At any time of year, hiking can be a simple (and really cheap) way to get exercise. During the summer months, though, it is important to remain cool, comfortable, and hydrated while trekking beyond your usual terrain. Some people naturally love all the gear involved with a brief trip into the wild and have no problem organizing themselves for the journey. But others, well, they could use a little help.

The bare minimum requirement for a safe day's hike of five miles or less on a hot day would include the following:

  • Backpack: No, a plastic grocery bag will not do. You need your hands to be free so a simple book bag will do for holding all your stuff.
  • Water: Bring plenty of it. Even if you're on a recommended trail, not all of them make clean water available to hikers. The farther you roam, the more you'll want to hydrate especially during the hottest days of the year. According to the American Heart Association, when the temperature and humidity are both above 70°F, you have entered the dehydration danger zone and that is the time and place to begin sipping water frequently especially if you're vigorously active.
  • Good shoes. No sandals or flip flops. They leave your feet open to injury, plus they don't provide the arch support you need. You probably won't need hiking boots for a short trek but you do want a well-fitting shoe that helps you maintain your balance on any terrain. Whatever shoes you choose, make sure they're comfortable and also broken in so you can avoid blisters.
  • Sunscreen Although you will probably apply your sunscreen before going outside, reapplication is necessary after sweating. Sunscreen conveniently comes in many forms — lotions, creams, ointments, gels, sprays, wipes, and balms — it's easy to find one that you can carry in your book bag. It is recommended you use a sunscreen with at least SPF 15 and remember to check the expiration date before purchasing.
  • Bug spray. You don't want to be attacked by the smallest of critters, so you might want to apply some of this. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that consumers avoid products that mix sunscreen with DEET insect repellent. Unlike repellants, sunscreen is meant to be applied liberally. Using a combination product could cause unecessary exposure to repellants. After testing products with DEET, the Environmental Protection Agency concluded that, as long as consumers follow label directions and take proper precautions, insect repellents containing DEET do not present a health concern. You can always make a homemade repellent.
  • Sunglasses/Hat: Wear sunglasses to protect not only your eyes but also the sensitive skin surrounding them. Large-framed and, best of all, wrap-around sunglasses are more likely to protect against light coming in from different angles. A hat might also help to protect your face against damaging UV rays.
  • First aid kit: At a minimum, you should bring bandages in case you get blisters.
  • Rain gear: If it begins to rain, you'll be very pleased with yourself for packing a light-weight poncho or nylon jacket, or even a garbage bag.
  • Map and compass: In all likelihood you won't need either of these, but they might be just what you need if you wander from the trail.
  • Trail Food: The basic formula is dried fruit and nuts combined.

Have a good day!