Summer 2022 Conservationist

Top 10 Trail Trip Must-Haves

by Dave Andrusyk, Community Engagement Services


It’s not news that since 2020, more people are finding time to spend outdoors. In DuPage, a lot of that time includes hiking or biking along the county’s 166 miles of trails. But whether you’re headed to a local forest preserve or a weekend in the wilds of Wisconsin, there are 10 items (featured here in no particular order) that can help you avoid discomfort or the need to turn back before your adventure is over.



1. Water

Water is vital no matter what time of year you go on a hike or bike ride. Most experts recommended you bring at least 32 ounces in a rugged bottle. A wide-mouth bottle is usually better because it’s easier to clean and fill. For longer or hotter trips, you may want to bring more, although most forest preserves have pumps or fountains. You can find out where each is located on any DuPage forest preserve map.



2. Charged Phone

The plan might be for a quick trip to the preserves, but as the Scouts like to say, “Be prepared!” A fully charged smartphone gives you peace of mind in an emergency and the latest weather report. It also guarantees you’ll have your camera at the ready to take all of those great shots of DuPage plants and wildlife. (Tag us at #dupageforest if you post them on social media!) Plus, you’ll be able to pull up information on the preserves — including trail maps — at



3. First Aid Kit

No matter the extent of your adventure, you’ll want to bring at least a basic first aid kit. If you’re hiking in the back woods, you’ll want one that can treat minor injuries and provide initial care for more serious emergencies. In DuPage forest preserves, just the basics will save your trip if you get a blister, minor cut, or sting. (In more serious emergencies in the preserves, dial 911.)


4. Extra Layers

No matter how good we are with checking the weather, it can change when we least expect it. Regardless of where you’re headed, have the clothing you need to deal with the extremes of heat, cold, and storms. If you are out in colder temperatures, dress in layers so you can remain comfortable as you remove or add different garments. Outdoor clothing can be a little expensive, but many styles are compact, which makes them easier to carry. Bring a spare pair of socks, too. When hiking, your feet are your most important asset, and having extra socks can make a world of difference if you end up with wet feet.



5. Rain Gear

This is separate from “extra layers” because it’s that important. Even on warmer days, you can get chilled by an unexpected storm. If possible, invest in a good rain suit that includes a jacket and pants. Rain ponchos and garbage bags with holes for your head and arms are not recommended because they restrict movement and don’t trap the warmth near your body.


6. Snacks

Even if it’s a short hike, it’s a good idea to bring a small supply of high-energy, high-nutrition foods (such as one of the trail mixes below). These foods will give you that extra boost if your hike lasts longer than expected. Hiking and biking use a lot of energy, and even a short trek can make bellies grumble. Having these snacks on hand will help you focus less on hunger and enjoy more of the journey ahead.


7. Map and Compass

Smart phones do a lot for us. You can use them to pull up a trail map in a matter of seconds. But this technology is only good if it works. If you drain your battery or lose your network signal, you could be out of luck. That’s why you should carry a map and compass and know how to read and use each. You can print trail maps in advance from for most forest preserves. If you need some pointers, the Forest Preserve District has a compass course activity at Blackwell that’ll help you learn how to use this navigational tool by following a series of directions. To make a free reservation, call Visitor Services at 630-933-7248.



8. Multitool

Over the years the good old pocket knife has evolved into the mighty multitool. There are dozens of options to choose from, but don’t feel you have to run out and purchase the biggest one there is. Think about where you’re going and what you might need. They all come with one or two blades, but one with tweezers can help with splinters, and one with a flathead or Phillips screwdriver can help with bike repairs. Make sure, though, to keep it oiled and sharpened. Well-cared-for equipment can last through many adventures.



9. Sun Protection

The sun makes time on the trails pleasant, but if you’re unprepared, it can lead to sunburn, heat exhaustion, or heat stoke. Make sure to stay hydrated, use sunscreen, and wear a wide-brimmed hat. Look, too, for clothes with an ultraviolet protection factor, which shows how much ultraviolet radiation a fabric allows to reach your skin. For example, UPF 50 allows just 1/50th of rays (just 2%) to penetrate. And don’t forget a well-fitting pair of sunglasses; your eyes need protection from the sun, too.



10. Bug Spray

If it’s warm out, it’s good to be mindful of biting ticks, mosquitoes, and chiggers. The best line of defense is to wear closed-toe shoes, socks, long pants, and a long-sleeved shirt. (If you tuck your pants into your socks, you’ll create an extra barrier that’ll keep out ground-dwelling ticks and chiggers.) But summer sometimes calls for shorts, so regardless of your attire, you may also want to consider properly applied repellent containing DEET or Picaridin.

trailmix-HongVoShutterstockcomTrail Mix Recipies

Trail mix is a high-protein, high-fat snack that’s perfect for any outdoor adventure. Many people call trail mix “gorp,” which some say is an acronym for “good old raisins and peanuts.” Others insist it stands for “granola, oats, raisins, and peanuts.” Adding to the debate is the 1913 Oxford English Dictionary, which defines the word as a verb meaning “to eat greedily.”

No matter what you call this sweet and salty snack, here are few recipes you can try (adjusting to address any food allergies) using equal parts of each ingredient to create your own favorites!

Traditional Gorp
M&M’s or chocolate chips

Tropical Fruit Mix
Banana chips
Dried mango
Dried pineapple
Macadamia nuts

Seed-Lovers Mix
Pumpkin seeds
Sunflower seeds
Dried cranberries
Chocolate chips

Savory Mix
Roasted cashews
Sunflower seeds
Sesame sticks
Wasabi peas

Images 1. Dmytro Melnyk/, 2. Izf/, 3. Kittisak Srithorn/, 5. Jaromir Chalabala/, 8. Gorkem Kisaoglu/, 9. Irina Shatilova/, 10. Crisp0022/, trail mix Hong Vo/