Having the proper hiking gear can make your experience much more enjoyable. On the other hand not having the right gear can make it worse. I am no expert by any means, I am just going to share my experiences and what gear I have acquired to help improve my hikes. Also remember that the safety tips are NOT expert advice, just my own thoughts!!
Ok... Let's start with the most important supply of them all! You will need to make sure you have plenty of water!! A hot summer day will require you to consume a LARGE amount of water. I suggest you put in several bottles of water if you plan on doing a long hike in warm weather. Actually, I suggest a 64 oz water bladder that goes in your back pack. Dont get a cheap one either. I suggest at least 64 oz for a 3-5 mile hike and more than that on hike greater than 5 miles. YOU DO NOT want dehydration to set in on the middle of the trail!
For a leisurely stroll you can do without a back pack. As a matter of fact I rarely use one on a short Joe Wheeler hike.
Unless it's really hot and i need my water bladder and plan on being there a while. But if you ever go to a trail you are unfamiliar
with, plan on a long hike, or hiking a trail that is secluded, then carry one. It will hold all the supplies I will be discussing
later. Make sure you get one specifically for hiking! Also, get a hiking stick! It not only helps with balance in akward
terrain, but it can be used to move briers/tall grass out of the way, and to swat a snake (best bet is to avoid them!).
Your basic backpack supplies should include: A compass, first aid kit, pliers, your water supply, whistle (this is suggested by pros in case you have an emergency or get lost you can use it to get attention), knife, toilet paper (just in case), food, para-cord (this stuff can be used to tie things, for a spare shoe lace, or anything you need a rope for, and it's very durable), and flash light.
I suggest putting a first aid kit in your back pack. One that has alcohol wipes (for cleaning wounds or supplies), gauze bandages,
pain reliever (if you sprain an ankle or break anything it will help), band aids, small scissors.
#1. Bring plenty of water. better to have to much than not enough!
#2. Always pack your first aid kit.
#3. When stepping over a log, place your hiking stick in front of it first, before stepping over. If there is a snake there you do not want your leg to be the first thing it sees!
#4. Hike with a partner. Some areas do not have cell phone coverage or emergency personnel near by. Having someone there to go for help in case you get injured is nice.
#5. Let someone know where you are going. If something happens and you don't return back then at least someone will know to start looking for you.
#6. If you do hike alone (which I normally do), beware of your surroundings and don't take chances. You don't want to be laying by yourself injured with no cell service!
#7. Watch for snakes, watch your step, and don't wonder off the main trail to far!
#8. Carry a map and compass. Pay attention as you start your hike so you remember how to get back! Plan your route before hand if you can. Speak with others who have been on the trail and ask them how to navigate it. Use a hand-held gps and mark the location of your starting point (just dont rely on a gps). Your compass can help guide you in the right directions so long as you payed attention from where you started.
Shirt: For a shirt in summer time I suggest a Columbia brand long sleeve "fishing" shirt. they are
long sleeve and thin. You can roll the sleeve up and fasten it to make it short sleeve or leave it down if you need to cover your
arms. Or just a plain tshirt will do. For the winter I suggest layers. I have found that after a few miles i get a little hot
and find the need to remove my jacket, so dressing in layers will allow you to remove and put back on as you need.
Pants: For pants in the summer I suggest long pants and not shorts. The reason is this, you will want protection from tall grass, briers, and they help keep ticks off of you. They will also keep mosquitoes and other pesky critters off of you. I also suggest cargo khakis, they are lighter and still offer protection for your legs. Blue Jean are to hot for summer. In the winter however blue jeans are best.
Boots: For boots I usually bring my Timberlands. They are comfortable, durable, and waterproof. There are even better ones if you want to pay a little more. For the price, you can't go wrong with Timberlands. However... DO NOT buy a cheap pair of boots! Your feet will pay the price. Timberlands are around 89-100 dollars and are comfortable. If you plan on hiking in extreme cold I suggest a heavily insulated pair of boots. I have a pair of Wolverines that are heavily insulated and provide warmth when hiking in real cold weather.
Don't forget a good camera. I use a Cannon Power Shot. It is not overly expensive, but not an elcheapo either. You dont want to see a great view only to have your camera not be able to get the picture. The Cannon Power Shot is around $200. You probably don't want anything more expensive than that. Remember, you are hiking, so you need one that's compact and not so easy to break. Also remember to keep spare water/sports drinks in your vehicle. When you get done with a hike your water supply may be low so you will want something to drink when you get back to your vehicle. Also, I suggest a hand-held gps. They are extremely handy especially if your on an unfamiliar trail. Remember, don't rely too much on them, use maps, gps is just a handy piece of technology to help out!