I grew up going on day hikes. My family would leave early in the morning and drive to one of our favorite state parks. We spent the day exploring the Ozarks and enjoying the outdoors. Along the way, we would climb on all the big rocks, stop in shady areas to eat our snacks, and see if we could spot any deer. Day hikes make up some of my fondest memories of childhood. However, these trips would not have turned out so well if we had not been prepared. I can thank dad for always making sure we were ready for these hikes. He knew exactly what to pack, and I want to share the highlights with you so you can be prepared when you take your family.
Dressing for Success
Picking the right clothing for the hike is the most important step. Start by checking the weather for the area you will be in. Then dress in layers. Have an extra jacket for when you first get there, and it is still chilly. This will also keep you warm if the temperature suddenly drops. It could even save you from getting wet if a rogue shower pops up. Have additional lighter clothing layers underneath that you can resort to when you get warmed up from hiking up hills. My dad is fond of saying that “there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothes.” Another part of dressing well is having good footwear. Make sure you will be able to walk all day in the shoes you choose. Ankle support and good treads are very important as well. Many people find themselves in danger when they are hiking, and the temperature suddenly changes. Make sure you are ready for this possibility.
What to Eat
Family hikes are not complete without snacks. You will be burning a lot of calories on your hike, and you will be hungry. Fast-food will probably make you sick, and it is hard to bring along a casserole. However, there are a lot of convenient options you can take. Nuts and trail mixes are great choices. They are extremely easy to eat on the go. Dried and fresh fruit is also a great way to give yourself a little energy boost on the trail. Fresh fruit also has a lot of water in it and will help keep you hydrated. Speaking of which, bring plenty of water. You lose a lot of liquids on any hike sweating and breathing out water vapor. In addition to this, having plenty of food and water could save your life if you are stranded somewhere due to a storm or an injury. Plus, who likes to be hungry when they are trying to enjoy nature?
Packing a Peace of Mind
Hiking involves leaving civilization and many of the safety-nets it offers. You will need to be self-sufficient. You can do this by bringing several key items with you on your trip. First, you will need a fire starter. This can be as simple as a tiny gas-station lighter. The key is having some way to start a flame. Temperatures can drop during the night even in the summer months. Fires are also excellent distress signals if worse comes to worse. Secondly, you will need a first-aid kit. I cannot tell you how many times I have slipped on the trail and needed a band-aid. Make sure you have some way to patch yourself up. Lastly, bring a map. The trail may look simple, but it is easy to get lost. Cell phones will not reach many areas you will be hiking in. You might need to find your way back to your car the old fashion way. In addition to a map make sure you let someone know where you will be hiking and when you are expected to return.
Hiking is great exercise, low cost, and the perfect way to spend time off your electronics and with your family. There are so many state parks with well-maintained trails to explore. You could even use the upcoming winter break to go on a day trip with your family. In addition to your water, you could even bring a thermos of hot cocoa.