Hiking Essentials – Outside Scoop

Leeward AWT

Let’s Go on an Adventure

Hiking is one of the many great things Youth Odyssey does to experience the beauty of nature. The youth love to be on the trails, and be one with nature. Often we come across cool plants, wildlife, rock formations, and other awesome spectacles. It’s truly inspiring to watch the kids learn and come to love nature through outside play. To see their smiling faces when they know they accomplished a challenging hike, is truly rewarding.

“I have gone backpacking 3 times with Youth Odyssey. I continue to go again year after year because I want to use my knowledge to help others, and because I love the Hit the Trail Camp.”16 year-old camper

Before we take youth hiking on a camping trip, we must first teach them important hiking essentials to ensure we are all prepared for the great adventure. The better prepared we all are, the more fun we have! We provide most of the equipment for the kids, but there are some items we recommend them to get if possible. Some of our more enthusiastic kiddos do go out and purchase their own gear. This is a proud moment for us because the interest they grew of the outdoors through our programs.

Essential 1: Take a Buddy

Nature can be a place of peace, and give us a sense of freedom. It allows us to step away from everyday life, and breathe in the fresh air. In Youth Odyssey, each of the kids have a buddy of the same gender with them anywhere they go for safety. Outside of Youth Odyssey we encourage anyone new to hiking to take a buddy with them. In the event something happens, you will have a buddy there for help. Once you have hiking experience it becomes safer to hike alone, and hiking alone can be very emotionally rewarding.

Buddy system
Filling water bottles

Essential 2: Hydration

Hydration is the key with anything, our bodies need fluids. We always have the youth carry water bottles, and we like to call them our “best friends”. Without your best friends, it won’t be a very good day right? Beyond our water bottles we carry extra water bladders full of water to refill our bottles. We never want to run out of water on the trail, so we plan ahead by having extra water on hand! Often, we travel miles on a trail, and in Texas it gets H.O.T.! Some of our youth purchase their own water bladders like the Camelbacks. Any brand should be sufficient, just find the right one for you.

“If you wait till you’re thirsty to drink water, then you’re already dehydrated.” Micaela Kidd

Essential 3: Nutrition

This is the kids favorite part, food! Nutrition is very important when it comes to hiking, it provides us with the energy we need to make it through our trek. The important thing to remember is to always pack a little extra just to be prepared. Just about every hiking trip we are on, we make sandwiches for our lunches. We typically use the flat round bread because we don’t have to worry if it becomes somewhat squished in our packs. Other food we bring with us: jerky, granola bars, and oranges. Jerky and granola provide us with solid proteins, and oranges give us healthy vitamins and sugars. All of these combined give us all the energy we need to have an awesome hike!

First Aid Kit

Essential 4: First Aid

Accidents happen, which is why a first aid kit is a must! Hiking is extremely fun, but quite often we can find ourselves wrapped up in barbed plants and among other things. In the event this happens, several minor cuts or scrapes could happen making a first aid kit quite handy. We always have a first aid kid in our pack full of all the essential medical supplies.

“I learned sometimes it’s good to push yourself through tough situations like going through the barbed plants on hikes.”15 year-old camper

Essential 5: Repellers

Any time we are outside you can expect to find us with some bug spray, sunscreen, and all the other potions! Our trip experiences can very well depend on these items. Mosquitoes are mean little creatures with no mercy, but that’s okay because we have a special surprise for them! Bug Spray! Bug Spray consists of a chemical repellent known as DEET, and the mosquitos don’t take a liking to it! Depending on how long we will be outside at a time will help determine how much DEET we should look for in acquiring bug spray. The more the DEET, the longer the spray lasts. Also Texas can have have brutal heat, so sunblock is a must! Once we have all our potions lathered on, we are then good to go!

Bug Spray

Essential 6: Navigation

Before we start our journey on the trail, we map out where we are going. Each state park we go to typically has a park map showing all the different trails, and other locations. This map is usually the only thing we ever need, but in rare cases we might use a GPS. If we were going on a hike outside of a state park such as hiking a mountain in Colorado, then we would need to do more extensive research via the internet. Checking the weather, trail exposure, trail conditions, and trail length or difficulty is crucial before a big hike such as a mountain hike. Knowledge of these conditions will help us to navigate through the safest and best routes, hopefully ensuring us a better hiking experience.

Essential 7: Illumination

Sunsets are beautiful, but I hope you packed a flashlight! We always carry a flashlight, lantern, or headlamp with us. If you can’t see, get ready for a tough night getting ready for bed! However, we don’t always need lighting for when it’s just night time, sometimes we need lighting to explore caves! At several parks throughout Texas we find a variety of different caves, big and small, and it is very handy to have a headlamp. A headlamp allows us to use both of our hands as we trek through the cave, because there can be slippery spots.


Essential 8: Emergency Shelter

In a very dire situation having an emergency shelter could be lifesaving. We never truly know what could happen while out on a trail, but it is always good to be prepared. On our short day hikes we don’t typically have an emergency shelter, but anything longer we pack at least a tarp with us. A tarp provides us with a quick shelter protecting us from rain and sun. Emergency blankets can be very useful to have because it can provide emergency warmth, but also can act as a tarp. They are small and compact as well, making it easy to pack.

Essential 9: Repair Kits

Weather in Texas is always a surprise, we never know what we will get! Wind here in the Lone Star State is either a pleasant cool breeze or a tent destroyer. In the unfortunate event we meet the tent destroyer, we always have some tent repair kits with us. Tent poles can break and tents can also get rips or tears, but with a repair kits handy it makes life much easier. Rarely do we experience issues with tents because we take proper care of our equipment, but we like to have piece of mind knowing we have some repair kits nearby.

Repair Kit

Essential 10: Fire Supplies

Having a fire is arguably one of the most important things in survival, it supplies: light, warmth, boosts morale, heats up our tasty s’mores, and much more! On our backpacking trip we always carry at least some matches with us, everything else to make a fire we find in the woods. Some hikers often will pack kerosene soaked wood chips, which a fantastic tinder source to helps get things going quickly. When we are looking for more fuel, we only grab dead wood on the ground. We never use freshly cut or “green” wood, freshly cut wood is usually hard to light anyhow.

Essential 11: Body Protection

In Youth Odyssey, we like protecting our bodies from the heat, the cold, snow, rain, bugs, and much more. During cold weather we always encourage the kids to bring extras articles of clothing because layers is always a good thing. At all times we are protected from our heads to our toes. We supply just about every non-clothing items if needed, but we strongly recommend a few things. A few of the items we recommend (varies by weather): jackets, outdoor pants/shorts, hiking shoes, and sunglasses. Hiking shoes is one of the biggest things because protecting our feet is crucial in order to go on our fun hikes!

Hiking Clothes

Dressing appropriately for every occasion is vital for an enjoyable trip. Protect yourself from the sun, rain, snow, and all the above. The lighter the load the better, we like light loose fitting clothing because tight clothing can be restrictive to movement and blood flow. Another important thing to always remember with selecting clothing during cold weather, “cotton is rotten”. When cotton gets wet it can take all the heat from your body, which can be very dangerous. We like the kiddos to be nice and warm! Cotton is okay if it’s warm and toasty outside, but it might get soaked in sweat so prepare yourself! 

Layers and Snow

Hiking Shoes

Protect those feet! There is a shoe for every occasion, and the having wrong shoe can make a huge difference. Before we can enjoy the great outdoors we need to take care of our feet! Hiking shoes typically come in 3 different styles: Trail Running, Day Hiking, and Backpacking. There are several factors we consider to determine what shoe we will need: terrain of the trail, amount of weight we are carrying, the weather, and distance of the hike.

  • Trail Running

    Recommended shoe for most Youth Odyssey trips. Low-cut shoes designed for quick movement on the trail. Great when carrying our light packs on a the trail.

  • Day Hiking

    Low-cut to Mid-cut shoes designed for rougher terrains because they are more rigid than a trail running shoe. These are also great for longer day hikes, such as mountain hikes, when carrying medium sized packs.

  • Backpacking

    High-cut shoes designed for the ultimate backpacker. We use these during our backpacking summer camp to carry our 50+ lbs big packs. They also provide the best ankle support.


Time to Hit the Trail

Hiking is one the best activities nature has to offer, but it takes some effort and preparation! In the end it can be very rewarding. The great thing about nature is it is always changing, and never remains exactly the same. Each trip can be full of new surprises like a flock of turkeys at South Llano State Park. These moments are our favorite because the kids get to experience and see new things. It’s all about expanding horizons at Youth Odyssey, and we hope these hiking tips will come in handy for your next adventure as well.

“Literally every section of a hill is different and will work your calves a little differently.” Kelli Calabrese