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Take a Hike: What You Need to Pack Before Hitting the Trails

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everst/Shutterstock. Below backgrounds by MOSO IMAGE
everst/Shutterstock. Below backgrounds by MOSO IMAGE

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Welcome to Workout Wednesday: every hump-day, we'll be rounding up some of the city's hottest fitness trends and studios.

You can pedal your way through just so many spin classes before your routine is left gasping for a breath of fresh air. Luckily, that's just a hiking trail away. New York City is situated in the center of it all, with trails sprawling in all directions: the Lemon Squeeze to the north in the Hudson Valley; Oyster Pond Trail to the east in Montauk; Four Birds Trail to the south in North Jersey; and Donut HoleTrail to the west in Pennsylvania.

Like any solid cardio workout, hiking has been shown to improve cardiovascular health, muscle strength, bone density, and overall mood. Maneuvering your way up a rocky hill can intensify your heart rate and burn extra calories while honing balance and stability. And getting away from the hustle and bustle of the city just for a day definitely has its own benefits.

But first, there are essentials you'll want in your hiking pack—ten to be exact. We tapped Maria Gabriela Garcia, a camping sales representative over at REI in Soho and Christopher Hawson, a buyer for Paragon Sports for tips.

Why It's Essential: If you're going on a hike, you need to know where you're going, right? Navigation can include maps, compasses, and GPS devices. While your GPS device may be spot on when it comes to directing you toward the nearest Organic Avenue, it's not so reliable once it's dragged off the beaten concrete path, where wireless signals can be few and far between.

"When that GPS signal doesn't show up, when your battery dies, when you drop your smartphone and it shatters into a million pieces; you're going to wish you had a map, and that you knew how to read it," says Garcia.

What to Pack: Most maps today are printed on water-resistant paper. If the one you need isn't, you can pick up an inexpensive water-proof sleeve to store it in. For a compass, most people can get away with REI's Therm-O Compass. This little keychain has a water compass, a temperature gauge, and a wind-chill chart on the back to calculate temperature difference. If you're stressing about not being able to read a map, REI offers free classes.

Why It's Essential: We're talking more than just a bottle of sunscreen here (which you do need). You want to also consider lip balm, sunglasses, and hats. "You would be surprised at all the ways those rays will catch you while out on a hike, especially what the glare off the water can do," says Hawson.

What to Pack: An Outdoor Research's broad brim sun hat, like the Oasis Sombrero Sun Hat. The thing about this hat is it doesn't just shade you from the sun—it actually protects your face, neck, and shoulders from UV rays with its expansive brim made of SolarShield fabric with UPF 50+. Plus, it's equipped with a wicking headband that keeps perspiration (and unfortunate hairline acne) in check.

Why It's Essential: A number of garments fall under this essential: jacket, vest, pants, gloves, etc. The thing about hiking through different elevations is that temps can change along the journey.

What to Pack: Since you're heading out on a summer hike a light but versatile jacket will do, like North Face's Venture Jacket. It provides waterproof and windproof protection and breathable comfort with its HyVent technology, which is great if a thunderstorm rolls in. But what we're really interested in are the little things: like the adjustable Velcro cuff tabs, zipper pockets, and "pit-zips," zipper concealed mesh openings in the jacket's armpits that help prevent overheating when tearing through the trails.

Why It's Essential: What most novice hikers aren't aware of is that you really should have three sources of light at your fingertips when out on the trails. "On your person yourself, you should have at least two sources of light," says Garcia. "So this way if your primary source of light, like say a lantern defaults, you're still good to go."

What to Pack: These two sources can include a flashlight, a clip light, even a headlamp, which these days are super small, lightweight, and really easy to use. "I always recommend Princeton Tec," Garcia adds. "The Remix is the most popular one right now. It's right down the middle: it's not too expensive, it's not too cheap, and at 125 lumens that's more light than you'll probably ever need."

Why It's Essential: You're on an adventure, and you know that every adventure comes with a worthwhile danger or two.

What to Pack: Grab Adventure Medical's Fundamentals Easy Care Kit. It's equipped for just about every hiking mishap you can think of: scrapes and wounds, insect stings and bites, sprains and fractures, and so on. What's really awesome though is that all contents in this two-pound kit are organized by injury along with specific instructions, enabling even the clumsiest to administer first aid quickly confidently.

Why It's Essential: This is another one of those in-case-of-an-emergency essentials. And really, who's to say that stopping midway through an 8-hour hike to roast a hot dog over an open flame isn't an emergency?

What to Pack: The SOL All-Weather Fire Cubes. These eco-friendly, non-toxic, smokeless, and odorless cubes easily ignite and stay lit in any condition—yeah, they're even windproof. Since each full cube will burn for ten to twelve minutes, they're ideal for getting a fire started but not necessarily being the sole source. However, one cube can boil sixteen ounces of water in ten minutes.

Why It's Essential: "You never know what you may end up having to fix when out on the trails," says Hawson. "Screws do have a habit of coming loose and eyelets in boots have been known to bend out of shape."

What to Pack: A Leatherman Wave Multitool.This tool of all tools (17 in total) is equipped with numerous screwdrivers, needle nose pliers, wire cutters, a ruler, scissors, assorted files, a bottle opener, and various knives, among a few other things.

Why it's Essential: It's suggested you pack an extra day's food supply, even if you're just out on a day hike—because, well, your plans could go off course.

What to Pack: In an effort to keep it light while still meeting your recommended daily caloric intake and vitamin needs, energy bars, like ProBar, are really the way to go. For instance, there's the ProBar Superfruit Slam Whole Food Meal Bar that's loaded with organic acai berries, strawberries, almonds, and oats. It's a solid source of Omega 3 and 6, as well as a number of other nutritonal necessities, deeming this tasty vegan teat a suitable meal replacement.

Why It's Essential: While you're out on the trail, you'll likely forget you're exercising—until you start working up a sweat. What you don't want to forget is to stay hydrated, and the most effective way is to drink small amounts of fluids about every fifteen to twenty minutes, or when you start to feel thirsty.

What to Pack: Outfit your hiking pack with a Camelback Antidote Reservoir made of super-strong polyurethane and equipped with a quick-snap cap and drinking hose. "The hose is really the key feature here," Hawson explains. "When you're hiking you will likely be using your hands to maintain balance and by having the hose right there you can drink as you go, no need to stop, unscrew a bottle, and lose the cap."

Why It's Essential: You set out on a hike expecting the best and hoping to avoid the worst, but there's always a chance you may cross paths with the worst. You'd be surprised what qualifies as an emergency shelter: like a tent, tarp, bivy (basically a lightweight waterproof sleeping bag), and a reflective blanket.

What to Pack: A windproof, waterproof Grabber Outdoors Space Emergency Bag made of 1/2mm heat retaining polyester film. "This inexpensive emergency bag is amazing to have because it serves so many different purposes," says Garcia. "You can use it as a ground tarp or as an overhead shelter, you can use it as a functional carrier, and most importantly, you can use it as a blanket, which is crucial when temperatures drop."—Ellen Thompson