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Essential Gear for a Day Hike in New Hampshire’s White Mountains

Jun 19, 2012 09:56AM ● Published by Erin Frisch

Day Hike in the White Mountains

If you are new to hiking, a day hike is a great way to experience the joys of trekking over mountains, through woods, across streams, and past waterfalls. Having the picturesque White Mountains of New Hampshire so close gives you a reason to get out there this summer and give it a try! Here are a few essentials to make your experience enjoyable.

1. Proper Footwear. Considering that hiking is all about walking, footwear is of utmost importance. What type of shoe or boot you wear will depend on the conditions you’ll be hiking in, as well as how aggressive a hike you’re embarking on. Colder or wet conditions and more demanding trails (with rocky terrain and elevation) call for a classic hiking boot (Merrell or Columbia are good brands to try). In warmer or dry conditions and on flatter trails with gentle inclines, a good pair of trail-walking shoes will do. Either way, make sure your footwear fits well and is comfortable. Do not make your hike the first time you wear this footwear—you don’t want blisters to develop mid-hike!

2. Backpack/Daypack. You’ll need to carry your supplies with you, and a backpack or daypack provides the most convenient means. The type you use comes down to personal preference and the hike you are planning, but all packs should be made of lightweight, water-resistant material and have the features you need for your kind of hike. These might include outside mesh pockets to hold water bottles and trail guides, inner waterproof pockets to keep your phone and camera dry, and easy-access pockets for snacks, insect repellent, etc. The larger part of the pack will hold any extra layers of clothing and larger food items.

3. Proper clothing. If you are starting your hike early in the morning, dress in layers you can take off and put back on as needed (stow extra layers in your pack). Avoid wearing cotton clothing if you can. Synthetic fabrics that wick perspiration away from your skin for easy evaporation are a much better choice. Wet clothing can cause a chill if the temperature suddenly drops or the wind picks up. If you are likely to encounter biting insects, a light pair of long trail pants is a good idea, and if the forecast calls for wind, you’ll be glad to have a windbreaker in your pack. A pair of extra socks (again, non-cotton is best) is a good idea in case your socks get wet, or you want to change them after lunch or when you’re done.

4. Hiking Poles. These offer added security on wet or slippery trails and when crossing streams. They also help take the pressure off knees and thighs when you are descending steeper trails. Many modern hiking poles are lightweight, collapsible, and easy to stash in your pack.

5. Hat/Sunscreen. If you plan to hike in open terrain or above the tree line, be sure to wear sunscreen, even on an overcast day. A hat can also help shield your face from the sun and double as a heat-loss prevention measure should the sun slip behind the clouds or the temperature drop unexpectedly. Sunglasses are also a good idea if your eyes are sensitive to bright light.

6. Insect Repellent. During the warm, often humid days of summer, the bugs are out in full force, especially on wooded trails. A good insect repellent that contains DEET (anywhere from 20% to 30%) will keep mosquitoes, flies, chiggers, and ticks at bay. You can find it at most drugstores and stores such as REI or EMS. There are even DEET-free choices on the market that are safe to use on younger hikers. Always check for ticks after your hike, even if you used repellent.

7. Food and Water. Pack carbohydrates and protein-rich foods. These can range from a turkey sandwich or wrap to any combination of energy bars offered at your local market. Good snacks include granola, trail mix, nuts, fruit leather, and fresh fruit. Always pack a little more food that you think you need, just in case you’re out longer than you planned. Make sure you are well hydrated before you set off, and bring along water either in plastic water bottles or a plastic bladder with a drinking tube (made to go in your backpack). The rule of thumb is to pack two quarts of water per person, but if you plan to hike on a very hot or dry day, bring more.

8. Map and Compass/GPS. If you’re a novice hiker, it is especially important to bring a trail map and compass along. Trails in the White Mountains are generally well marked, but you can also purchase maps at many of the information centers. A compass can be useful, along with the map, and if all else fails, a GPS can point you in the right direction. Sometimes near the peaks, though, GPS signals may not be very strong.

9. First-Aid Kit and Identification. A small, first-aid kit stocked with band-aids, sterile gauze, bandages, antibacterial wipes or ointment, alcohol wipes, and acetaminophen comes in handy if you get a cut or scrape. It’s also a smart idea to have a photo ID on you and any information about medical conditions or allergic reactions. If you’ll need any prescribed medication while you’re hiking, be sure to pack that as well.

Always tell someone else what your planned route is and when you expect to return. If there is a hikers’ log at the base of your trail, be sure to sign in. This informs local rangers of who may be out on the trail in the event of an emergency. Happy hiking!

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