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I’ve seen it time and time again but it still surprises me how many people I see on the hiking trails ill equipped. I’m not talking about the lack of the newest and greatest gear. I’m not even talking about the “in case of emergency” items.  I’m talking about the basics. I’m talking about no water and flip flops on an eight kilometre mountain trail in the middle of a hot summer day. I’m talking about open toed shoes in rattlesnake country. Hiking is an activity that can be enjoyed by everyone – young and old – anywhere in the world with minimal gear but should be pursued with respect.

Hiking Boots. Good hiking boots/shoes suited for the terrain are essential for every member of the family who is on the trail. This spring our son when had grown out of his hiking boots, it took us a month or so to replace them. However, when the time came that we were heading to Dinosaur Park, we didn’t leave before buying a great pair of hiking boots. Why? Slippery sandstone, steep terrain, sharp cactus spikes and rattlesnakes. While even the best pair of boots can’t protect you from everything, they are a good first step to provide protection and support. Don’t forget to wear good hiking socks with your boots.

Water. Make sure that you take enough water to remain hydrated throughout the hike. When deciding on how much to take don’t forget to take into account trail length, weather, terrain as well as accessibility to safe drinking water.

Food. Even on the shortest hikes, it’s always good to bring a snack or two. This is especially important if your hiking with small children. There’s nothing like a whining, hungry toddler on a hiking trail – we find a good snack the quickest way to avoid this problem. Longer hikes mean more energy expended. Treks into the wilderness should always be accompanied by extra rations just in case.

Clothing. Dress for the weather and dress in layers staying away from cotton. Wear a hat. Make sure that you prepare for inclement weather especially in areas, such as the mountains, where the weather can change in the matter of minutes.

Hiking Poles. Many people find hiking poles essential for hiking while others will never own a pair. We have found that hiking in the mountains is easier with poles, especially when carrying a heavy pack (or a child carrier).

First Aid Kit. Even on the shortest of hikes, it’s good idea to have a first aid kit in your bag. Make sure that you check it and replenish any items that you use.

This list only touches on the barest of essentials and should not be considered comprehensive. Before heading out, do your research – there are tons of resources available. AdventureSmart is a great resource for Canada. Many outdoor stores such as Mountain Equipment Co-op and REI also have great information. Always remember there are inherent risks when hiking, always use caution and assess trails and conditions carefully.

What do you always take hiking? What equipment do you deem essential?