Originally Posted by BDC2823
As I am new to this and it's just a few hour thing, is there really anything besides water, camera, and a protein bar that I should bring with me? I'll probably just be going by myself.
Gilligan thought he was only going on a "three hour tour" ....
If you're new to hiking, you need to overprepare for the first few times you go out. Hiking history is loaded with examples of people who get themselves into trouble due to lack of gear.
If you want a good read that drives that point home, get a copy of "Not Without Peril", which is a selection of tales about the 155+ people that have died in the Presidential Mountain range in New Hampshire. Some were very experienced hikers. Most didn't bring the proper gear and got caught in the rapidly changing weather that is the trademark of the Mt. Washington valley. Overall, that area of New Hampshire beats Mt. Everest in absolute number of fatalities -- not becase of technical difficulty, but because people think they can beat George with a t-shirt, shorts and a bottle of water.
You'll become seasoned enough so that you can start leaving stuff at home but if you are just starting out it behooves you to hedge your bets.
First, you don't mention bringing a map or GPS unit; you don't want to get lost (especially hiking solo). Cell coverage is often non-existent in natural preserve areas (e.g. national parks) as no cell towers can be built there. You really should hike with a buddy but that's up to you.
Second, you need a daypack that can hold clothing that will help you stave off hypothermia in the event you encounter rain. Wet = cold = starting down the road to hypothermia. Even if the weather is clear as a bell you don't know how it will change. A light windproof/waterproof shell is a minimum, and I will often bring rain pants as well. I would also advise bringing another thermal layer, like a lightweight fleece shirt or jacket. My boots are waterproof; if yours are not I would advise finding a way to keep your feet dry. By the way, don't wear running shoes or sneakers on hikes. They're not built for rocky trails and can cause foot fatigue much faster than you'd expect.
Third, a first aid kit. You're going solo which means if you injure yourself there is nobody around to take care of you. There are lightweight first aid kits that will help you solve most common problems that you may encounter.
Bring more water and food than just a water bottle and a protein bar. You will sweat out a lot of your water and you will be burning lots of calories. A good two or three liter hydration system (make sure your daypack is hydration system compatible) like a Platypus or Camelbak makes drinking on the go easy and you can carry a lot more water than a simple bottle. You should also bring some trail mix or similar food for munching on the go. I usually bring lunch as well for dayhikes.
I will usually bring a knife and lighter along. I've had to start fires using the friction method in classes. It took me the better part of two days to whittle the fireboard and spindle out of a single chunk of wood. It took me another day to get fire started. That's why I carry a lighter. It's just too hard to start it the "old fashioned" way.
I think you'll do just fine ... hiking solo is something that I've done and can be a lot of fun. Just prepare a bit more than usual for your first few times out and you'll start to learn the ropes. Best of luck!