I always have a hat whenever I am hiking. It is wide brim and made of synthetic fiber. I underestimated the importance of having a hat only once. This instance was also the only time I ever found myself somewhat lost while hiking. I happened to be hiking in conservation in mid-Missouri. I forgot to bring my hat that day and decided that it was not important to go back and get it. I was wrong. The day was sunny and there was no chance of rain reported by the weather people. It also had not rained in about a week, so I assumed that it was not going to rain. I had four other people with me on the hike and none of them knew how to orienteer or look for forest landmarks. I decided not to bring a GPS since we had a map and compass. All throughout the hike I had been paying attention to landmarks and the map so that I could guide us back when the time came. We had hiked for some time in the conservation area and were ready to head back to the vehicle when a large pop-up storm dumped a deluge of rain on us. The rain quickly covered my glasses and started making them foggy. I tried wiping them down and using my hand to cover them as we walked, but nothing worked. I was effectively blind in the field. Unable to see my landmarks and frustrated, I asked if one of the other group members would be capable of leading the group. One group member stepped up and said that he could do it. Unfortunately, he could not do it. He had not paid attention to the landmarks, so we missed the draw we were supposed to take back to the vehicles and spent hours attempting to look for it. Fortunately, I had followed a cardinal rule of hiking before coming on the hike. I memorized the surrounding area, roads, and trails beforehand. I still had my compass and sense of direction, so we were able to head towards a road that bracketed the eastern side of the conservation area. Once on the road, we were able to easily make our way back to the vehicles. I learned two lessons that day. First, always bring an extra pair of glasses. Second, never forget your hat. If I had my hat, then my glasses would never have gotten wet and I would have been able to see the landmarks and the map. So, be like Aiden in the photo below and come prepared for your hike!
The socks I wear are incredibly cheap, yet effective synthetic athletic socks from the local buy-it-all store. The socks cost about $5 for 3 pairs. They are comfortable and breathable. I have purchased high dollar hiking socks that are not nearly as comfortable as the cheap socks that I use. The brand I purchased was Starter. However, I’m sure there are many other decent brands out there.
I am going to admit up front that I have been using a woefully inadequate pack for my hiking outings for quite some time. The pack I currently use is a cheap Eastport book bag that I picked up during my undergraduate years. The pack provides no support and does not have a frame. It has been the source of many post-hike backaches. The pack that I am thinking about purchasing is an Osprey Stratos series. These packs are very comfortable and provide excellent back support and lots of storage for day hikes. If you are new to hiking, you do not need to invest in an expensive pack. I have gotten by for years with my cheap pack. However, eventually you will want to upgrade.
Stay tuned for part 4, “Hiking Boots.”