When you just get into hiking, it's easy to overlook the essential pieces of gear you need in case of an emergency... But trust me, once you have your first run in with danger, illness, injury, or a flash storm, you'll be glad you read this!
- Map and a Compass: If you've never been in the trail system you're heading into, it's a good idea to grab a map. Most popular state parks will have a Park Ranger office with paper maps. If you don't have access to a paper map, take a picture of the map at the trail head with your phone, put it on airplane mode, and use it for a reference. However, please keep in mind that your phone's GPS will most likely NOT work in the wild, so please come prepared.
- Sun Protection: Even though the day started out cloudy, the sun can come out at any time. It's better to have a bottle of SPF 50 than get caught in a freak 100 degree heat wave. If you're going to be walking on snow, sunglasses are essential. Snow blindness (which is temporary) can occur even on cloudy days.
- Insulation: The average day to night temperature can change drastically. If there's even a chance you could get stuck outdoors over night, you will be thanking yourself for the extra layers. So bring an insulated sitting pad, fleece, pants, hat, and a rain jacket in your back pack. You never know when you're going to need it.
- Illumination: Always carry a headlamp or a flashlight and extra batteries. You want enough light that you can walk in the dark for up to 2 hours, or that you can set up camp if you decide to stop and wait until daylight.
- First-Aid Supplies: This one is a no brainer. Bring bandages, polysporin, tensor bandage, safety pins, and super glue (to glue together big nasty gashes). If you're not sure what else you need, you can also pick up a kit for around $15 at most outdoors stores.
- Fire: Bring extra lighters, waterproof matches, flint, fire starter like cotton balls, and a small knife or hatchet to cut up kindling and pieces of wood.
- Multi-Tool and Repair Kit: See above re the hatchet. However, a multi-tool is easy to stuff into a pocket. You should also grab scissors as well as a small roll of duct tape, safety pins, and a patch kit with super glue (Are you starting to see the overlap?!) so patch up any tears to your gear.
- Extra Food: If you're hiking more than a few hours (which is very easy to do if you've never been on the trail before) you're going to want to bring along healthy snack options. Try to bring a balance of carbohydrates, protein and fat, or sandwiches. Bring more than you think you'll eat.
- Extra Water: Hydration is key. Water will help you digest your food whether it's hot or cold. If you're hiking all day, it's not a bad idea to bring Chlorine Dioxide tablets to avoid any nasty parasites from stream water.
- Emergency Shelter: Emergency blankets fold up very small, and are easy enough to throw into a pocket. If you do get stuck, avoid laying directly on cold ground. If possible, bring a small, foam length torso pad to create a barrier between your body and the ground.
Happy trails! #KeepGoing