I do a lot of day hiking around the Las Vegas area. Whether I plan to be out for an hour or a day, the basics in my backpack donít change too much. Here is a list of my regular items.
Water. By far, the most important item in my pack is water. I usually carry two one-liter Camel Back bottles and several .5 liter plastic bottles. It might seem like a bit of overkill, but hiking in the desert, no matter what time of year, is thirsty walking. Itís important to drink enough water, no matter what your activity level is.
First Aid Kit. I always keep my small First Aid Kit in my pack. If I use something, Iím sure to replace it before I head out again. For lists of First Aid items, check out my article, ďFirst Air Essentials.Ē
Food. If Iím on a short hike, I tend to toss a few Cliff Bars and a couple apples into my bag. Itís my goald to have at least 1000 calories available for snacking. If Iíll be out longer, say 5-7 hours, in addition to the snack food, Iíll also include a large sandwich consisting of bread and protein (and lots of calories), as well as something salty like nuts or chips. Spending the day sweating while hiking requires replacement of salts and fats. The nice thing about food and water, as you consume them, your pack gets lighter!
Maps. Even if I know a region, or feel that I know a region, Iím sure to carry a map with me, as well as any notes or directions Iíve gotten or created for myself. Topographical maps are available for most state and national park systems. Talk to the rangers or visit the information booth for your local walk. You donít need to carry entire books, but instead, just photo copy the page or pages for where youíll be. While I do carry my cell phone, I always make sure to have paper copies of maps.
Cell Phone/GPS. I always carry my cell phone when I hike. Iím amazed how often these days I have some level of service, even in very remote areas. Yet, I never count on my phone working. And, that goes for GPS devices, too. Theyíre great to have, but be sure you know how to read the map you brought with you.
Compass. Itís amazing how many folks donít know how to use a compass. I have downloaded a compass app on my phone, which is very helpful. I also carry a small physical compass, just in case the phone doesnít work. If you donít know how to read a compass or even use one, I recommend taking a class either online or at your local sporting goods store. I attended one at a local REI that was a great refresher.