I advocate that even on shorter hikes of one to four hours, it is best to have some essentials – more than you can fit in your pockets. See: Short-hike Equipment List. There are some great choices of packs for this purpose that are not large or heavy but keep you well equipped if the weather changes abruptly, or you encounter an inconvenience like a cut or blister.
Selecting the Pack
I recommend the smallest pack that still has hip belts because they put the weight of the pack mostly on your hips and not your shoulders. My choice on my recommended equipment list is the Osprey Talon 22, a 22-liter pack with a 2 ½ liter water bladder for hydration. I like Osprey for a bladder no matter what pack you choose in that does not impart a plastic taste to the water and has a great spigot for the mouth.
However, there is a newer-design light pack that I find is even more comfortable, although slightly lesser capacity. The design features wider shoulder straps with several pockets on the straps for easy access to a cell phone, protein bar or insect repellant without having to take the pack off. The pack is designed to fit close to the body at all points including shoulders, back, chest and hips – it literally feels like an article of clothing. The close fit prevents rubbing, and lots of storage is accessible while leaving the pack on. That includes an integrated water bladder which I have advocated for years – it encourages taking sips without having to stop and reach for a bottle.
I like the Osprey Duro, a 15-liter pack with a 2 ½ liter water bladder for hydration. It is a bit smaller than the Talon 22, but with the extra strap pockets and stretch rear extra compartment, it will handle what you need for a shorter hike.
Basics for the Shorter Hike
Once you have the pack and bladder, here are the basic items to take along:
- Small tube of sun block – SPF 35+
- Small bottle of insect repellent
- Protein bars for a stop along the way, also beef jerky. For taste and nutrition and staying soft in cold weather, I like Exo Cricket Protein bars.
- A small first aid kit – hiking equipment stores have them and they are good to have along – you can augment with tweezers for splinters and a tiny roll of duct tape for all kinds of things.
- Take along at least one more layer of clothing than you think you will need – a light tech-fabric jacket and maybe even a rain shell with hood if weather is looking variable.
- If you are hiking in weather that can be variable and colder if the sun disappears behind clouds or wind picks up – I like to have light gloves and a knit hat in my pack. The gloves are especially useful if you are using hiking sticks, See: Hiking Sticks.
With this short list, you are in good shape for a hike and a variety of possibilities that might happen along the way.