Day Hiking Checklist

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November 20, 2023


One of the most essential parts of a wilderness adventure starts before taking your first step onto the trail. Planning ahead for your expedition ensures you will have the best possible experience when exploring our wonderful mountain playground!

Mon Towns Day Hike Checklist Graphic
List of Day Hike Essentials

The Best Way to Experience Nearly One Million Acres of Wilderness is to be Prepared

Exploring our National Forest is a great way to reconnect with nature and embrace the wild side of life; however, the great outdoors can also be full of unexpected challenges. With the right gear and mindset, anyone can step outside their comfort zone and make a Mon Forest memory that will last a lifetime! Here’s our day hike checklist for those hikers looking to take in all the Mon has to offer.

1) Activity Plan

Before you head out to explore Monongahela National Forest, it’s important to let someone know where you are going, who you are going with, and what time you expect to be back. The absence of cell service across the Mon provides an excellent opportunity to disconnect from the everyday, but it can also make communicating your status before, during, and after a hike challenging. Creating an activity plan is an easy way to provide peace of mind to your loved ones and ensure you have a safe hike!

2) Navigation Tools

While Google, Apple, and other outdoor recreation apps like AllTrails or Strava will allow you to download maps to your phone for offline use, nothing beats the reliability of an old-fashioned paper map! The Monongahela National Forest has maps available online or for purchase at any Ranger Station throughout the Mon. Purple Lizard’s waterproof maps of the Mon are another great option for hikers who want a recreation-focused overview. The hundreds of miles of hiking trails offer the perfect opportunity to brush up on your orienteering or teach others how to navigate using topographical maps and a compass!

3) First Aid Kit

Even on the shortest, well-worn trails, you never know when an accident might occur. Carrying a small First Aid Kit might initially seem like extra weight on an easy hike, but the ability to provide immediate care for injuries is an invaluable resource for hikers at any skill level.

4) Food

Who would have thought trail mix and granola bars taste the best on a hike? The average adult can burn between 300 to 600 calories per hour hiking through moderate terrain, and with the Mon’s many mountains, it’s important to stay energized when out on an adventure. Whatever your taste buds crave, planning ahead and bringing the right amount of food with you will keep your mind clear and help your body run at full power when enjoying all the natural beauty that Almost Heaven has to offer.

5) Water

With 60% of our bodies being made of water, it’s no surprise we need to stay hydrated to remain healthy, but when exercising outdoors, getting fluids becomes even more important. The common rule of thumb is to bring 1 liter of water with you for every 2 hours of moderate hiking. Water treatment options such as a life straw or iodine tablets are easy to carry and vital in emergencies.

6) Flashlight

As the name implies, most day hikes wrap up before sundown; however, bringing a charged flashlight or headlamp can be a lifesaver if you spend a little longer admiring a waterfall than anticipated or if the hike was more challenging than you thought. Minor obstacles like roots or rocks can become serious challenges in the dark, but a good light can keep you on the right path.

7) Sun Protection

Although much of the Mon is sheltered beneath verdant foliage, bringing along a small bottle of sunscreen and a pair of sunglasses is a simple way to protect yourself from UV rays when you are spending several hours outside!

8) Bug Spray

Stowing away some bug repellant can help save you from unwanted attention during your hiking experience. While ticks, mosquitos, and other creepy crawlies are all part of the Mon’s diverse ecosystem, their proclivity to bite humans and potential to carry disease means you are better off giving them some space. Even if you use bug repellant, remember to perform a tick-check on yourself and any pets after the hike.

9) Multi-Tool

A good multi-tool can help you handle a wide variety of situations you may find yourself in while exploring the great outdoors- from repairing gear to creating kindling in a survival situation. Compact and versatile, it is an essential resource for any expedition!

10) Emergency Shelter

Slipping an emergency blanket into your first aid kit or pack is a lightweight lifesaver- whether you need to stay warm, create an impromptu shelter, or draw attention to yourself, it’s hard to find a more efficient tool for the job.

11)  Fire Starter

Whether it takes the form of emergency matches, a lighter, or flint and steel, having the right tool to start a fire in an emergency situation can make a huge difference. If you need to start a fire, remember to practice proper fire control for both you and the forest’s safety. Stay up to date on the day’s fire risk on the WV Division of Forestry’s website.

12) Appropriate Attire

Temperatures and precipitation in the Mon can vary wildly depending on the time of year and elevation. When packing for your hike, make sure you check the weather beforehand, wear the right layers, and bring a raincoat, just in case! An extra pair of socks is a wonderful reprieve if you get wet fording a stream or passing near a wetland. When choosing your hiking fit, keep in mind some parts of the National Forest and West Virginia State Lands allow hunting during certain times of year– it is best to wear brightly-colored clothing and avoid any earthy or camo-colored designs.

Bonus: Bring a Trash Bag!

Bringing a trash bag not only gives you a place to put any items you no longer need but also is a great way to help preserve the wild and wonderful Mon if you come across another hiker’s discarded wrapper or water bottle. Remember to always wash your hands after gathering any trash, and thank you for helping protect our National Forests!