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  • Writer's pictureJessica Stough

What We Pack in Our Hiking Bags

“You owe it to yourself to set aside one hour a day to do what you love. Read, exercise, pray, dance, or whatever else brings joy to your soul. One hour. It really matters.” – Author Unknown

Ah, the week of “Fall Back” – an interesting mix of getting an extra hour of sleep, but simultaneously being exhausted two hours before bedtime. Somehow, though, the time change actually somewhat kicked me into gear. I’ve gotten use of that extra hour with workouts, reading, and writing the past few days, so I’m feeling pretty good about my productivity levels. Basically, what I’m saying is that anyone who enjoys reading my blog can thank the time change that this particular post is happening.

The past few weeks have been more roller-coastering between work, family, appointments, extracurriculars, and everything else in between. Even though they’ve felt so busy, I can’t really say that there were a lot of “big” things going on. Really, I feel like besides the “normal,” it was just that Halloween came and went – with adventures at the dog park, the Blank Park Zoo, and Beggar’s Night.

Buzz went as a lion tamer and I went, of course, as a lion.

Now, though, we are switching gears to our upcoming vacation, which will be here before we know it! I will admit that to start, I wasn’t particularly excited for the location Zac suggested. However, as he did more research and shared more ideas with me, I’ve gotten more and more excited. It also doesn’t hurt that it’s already just a few weeks away.

If anyone is wondering where that location might be – the suspense will just have to continue until right after Thanksgiving (for those that do already know, shhh). I know that people aren’t reading to hear how my day has been or read cryptic messages about where we may or may not end up for our next vacation, so I’ll cut to the chase. Without further ado, let’s talk about some travel tips!

I have been wanting to make a post specifically around hiking, what we make sure to bring, and our favorite snacks to keep us fueled. I’ve already shared some tips and tricks in a previous post, Prepping for a Fourteener - The Night Before & The Hike, but know that it can be so hard to find the right mix of things to bring. Especially when hiking for miles and hours on end, it is so important to make sure to bring the right snacks (if a person overpacks, they have to carry everything all that way). The less a hiker can carry while still having sufficient supplies, the better.

As mentioned in Prepping for a Fourteener, there are a few very important things to note when deciding what to carry in a hiking pack. Just call this my mini TedTalk:

  • We lose twice as much water at high altitudes through respiration as we do at sea level. Making sure to have plenty of water to rehydrate is an absolute necessity (read more from HydraPak here).

    • Be sure to take sips of water every 15-20 minutes to help avoid dehydration.

  • The body burns more calories at high altitudes. It is recommended, according to, to intake around 60-100 grams of carbs per hour.

  • Wear sunscreen. “[W]ith every gain of 1000m (3280 ft), the level of UV radiation increases by approximately 12%” (Source: At 14,000 foot elevation, we have a lot more UV radiation hitting our skin.

  • If bringing a dog along, make sure that they are well prepared with food, treats, water, a leash, and anything else they may need as well (sometime later, I'll be doing a post with all of Buzz's favorite things).


Now that my TedTalk is out of the way, let’s dive into the things that we typically bring with us on our hikes.


  • To start, the most important thing is water. According to Hikers Daily, “[t]he general consensus is to drink at least 500 ml of water per hour when hiking … A good rule of thumb is to take 1 liter (1000 ml) for every 2-3 hours you expect to be hiking.”

    • It is important to know that the average person can only carry about 3-4 liters of water at a time. For longer hikes, products like the LifeStraw are lightweight and can make any natural water source out on the trail safe to drink.


  • Next up, snacks. With all of the extra energy burn from a hike, it is important to get fuel into the body both before and during the activity.

    • ONE Protein Bars are an excellent way to boost both carbs (23g) and protein (20g), with very little sugar, while out on the trail.

    • Alternatively, we love Clif Bars, another protein bar option that wields 40-43g of carbs and 10-11g of protein, depending on the flavor choice.

    • Dots Pretzels have anywhere from 18g-29g carbs per serving.

    • Albanese Gummy Bears are a great way to quickly and deliciously increase carbs and sugar (22g of carbs and 13g of sugar).

    • StarKist Lunch To-Go is our favorite top-of-the-mountain lunch choice. With 18g of protein, 18g of carbs, and some good sodium numbers, it’s a good choice to refuel protein, carbs, and get some electrolytes in.

    • Trail Mix is another one of my favorites (rightfully named!), packing 50mg of sodium for electrolyte replenishment, 13g of carbs and 4g of protein. The best part about trail mix is that there are so many other flavors and brands out there – depending on what macros or flavors a person wants, they can most likely find it somewhere.

    • I’m not a huge GU lover personally, but know that some people struggle to intake actual food when they’re hiking. GU is a wonderful alternative way to intake carbs while on the trails. The energy gels pack 21-23g of carbs with 50-125mg of sodium. Some have caffeine, and they have multiple gluten free/vegan options too.

Important Non-Food Items

  • After snacks, there are always a few important odds and ends that we need to save room for in the hiking packs as well.

    • A first aid kit is an absolute must. I have one similar to the kit linked – there is no need for a huge first aid kit because something small will still have all of the necessities.

    • A hiking knife is a good thing to have, especially if out for longer hikes or in a place at risk of dangerous animals. I got one this past year somewhat similar to what is linked, which has a paracord-covered handle and a fire-starter.

    • Headlamps are important if starting prior to daylight. These allow so much flexibility for starting early and still having the opportunity to see the trail appropriately.

    • For the women hikers out there, I have to put an honorable mention in for the GoGirl. Although I am not a huge fan of these devices personally, I know some are. They are small, portable, and made in such a way that they are very sanitary too.

    • Hand sanitizer is always a must, and barely adds any weight to a hiking pack. For those using the GoGirl, for those eating snacks, or for those that might need to use the first aid kit, having clean and sanitary hands is a must.

    • Bear spray also earns itself an honorable mention because this, of course, depends on where a person chooses to hike. Be very mindful of the wildlife in the area, as bear spray can honestly save a life if there is a run-in. There aren’t a lot of small cans of it, so its not something I would take if there are never any bears in the area, but it is important to have when there is a chance of seeing a bear.

    • Sunscreen is something we always take with us on our hikes because I oftentimes need to reapply, especially in higher elevations. My favorite is the spray-on sport, similar to this one. Zac, however, prefers the old school option and likes the light kind of sunscreen, like this one.

      • Important facts about sunscreen my dermatologist shared with me (and yes, I have a dermatologist): anything over SPF 30 is just “added grease” – it is really more important to reapply appropriately than to have a higher SPF; the spray-on sunscreen has been known to cause hair loss due to getting trapped in the hair follicles, so please do not spray it directly on the face/base of the neck/etc.

    • Added layers are also always a great idea – we normally pack a really light rain jacket if we didn’t start the hike with it on, just in case.


With the intense temperature drops here in Iowa this past week, I think our days of hiking will definitely include a few additional layers if we choose to venture out near home. Hand warmers (similar to this one I got last Christmas) are an absolute must for any winter hikes.

I mentioned switching gears earlier in the post, and now, I must do that again.

Mom duties call, as I navigate our first sleepover with two other kiddos in the house – meaning I’ve officially gone from no kids about four months ago to three kids for a while. Two are awake and playing, anxiously awaiting the third to awake at any moment so I can make them all breakfast. The dogs, for the record, are all also anxiously awaiting the third kiddo to wake up as well so they can also get fed their breakfast.

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