Hiking Safety: The Ten Essentials

Too often while I’m out on the trails, I see people with a whole lot of nothing. Trail runners doing their thing. Hikers in the wrong shoes and not even carrying water. More often than not, these are on trails where I am by myself or with friends, meaning we are doing a fair distance (5, 6, 7 miles) which usually takes us pretty far off a road.

And, let’s face it. When I was a beginner hiker, I definitely did not carry the ten essentials with me at all times — or at all. Water was always a must, but I was new and didn’t know how important the rest of these items were.

In fact, if I’m being totally honest, it wasn’t until last summer when I took off for my first big hiking trip that a very good friend who happens to do search and rescue filled me on what I was missing. Thankfully, it was only a few items, but they were all worth having. If you hike, or backpack, or camp out in the wilderness, please make sure that you carry these items with you at all times. It may seem silly to pack for a short hike, but nature has as mind of it’s own, and you never know what can happen.

The Ten Essentials for Hiking/Backpacking or Camping:

Navigation: This includes a map, compass, altimeter, GPS device, personal locator beacon (PLB) or satellite messenger. I typically carry a compass with me, and know the general direction of where my car is located. I am also a big fan of the AllTrails app. I pay for the annual pro fee so that I can download trail maps and use my GPS even when I do not have cellular reception. Of course, your battery will die eventually, but you can carry additional charging packs.

Headlamp/Flashlight: Make sure that you carry extra batteries. I use this rechargable emergency flashlight, which saves me the trouble of having to carry extra batteries, and also includes a bunch of other safety features.

Sun protection: This includes sunglasses, sun-protective clothes and sunscreen.

First aid: I cannot stress this one enough. I am always in need of simple things like bandaids or something to clean up a scratch. This also includes foot care and insect repellent (as needed).

Knife: My preferred is a Leatherman multi tool.

Fire: Always carry something that you can start a fire with. Places like REI sell waterproof matches, which I always carry a few of with me. They don’t take up much space, but keep them in a container just in case. If you’re doing a longer, overnight trips, you’ll likely need a lighter, tinder and/or stove.

Shelter: I don’t necessarily carry a tent with me when I’m doing a short hike. That said, I do have an emergency blanket with me, and I usually carry my hammock (because let’s face it … chilling in your hammock in the middle of nowhere is pretty amazing). These would both keep me warm and provide shelter if needed.

Extra food: Beyond the minimum expectation — meaning, pack a few more snacks than you think you will need. I always end up being WAY more hungry after a long hike than I thought I would be, especially if the trail you are doing is harder than expected. I tend to pack high protein and high fat snacks, to fill me up better and help provide energy.

Extra water: General rule of thumb is 2 liters of water for every one hour of hiking. The best way to calculate this is to make sure in advance you know the distance of your trail, and then divide by your mph pace. On a flat surface, I can usually do between 2.5 to 3 miles in one hour. Less if I was hiking at a more difficult incline.

Extra clothes: Always pack more than you’ll need. Don’t rely on what’s on  your back. You can’t go wrong with an extra sweatshirt, a pair of pants and maybe a hat.

**Image Credit: REI

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