Ten Essentials Hiking List

Article by the Forsythkid
Getting lost on a day hike can happen to anyone and is not fun. Most of the time, you will find your way back with no harm done. Once in a while, however, you can get gosh darned, balls to the walls LOST! If you are by yourself, a real sense of panic can quickly develop. (I know this because it’s happened to me on a couple of occasions). One way to keep this from happening requires a little bit of planning on your part and the foresight to include some hiking essentials whenever you venture out into the woods. I’ve broken them down into ten classifications for your consideration. Depending on the kind of hiking you plan to do (day versus night or even overnight) you will want to customize the list to suit your needs. (Or even ignore it all together).
  1. Navigation Aids – I never ever go anywhere for a hike without making sure I have three key items on me. My Silva Ranger compass, a topographical map of the area and a GPS. I take all three because when ever you plan an outing its important to think in terms of what can go wrong. One of the times I go lost was when my GPS flaked out on me (the batteries went dead) and I had also neglected to bring a compass. Map? What map? Fortunately I was able to get out OK, but the lesson was well learned. Not only should you have a map and compass, but it pays to know how to use them as well. You might want to consider a book on compass reading such as ‘Map and Compass’ by Don Geary or ‘Orienteering’ by Steven Boga. Either book will give you the ability to navigate yourself reliably over hill and dale. While you’re at it, make sure you also know how to use your GPS. So, read the instruction booklet that came with it.  Once you feel fairly competent have a friend take you out into a spot in the woods and the desert you. Your job will be to find your way back to a predetermined location using only a map and a compass. This can be great fun and a valuable exercise.
  2. Hydration – Next on the list of really important things to have with you is plenty of water and the ability to obtain more as needed. If you do manage to get lost and have nothing to drink, the situation can go downhill very rapidly. So include some form of bottle or bag to store the precious aqua and perhaps some purification tablets or a filtering device to allow you to draw water from a stream without getting sick.
  3. Fire – I elected to put this high up on my list for a couple of reasons. Having the ability to make a  fire can greatly increase your chances of survival by providing heat during chilly nights and as a way to be seen by search planes should that become necessary. So, make sure not only to have plenty of matches, butane lighter and a waterproof container to store them in but also a backup device should all else fail. I always have a magnesium fire starter with me. The military has deployed these devices for over twenty years and they will lat practically forever.
  4. Food – Another item that is pretty high on my list of essential items is some form of concentrated food item that stores well but which can give you needed energy in a pinch. I generally prefer the trail mix bars that are sold under various names. They are lightweight and you can stash a number of them in your pockets prior to hitting the trail.
  5. First Aid – A must have item, even if you are going for a short hike is some form of first aid. Small portable packets are sold in camping supply stores or can be purchased on-line. I would include sun screen also in this category. A spin off is the ‘Survival kit’ that is offered online and which can be found in all sorts of configurations from simple packets for day walkers to large boxes that can service an entire group of people.
  6. Clothing – When planning a walk, it’s a good idea to pay particular attention to what you’re going to wear. I always start by picking a good set of walking boots that have some ankle support. Next I like slacks that are designed for hiking and have a lot of pockets to store stuff in. When looking at shirts I always think of layers so I can shed a piece if I become too hot or add one if cold. A vest is pretty neat also if it has a lot of pockets. Also, I have a small rain outfit that fits in a nylon bag. Finally, I want a hat the will effectively shade my eyes from the sun. Also, a good pair of sunglasses will not hurt.
  7. Communication – A portable cell phone is pretty much assumed these days, but don’t stop there. You can also purchase a solar panel that will fit in your pack that can allow you to charge your phone should your batteries run low. Modern cell phones also often come with GPS tracking capability making them even more useful.
  8. Illumination – Getting caught out after dark can really become dicey if you can’t see the trail or what might be crawling on it. That’s why when those headband LED units first came out I became an instant fan. They are extremely light, bright and run off a couple of AAA cells. Make sure you have at least one source of illumination with you.
  9. Repair kit – I always make it a point to have a small baggie with some needles, wire, thread and a small roll of duck tape with me. You can use your imagination here and include a multi-tool and whatever else floats your boat. Just keep the weight factor in mind.
  10. Shelter – As in a space blanket can be a lifesaver if you are forced to spending the night in a fetal position by some lake. These ultra light fabrics weigh next to nothing and are cheap so get one.
There, that’s it! If you stuff everything in your pockets and in your pack you have gained about twelve pounds or more depending on how much water and food you elect to carry. As a last note, it’s also a good idea to let a relative or friend know your plans. Where you are going and how long you intend to be there. That way if something goes horribly wrong you know that they know. Also, if you are an avid outdoors kind of person I would encourage you to get a concealed carry permit if you state allows it. The laws, which take effect in February 2010, will allow you to carry concealed in the National Parks (something most hikers do now anyway). Forested areas, especially wilderness areas can present problems in the form of feral animals or criminals out making a batch of meth. Think of a gun as a needed form of insurance and put up with the weight they will add.
That concludes my list. There are all sorts of items you might want to add and that would be great. Just make sure to plan a little and then go enjoy the great outdoors!

About forsythkid

I am just a simple man with a head full of sand who is currently residing in a small town called Forsyth Missouri. I enjoy hiking, camping and all things related to gardening. I rec’d my degree from SIU majoring in Biology many moons ago and still maintain a great interest in the study of all living things. My hobbies include meteorology, the Finnish language and inhabiting cyberspace whenever possible.
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2 Responses to Ten Essentials Hiking List

  1. Pingback: Hikers! It’s Only a Matter of Dead Weight. « Forsythkid's Blog

  2. Judy Wallace says:

    I agree with everything on your list, especially the clothing aspect. The first time I went hiking in the Appalachians in Tennessee, I did not wear the right boots and I struggled along the course. It’s nice to have a pancho which can easily fit in your back pack and you will appreciate even more when it starts pouring when your miles out from your camp site. It also helps to protect your electronics, such as cell phone and GPS. Lastly, it’s very important to have sunglasses, specifically polarized sun glasses which are crucial when you are out in the sun all day at higher altitudes!


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