Check your backpack before hiking the twisted trails of the Smoky Mountain wilderness. Is everything you need securely inside? Carefully packing for any hiking trip is as important as a hiking buddy and people at home who know your plans and general whereabouts. These are only four gear items important to remember, but regardless of your hiking experience, these four cannot get left behind. Load ‘em in, zip up the (waterproof) backpack, and happy trails!
1. Proper hiking shoes
You may not realize it, but improper hiking boots that don’t fit your feet or hiking style risk ruining an entire trip. For short day hikes, your feet will survive in lighter shoes. An old gym shoe typically works great. They breathe well, but provide only the most meager support of all the available hiking shoe varieties. If you plan take a more strenuous hike or backpacking trip, invest in a shoe or boot made for hiking. Not every shoe works for every person. Go to an outfitter and be fitted with a proper shoe or boot by a professional. Make sure you wear your hiking footwear multiple times before breaking it in on the trail. Most seasons in the Smokies, you will want to avoid a waterproof shoe. The Smoky Mountains are very wet and if you sweat or get water over the top of your footwear, the water typically cannot evaporate.
Nothing compromises your health faster on a hiking trip than lack of drinking water. No matter what kind of hike you map out, your body requires water the entire time. Staying hydrated ensures that you stay comfortable and healthy, and along with food, water helps you complete your planned route without incident. Think carefully about how much water you need to bring in your backpack as it relates to your body, the terrain, and the length of your hike. Many local guides recommend half a liter for every mile you hike. If you need to bring more than 2 liters of water, you may find a water filter or treatment drops to be a great purchase.
3. First Aid Kit
No matter what naysayers preach, do not go on a hike without a first aid kit. A small kit filled with necessities easily fits in a standard hiking backpack. You need to at least have bandages, aspirin, antiseptic, an antihistamine, sun block, insect repellent, gauze, iodine tablets, and duct tape. Consult with a wilderness expert or doctor before your trip to make sure you have everything you need and are prepared to handle any number of crises.
4. Rain gear/jacket
Weather in the Smoky Mountains can be unpredictable, so no matter the time of year, don’t forget a jacket. Although the beginning of a hike boasts warmth and sunshine, after dark it can get cold. If it rains, you will want protection. Depending on your hiking plans, you may only need a plastic emergency poncho, although this provides little to no warmth. Packing a jacket, even just a shell or waterproof windbreaker, is a great idea for any hiker or anyone heading out into the woods.
The boy scouts got it right: Never go into the wild unprepared. You cannot predict the future, nor can you plan for what you will come across, no matter how much knowledge or research you accomplish. Start with these essential items in your gear and expand to ensure that you have the best and safest trip possible in the Great Smoky Mountains.
If you’re packed and ready to go, check out our recommendations for a great walk in the Smoky Mountain Wilderness. Once you choose a hike, make sure to be prepared. Be sure to check out all of our vacation guides for planning your Smoky Mountain getaway. You can also follow us on Facebook and Instagram for the latest area information!