by Helen Henrichs (GirlsWhoHikeTX Ambassador)
I’ve heard the best thing about hiking is that you can just go out and do it. You don’t need fancy equipment or the latest gadgets, just get out in nature and move up the trail. And while the sentiment is totally correct, heading out in the Texas sun without anything but your happy self might put you in a sticky situation. Let’s face it, it’s HOT, like really hot from about May to Thanksgiving. I’m a desert mountain girl at heart and by upbringing (shout out to my Girls Who Hike, New Mexico) and even after more than two decades in South Texas, I’m far from used to the weather. So there are definitely things I do not leave the house without.
It’s hot, it’s humid, and you’re going to sweat, which means losing valuable electrolytes and risking dehydration. So I never hit the trails without at least a handheld water bottle. I like a handheld bottle with a strap so I’m not actively holding it—plus, if I fall it helps protect my hand a bit. For longer hikes a hydration vest/pack is a must. There are tons on the market and everyone has opinions on the best ones. I love my UltrAspire Astra vest. It’s made for women so it straps under the chest instead of over and it’s super comfortable. It also comes with a couple of pockets for snacks! A good rule of thumb is to bring double the amount of water you will think you need.
You remember that handheld water bottle I mentioned earlier? It has a pouch big enough to fit my phone. Now I know, I know, we get out into nature to unwind and unplug. So I’m not suggesting texting and hiking. Bring a phone in case you get lost or injured or if you need emergency help. And you can snap a few photos of beautiful scenery or a post hike selfie with your BHF (Best Hiking Friend).
We’ve heard it since we were kids, protect yourself against UV rays. Sunscreen and a hat go a long way to providing the protection you need. I’m loving my new Girls Who Hike trucker hat and definitely recommend getting one. And don’t forget to protect your eyes, too! They work overtime for you so treat them well. Sunglasses not only protect from the sun but can also keep dust out of your eyes. And for those brief shining days in when it’s really cold in Texas, sunglasses keep your eyes from watering in freezing temperatures.
First Aid Kit
It’s always a good idea to keep a stocked first aid kit in your car. I don’t haul out the big kit for short hikes, but instead keep a sandwich bag with bandages, gauze pads and ointment in my hydration vest for those times a root jumps out and grabs me. If you have a full kit in your car you, can properly clean any wounds there. Don’t forget to check the expiration dates on products like antibacterial ointment regularly.
It’s a good idea to research trails before you head out. Most sites will give you maps and the difficulty ratings of the trails. I print out maps of trails I’m not familiar with just in case there aren’t maps at the trailhead or along the route. Most importantly I let someone know what trails I’ll be on and how long I plan to be out, even if I’m out with my BHF. It’s always good to have someone who isn’t on the trail know how to locate you in case you take a wrong turn or end up hurt. I follow up with a “I’m leaving the park” call right before I buckle up and leave the park.
What things are on your hiking essentials list?