Going on a hike and want to make sure you have the proper gear just in case something happens? Even day hikes present a potential for dangerous circumstances. You hear stories all the time about hikers getting lost, running out of water, sustaining injuries, and other frightening circumstances. Before you head out, consider throwing some of the following gear into your backpack.
1.) A map of the hike
Most popular hiking destinations have maps you can take of the various trails. While most times they do not provide a true topographical view of the area, they can give you a rough idea about where you are. Some trails go on for a while and intersect many other trails along the way. It’s easy to get lost especially if you don’t have a map that outlines the trail names. A big part of survival is not putting yourself in a survival situation in the first place. Prepare yourself and always check for a map at the station.
2.) Water filter
A water filter is an essential part of any hiking survival kit. Practically, carrying a water filter allows you to filter water as you need it rather than lugging an entire supply. It’s also very easy to underestimate how much water you need. Not bringing enough water is one of the more common hiking problems you can solve by carrying a water filter. Two popular filters are the Lifestraw and the Sawyer water filter. Both are lightweight and won’t take up too much space in your pack.
3.) Good boots
Nobodies idea of a good time is spraining an ankle 5 miles in to a hike. Sprained ankles are extremely common but can be remedied by simply wearing a good pair of hiking boots. The boots you purchase should be mid-level boots with strong ankle support. Make sure they lace up tight around the ankles and that they have good tread. Personally, I have skinny ankles and a narrow foot so most boots do not fit the way I like. I finally found a pair from Vasque that do. The St Elias GTX supports a narrow foot and smaller ankles. That’s a big win for skinny guys like me.
On some trails the sun can be downright brutal. It’s a given that you’re going to be spending a lot of time in the sun. It’s a good idea to protect your skin from burning with a bit of sunscreen. You don’t need to bring the whole bottle with you though. You can apply a layer at your car before you leave and then carry something smaller in your pack. I carry this in my hiking survival kit. It’s only slightly larger than a thing of Chapstick.
Pack a days worth of snacks for snacking on the trail. I enjoy Clif Bars and dried nuts and fruit. Basically you can bring anything you feel is worth the weight and won’t spoil before you eat it.
6.) Light jacket
A hot day can turn cold when the sun starts to go down. Especially when you aren’t hiking, things can get chilly. Carry a light windbreaker or jacket for the hike back to the car.
7.) Water canteen
Something to store your water. I prefer a stainless steel thermos because of the capability to boil water if I need to. Boiling water is a slow but effective method to purify a dubious water source. Alternatively, you can use the canteen to store any water you filter with your water filter. A water filter and a BPA free canteen make for a powerful combination. Using the map you picked up at the station you can identify bodies of water near the trails. Can you see how all of these things work together?
If you get caught walking back a little later than you thought a headlamp will come in mighty handy. A headlamp has a number of advantages over a flashlight. One, a headlamp is much lighter than a flashlight. Lightness of gear is essential for putting together a hiking pack. Two, a headlamp frees up your hands to do other things. Free hands gives you increased balance on the trail and allows you to use both hands to find gear in your pack you may need.
9.) Hiking socks
Anything but cotton. Wool is a good choice as is many of the synthetic materials out there. Cotton socks absorb more moisture than other materials and creates a breeding ground for blisters on your feet. Remember, you are only one blister away from turning a pleasant hike into a rather annoying experience!
A survival kit wouldn’t be a real survival kit unless it contained a knife. A knife can be used for many tasks including processing firewood, cutting cordage, digging out splinters, defending yourself against mountain lions, and a host of other useful things. Knives come in two varieties: folding and fixed. For a day hike you can probably get away with taking a folding knife. Fixed knives are generally stronger and more reliable because they don’t have a single point of failure (the part that folds on a folding knife.) However, there are many folders that are worthy of your survival kit.
Other hiking survival kit thoughts
Apart from the gear you should bring on a hike you should definitely take some precautions before you hit the trail. Make sure your phone has a full charge before you start tromping off into the wilderness. Put the phone on airplane mode in case you hit patches with no service, roaming drains the battery faster than anything. Before you leave, make sure people know where you are going. Tell a close friend or family member about where you are going and be as specific as possible.
Tell them what time to expect you back and then call them once you get back to your car so they know you’re safe. If you go missing they can call for help and give search and rescue an accurate location of where you are.
Did I miss anything? let me know in the comments below.