At a minimum, take the following items with you when hitting the trails. Most of my items stay in my water-toting hip holster or my glove compartment all the time, so I just add water and go.
Always take at least one bottle of water.
On hot days (80°or higher), plan on at least one bottle for roundtrip hikes under 3-4 miles. For longer hikes, take at least two bottles. Along the way—even if you don’t feel thirsty—take one or two mouthfuls every 15 minutes or so to stay hydrated. If you get to the point you’re gulping water, you’re dehydrated.
At higher altitudes, you may not have a sense of sweat because it evaporates quickly. It’ll catch up with you, though. You want to avoid getting to the point where you’re chugging water.
I carry a couple of 20 oz. bottles in a hip holster. This method frees up my hands. The holster also has a couple of pockets for carrying other supplies.
Camelbaks, or other backpacks with built-in water bladders and drinking tubes, also provide a nifty way to carry water hands free. They usually have a pocket or two also.
Steer away from caffeinated drinks. Caffeine has diuretic properties that won’t bode well for the trail. The salt in carbonated drinks will also contribute to dehydration, and the sugar increases the sensation of hunger. Water is the best choice all around.
Sunglasses & Hat
For glare and sun protection, don’t forget your pair of sunglasses and a hat. The hat will also provide the additional benefit of collecting sweat (and keeping it out of your eyes) and, for those with thinning hair, preventing a major sunburn.
Sunglasses and hats are easy to forget if you’re up early and the sun hasn’t crested the mountains yet. So, you might want to use the checklist above as a reminder.
Keep a bottle in the car and lather up just before the hike.
You’ll want tissue for the inevitable potty breaks, runny noses (possibly from exertion), and wiping off your hands. I keep a collection in a Ziplock baggie. Take another baggie for toting out.
ID, Credit Card & Cash
What? Not planning to shop on Grandeur Peak? I carry mine for a few reasons. One, I don’t leave any valuables in the car, but I need my driver’s license to get around. Two, a credit card or cash pays for canyon and park fees. Three, if I require medical attention, these come in handy. Speaking of, you might want to take your health insurance card with you too.
I detach my car key from the key ring (which stays at home). To make sure I have this “key” piece, I lock the car only when I’m ready to hit the trail.
For emergencies, a cell phone is invaluable, even if you are often be out of range for a signal. Cell phones also double as cameras.
I carry a half-dozen band aids for the occasional blister or stumble.
For that unanticipated stumble and resulting boo-boo, I take a few individually wrapped alcohol swabs to clean out the dirt.
Wet wipes serve many purposes. I have a couple individually wrapped wipes that I collect at barbecue restaurants.
Protect your lips with SPF. Plus the moisturizer will keep you more comfortable and reduce the sensation of needing more frequent swigs of water.
A bandana isn’t just a fashion accessory on the trail. Bandanas work better than tissue for wiping off sweat and can substitute for a handkerchief. And if something bad goes down, you can use it for a makeshift bandage.
Buy a cheap, lightweight plastic emergency poncho that folds up into a tight wad. When it rains, you’ll be grateful for its protection.