adventures’, this magic cream is as good for grown-ups as babies, particularly in the great outdoors. Sudocrem soothes and protects skin and forms a barrier against irritants, with healing properties including zinc oxide, which helps to reduce loss of fluid from the skin. It’s handy to dab onto cuts, grazes and nettle stings as you go and now comes in a My LIttle Sudocrem 22g portable pot – the perfect edition to your travel first aid kit!
7. Hydration pack
If you’re fed up of continually hoisting your rucksack off and on to get to your water bottle, you need a hydration pack. Designed for trail runners and hikers, they come with a pipe or hose attached that loops from the top of your pack over your shoulder for easy access (decent rucksacks will have an elastic tab to keep them in place). Whilst your eyes might start watering at the prices brought up by the top search results online, I promise you can buy one for less than a tenner – and my budget Go Outdoors pack has lasted years. I’d recommend a 2L bladder for day hikes; bigger when hiking in heat and for wild camps.
Some of these items were kindly gifted and some are my own well-travelled pieces of kit.
What are your nearly-necessaries? I would love to know what’s close to the top of your hiking kit list!