Here are my tips for what to pack for a day hike in Finland. I go to a forest almost every day with my dog, and I usually carry few essentials with me. For a full day hike, I prefer to carry a light bag that can fit some food and few other essential items, but on shorter trails I manage with only a fanny bag or jacket pockets. The selection and contents of my bag also varies according to the time of the year and where I’m heading.
What fits to a fanny bag for a day hike?
1-2 water bottles
Snacks and dog treats (Nalle would like to highlight that these are important)
Biodegradable bags for picking up any trash (or mushrooms)
A mini first aid kit with some medicine such as painkillers, basic bandages and cleaning wipes, triangular cloth, hydrocortisone (kyypakkaus in Finnish for allergic reactions to bee stings or snake bites), and blister bandages
A mini hand sanitizer
Mosquito repellent in summer
Pen for geocaching
Phone (+portable charger)
If I go to forage some mushrooms, I usually have a basket and a mushroom knife with me. The mushroom knife is different to a regular one as it has a little brush on the other end.
In autumn I would add a deer ked net to the fanny bag as you never know how bad the deer ked situation will be. One time I put the net where the other water bottle normally is, outside of the fanny bag. The net has a string where you can tighten it, and this string was partly hanging outside of my bag without me noticing it. So, when I was in a dense forest, the string got caught in some tree branches. The net slipped out of the bag and was hanging on the tree. At that moment I happened to look back and got so scared of the black thing hanging on a tree! Nalle saw it at the same time and started barking! But then I recognized it as my very own deer ked net.. I laughed about it so much. And despite of getting scared, I was glad I happened to look back and I didn’t lose it in the forest.
What should you carry in a light back bag on a day hike?
My back bag for the day hike includes basically same items as the fanny bag, but since it’s bigger, it can take few extra items. If I’m heading to a lean-to shelter to have lunch or coffee by open fire, I usually carry my back bag instead of the fanny bag. The extra items in my back bag are usually as follows:
A fire making set
Firewood (if needed)
My wooden kuksa coffee cup
Some food such as makkara (sausage)
A foldable seat pad
A map and compass if trails are unknown
A thermos bottle of coffee or black pot with extra water, ground coffee and a spoon (except when I forget the spoon)
In winter also:
A power bank
Extra socks and cloves
The foldable seat pad I tend to carry in my back bag all year round as it’s nice to have something dry to sit on in the lean-to shelters. The fire making set is essential in winter. Firewood I carry only when I’m planning on making a fire and I’m not sure if there is firewood available. Please remember that picking up firewood from forest is not allowed by otherwise generous everyman’s rights in Finland. Very often firewood is provided at the lean-to shelters, but use it sparsely.
In winter the flashlight is useful even though your phone might have one too. It gets dark really early in Finland, and it’s not fun trying to make your way out of the forest in complete darkness. I might also add the power bank in my back bag as phone battery dies easily in cold weather. My previous iPhone was basically useless outside in winter due to its weak battery. In winter I would add extra cloves and socks to my bag as they might get wet and getting cold always begins from fingers and toes. Shoe spikes can be useful if the trail is icy, so I sometimes carry them with me if I’m expecting slippery trails.
The map and compass can be useful even on a day trip if you are heading to some area that you don’t know and there are no trail markings. Finland is a vast country and we also have many areas where phones don’t have network. That is something to take into consideration. Usually for a day hike I don’t carry printed maps but I make sure I have fully charged battery on my phone. There are several good map applications in Finland, the one I use is Maastokartta Karttaselain. Another app I highly recommend is 112 for emergency phone calls and location tracking.
The few extra items that I usually have in my car include water, dry clothes and some snacks. A high visibility vest is always in my car, and in the autumn during hunting season I also wear it in the forest.
Extra packing tips for dog owners
Extra leash is useful to have in the back bag, and I usually carry Nalle’s lightweight water bowl with me. He knows how to drink from my hand or from a bottle, but the bowl is useful if we share a water bottle. Otherwise, he doesn’t really need much for a day hike. Dogs have their own first aid kits that include tick tweezers, but I don’t think those are as relevant on a day hike as they would be on longer hikes.
One useful thing is a lightweight emergency vest that you can put on a dog if you need to carry the dog out of the forest. Carrying the dog out of the forest might be necessary if the dog insures himself or for example gets a snake bite in his paw. It would be important to keep the area of the bite as still as possible, so it means that you should perhaps carry the dog instead of allowing him to walk even if he could. The emergency vest is kind of like a baby carrier, it helps you to pick up and carry the dog. Please note that the hydrocortisone tablet (kyypakkaus) is not recommended to be given to a dog for the snake bite, but it might be useful in allergic reactions to the bee stings. Always consult the vet before giving any medication to your dog.
Nalle walks usually on a leash with me as it’s illegal to let your dog run freely in the forest without the forest owner’s permission. At certain places and certain times of the year I might let him run freely. I have stored some of his fur in a plastic bag at home in case he someday runs away. That is meant for search and rescue dogs so they could pick up his scent if he didn’t come back to me for some reason. But it’s hard to imagine Nalle ever missing his dinner at home!