Planning a day hike can create stress, even among veteran hikers. Researching the day’s weather forecast, sorting through your gear options, and trying to account for unexpected changes are all part of planning a successful day hike. It’s no wonder that one of the most common comments guides have heard over the years is, “I don’t know what to pack.”
Many hikers rely on what’s known as “The 10 Essentials,” a list of 10 categories that a hiker should fill with an essential item. For example, the “navigation category” could include a map, a compass, and/or a cell phone or satellite device.
The list, created by the Seattle Mountaineers in the 1930s, might be a good starting point for novice hikers. However, it can lead to an overindulgence of “stuff” loaded into day-packs and may lull hikers into a false sense of safety in having all the essentials they need.
Hiking in the White Mountains is a transformational experience. When considering a hike, would-be adventurers often envision clear blue skies, songbirds in overhead canopies, majestic views from above-treeline ridges, and the sense of smallness in comparison to the vastness.
Hiking in the White Mountain National Forest is legendary for its iconic views and creating feelings of peace and tranquility. But that feeling becomes dampened when weighed down with an overstuffed pack or when an emergency happens due to lack of planning or unexpected circumstances.
Instead of regurgitating the top ten list, here’s our take on what items you need on a day hike in the White Mountains.
A well-fitted, adjustable day pack is an essential item. You have to store all of your other items somewhere, and a comfortable day-pack is the place to do it. If you don’t already have a day-pack, it’s best practice to head to your local outdoor store for a proper fitting. Try on different options and look for a pack that offers fully adjustable shoulder straps, a chest strap, and a waist strap. There are many size options, and what you need depends on how far you’re going or how long you’ll be on the mountain. At Guineafowl, we prefer a 22 to 24-liter total capacity, which is plenty for a single day, but not too much to be bulky and create a lot of wasted space and weight.
Our bodies are 70% water, so yes, you’ll need some liquid nectar while hiking. Most daypacks will have a built-in area to properly store a hydration bladder and access for a drinking hose. If yours doesn’t, it may be time to upgrade, as bottles are bulkier and more challenging to access on-the-go. We recommend a day pack that can fit a 2-liter bladder for most people. Of course, you can always fill it halfway if 2-liters is more than you’ll need, but you certainly don’t want to run out.
In addition, we recommend carrying some form of water purification device if for any reason you may blow through the whole two liters. For example, hikers often rely on a steripen, life straw, or dissolvable tablets. Regardless of what you choose, it’s a good idea to have a way to filter water on the mountain.
Food is nearly as important as water on a hike. Not just because your body requires you to replace the calories it’s burning to lug you up this mountain. But also because snacks make the journey more enjoyable–trust us. A standard hike in the White Mountains can burn over 1,000 calories; if you work hard on climbs and spend a whole day out on the trails, it's easy to burn over 2,000 calories! While you don’t need to replace 100% of what you burn, you should be fueling regularly and eating before you notice your hunger–having something to eat every 45 min to an hour is a good rule of thumb.
Some of our favorite trail snacks include quick, on-the-move options like energy gels and energy bars that don’t require stopping to consume. We also refuel with “real food” options like beef jerky or beef sticks, apples, bananas, mandarin oranges, and trail mix with nuts and seeds. Regardless of what you prefer, opt for lightweight items that can be eaten quickly and easily while hiking (and don’t require ice packs to stay edible!). Also, consider what waste items your trail snacks create and have a plan for storing trash during your hike. It’s good practice to leave one area in your pack or one pocket in your clothing as trash storage.
Guineafowl Adventure Company provides full-service, turnkey guided day hikes in the White Mountains and beyond for people of all abilities and experience levels. We take care of all the planning and preparation for hiking and provide round-trip transportation from the Greater Boston area, day packs with hydration and snacks, safety and convenience items, and friendly, knowledgeable, and experienced guides to lead the way!
Guineafowl's mission is to remove the barriers and obstacles that keep people from exploring nature, so they can feel comfortable, safe, and relaxed while experiencing the physical and mental health benefits of hiking and connecting with nature.