The Ten Essentials to hiking in the back country is, well, essential. That is, if you care to survive. Even on day hikes it is always best to be prepared for the worst. Things can easily happen while hiking which can cause you to be put in a compromised position where you’ll wish you had something more than a bottle of water.
Clothing is probably most important when tromping through the woods. Always, always dress for the weather but most importantly, dress for the worst kind of weather. With today’s technology you can easily check the forecast for the day and decide what you should take. I bought a very nice pair of hiking pants which are breathable, flexible and very comfortable. Shorts are no good for me because they do not protect my legs from bug bites, thorny brush and the suns harmful rays. Long sleeved shirts are also a good idea unless you bring plenty of sunblock on hot, sunny days. Hats and sunglasses are perfect for hot days because you want to keep as much UV rays off of you as possible. You can only carry so much water. If you plan to make hiking a routine thing in your life, I would advise that you invest in some good hiking boots or shoes. Quarter tops are good for ankle protection. Do not go cheap on shoes. And always bring an extra pair of socks.
This is probably the most important thing you’ll need while out playing Bear Grylls. I use a Camelbak with a drinking straw with a water bladder that holds two liters. I usually come home with extra water. It’s important to hydrate the night before and bring extra water if you can. There’s never too much water. If you hit high elevation hikes early in the spring, you might have an opportunity to refill your water system at glacial runoffs or fast moving streams. Just be cautious of where the water source is coming from. You don’t want to be down stream from anyone or any animal that has decided to use the stream as a toilet.
I’ve seen many people hiking with nothing more than the shirt on their backs. If that works for them, so be it. If you’re doing some serious hiking in areas which lack cell phone signal, or you’re by yourself- always bring a first aid kit. It doesn’t have to be some elaborate back pack with an AED, tourniquets and trauma blankets but it should cover the basics. My first aid kit carries a emergency blanket, a poncho, a signal whistle, water proof matches, ointment (for cuts and scrapes), a mirror, compass and extra batteries. Believe it or not, these small items could save your life if you get turned around or encounter a nasty fall.
I’ve come close to being stranded by myself on top of a mountain a few times. That’s why I’ve taken my hiking game to the next level and decided to invest in some of these things. Yes, it’s added weight, it becomes a hassle to prepare and pack for what would be considered a “day hike” on an “out and back” trail and since most hikes I’ve done I usually run into a person or two, I really feel safe. But you never know. I always carry a hunting knife with me, a pocket knife and a firearm. You never know what you’re going to encounter on the trail. I also carry two lighters, extra batteries, a flash light, my micro spikes (to be used in snow, ice and other slippery surfaces), a handheld GPS, ace bandage wrap, sunglasses and extra clothing. I also bring a map just in case. And lastly, always hike with the buddy system. If you can’t find a willing participate to bring with you then always let someone know where you’re going and when you think you’ll be back. Be specific with your instructions to call the local authorities if you aren’t back within a certain time frame. These are all safety protocols that you can put into place to save your life in case things go south while you’re out playing survivor man. Know your limitations and respect the mountain.
Stay safe and see you on the summit!