Always Take a Pack – Even on Short Hikes

by Jaana Hatton

You’re thinking of a quick hike, just a few hour walk, so you can forget about the pack, right?

Think again. Given the possibility of injuries, navigation errors, broken equipment, or encountering others in need of help, it’s not that unusual for a short hike to turn into something unexpected — sometimes  even an unexpected night out under the stars. Which is why it’s common practice to pack basic essentials on every hike.

Pictured is the author of this article, Jaana Hatton.

I will mention no names, but two of my friends had a bad experience when their planned two-hour outing on trails near Mission Ridge turned into a desperate six-hour scramble over the rocks and through the woods when they lost track of their trail. They eventually found their way back, but they were not properly prepared and learned the hard way that they should have been packing essentials to help them recover from different types of predicaments.

Below are ten items that most experienced hikers carry with them, even on short jaunts:

1. Map and compass

-Phones and GPS units don’t work everywhere and are prone to battery failure. Make a printed map and compass the essential part of your travel kit and electronics your convenient but non-essential navigation aid.

2. Sun protection

-This includes some combination of sun cream, protective clothing, sunglasses, and a billed cap.

3. Insulation

-Carry enough extra clothing to give you a cushion against changing weather or a problem delaying your progress.

4. Illumination

-A small headlamp and extra batteries greatly extend your day and can help you recover from unexpected delays.

5. First Aid Kit

-These can be purchased in various ready-to-go sizes. Always have at least a small kit along to help you mop up the damage that can happen as quickly as a stubbed toe tossing you on your face.

6. Tools

-A quality jack knife with various tools (sharp blades, scissors, saw, file) has many emergency uses from first-aid, to gear repair, to starting a fire.

7. Nutrition

-Even if it’s just a few energy bars or a small bag of trail mix, keep some extra high-energy food in the pack.

8. Hydration

-The amount of water needed on outings varies dramatically on the season and expected temperatures but carry more water than you expect to need, especially in hot weather. Also, carry some form of water purification (like a tiny jar of iodine tablets) so you can purify grungy water if you really find yourself in dire straits.

9. Emergency Shelter

-Lightweight emergency blankets (space blankets) are about the size and weight of two energy bars and can be a life-saver, literally.

10. Fire

-Arguably the most important item of all to survive a problem that delays you overnight is a lightweight but bombproof means of starting a fire. Carry a reliable fire-starter (like cotton balls dipped in Vaseline) plus a reliable lighter to ignite your starter.

Most of these items can be carried in a stuff sack that lives permanently in the bottom of a small pack. To prepare for a hike of any length just grab the pack and add a map, seasonally appropriate layers of clothing, water and food scaled for the outing, and off you go.

This post was originally published on 6/3/19.

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