If you've gone hiking or even taken a really long walk before, you've almost certainly had an item or two you should have remembered to bring along. Maybe you haven't gone hiking before or, at least not taken a longer hike before, and want to make sure you know what you need! I'll discuss my bare essentials list and my preferences where applicable!
There are a lot of options when it comes to footwear. You can generally wear anything you want ranging from a lightweight shoe to a heavier boot depending on the trails you hike and your own personal preferences. For anything more than a paved trail, I will always pick a hiking boot for the durability and increased support, including ankle support, not typically offered with a standard shoe. It's usually extra protection against a sprained ankle suffered when you are furthest from help. Because, you know, that's exactly when it would happen.
You may already know this without having to think about it. It's simple, dress for the conditions! If it's a cold, winter day hike, dress warm! If it's a warm and sunny summer hike, dress with lighter clothing so you aren't sweating out a ton of water! Thinking beyond the typical clothing, how about a hat and sunglasses? Think those are just for sunny summer days? Think again! You would also want these in sunny winter days especially if there is snow on the ground. A good pair of polarized sunglasses can keep you from getting snow blindness if not make you look really cool.
Food & Water
This one is probably a given, water more so than food, as you probably have gone for hikes and needed water but never found a lot of drinking fountains out in the woods. How much you should carry varies. There are hikes where I've brought along 3 liters of water and barely taken a sip and times when I've brought 3 liters of water and went through them all wishing I had 3 more.
Water bottles are heavy, I get it, so packing more than you need is easily a pain and why you would want to avoid it if possible. I've started learning to care less about that and more about having what I need, be it to excess or otherwise, rather than be caught without.
Having food on a hike is probably a little less of a necessity than water though, there are times a quick snack has helped push you through the final miles. As long as you have had a big meal before taking off for your hike, you can probably do without the snacks. It just depends on how quickly you start to feel hungry again!
Hiking Stick or Trekking Poles
I, personally, am a hiking stick guy. I have several that I made myself and always take one on each of my hikes. They are definitely more sturdy than trekking poles but definitely carry more weight, aren't adjustable in height, and aren't necessarily the most comfortable to hold on to while hiking. They are great for checking water or mud depth, helping keep balance while boulder hopping across a stream, and of course, help complete the look of a hiker! OK, maybe that last one is not so important. Having a hiking stick or trekking poles can also be a defensive tool against predators you may stumble across on your hike. It might just be me but I would prefer a solid hiking stick in the event I were ever to face down a predator in the wild.
Another bonus to a hiking stick, as opposed to trekking poles, you can add your favorite hiking stick medallions to show off the places you've been and hikes you've taken! Be warned though, you might make a few friends when other hikers catch sight of your medallions.
First Aid Kit
OK, you've learned how to walk and hike, you aren't clumsy, and most certainly do not have two left feet. So why would you bring a first aid kit if you don't ever need it? First of all, there are always accidents. Accidents happen when you least expect it and are never planned. They wouldn't be an accident if they were planned! Second, you might not be the one needing help. Whether it's someone within your own party or a hapless stranger on the trail, a first aid kit is a must have on your hike. You'll never regret it when you do need it!