When embarking on a day hike, you first must consider the difficulty of the route and the amount of time it could take. For an average day hike (two to five miles) on a mild summer day, make sure to pack:
• Water, two liters per person. Too heavy? Drink some and your pack will get lighter. Running out of water on a sunny day is one of the worst feelings. It can also be extremely dangerous.
• Tasty snacks rich in protein. Eating is the best way to maintain energy. Try packing a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Use a bagel so the bread doesn’t squish. If it’s really hot outside, trade chocolate snacks, which will melt, for dried fruit and nuts. James Albert, a Maine master guide from New Vineyard, likes adding dried ginger to his trail mix because it clears out nasal passages. He also adds onions to his hiking meals because he says they are known to be good for the lungs.
• First aid supplies. Bring bandages or moleskin for blisters, especially if breaking in new boots. The pain of one small blister can ruin a hike. Bring materials to take care of cuts. Painkillers might also come in handy. If you don’t want to create your own first aid kit, many outfitters sell small kits at a low cost. If you’re allergic to bee stings, don’t forget an EpiPen.
• Map and compass. Many day hikes throughout the state are marked and well-traveled in the summer, but there’s always a chance of getting lost. Print out a map or carry a guidebook. Maps are often offered at the trail head or park headquarters.
• Extra clothing. Weather can take a turn for the worse, especially when you’re climbing to high elevations. A rain jacket protects against rain and wind. Consider packing a shirt or jacket made of fleece or merino wool for warmth.
• Protection against bugs and burns. Sunscreen and bug repellent are essential to hike in the Maine woods. Some people prefer bug head nets and bug-repellent clothing to lotions and sprays.
• Eye protection. Polarized sunglasses add comfort to a hike year-round. Squinting constantly is tiring and bad for your eyes. Further, Albert suggests wearing clear safety glasses or lenses for low light (typically tinted orange or yellow) when walking in the shaded woods. “There are little twigs and things, and next thing you know, you have something in your eye. That’s a really bad situation to deal with, and it can happen really quickly and easily,” he said.
• A headlamp or small flashlight. You don’t plan on spending the night in the woods, but you might get lost or hurt. Also, having a light means that the sun doesn’t dictate your hiking schedule. If you want to stay out past sunset, you can.
• Extra safety gadgets. Sometimes small things can take a lot of weight off your mind. Albert carries a cigarette lighter, which can be used to create a fire if he’s forced to sleep outside or create smoke signals. Other small useful things including an extra chocolate bar (energy), an emergency heat blanket (tiny and can cost from $1-$20) and a whistle (much louder than a voice when signaling for help).
For more tips on packing and suiting up for summer day hikes in Maine, visit www.amcmaine.org/unlinked/summer-day-hike-equipment-list, a list compiled by the Appalachian Mountain Club.