The Ten Essentials for Hiking
A Seattle-based hiking organization called the Mountaineers, recommends all hikers carry the following 10 essential items.
- Map. A map not only tells you where you are and how far you have to go, it can help you find campsites, water, and an emergency exit route in case of an accident.
- Compass. A compass can help you find your way through unfamiliar terrain—especially in bad weather where you can't see the landmarks.
- Water and a way to purify it. Without staying hydrated, you will suffer on the trail, because you are more susceptible to hypothermia and altitude sickness.
- Extra Food. You never know if you will be out longer than expected, so be prepared.
- Rain Gear and extra clothing. Weather is unpredictable, especially above tree line, so bring along extra layers. Remember to avoid cotton (it keeps moisture close to your skin), and bring along a hat and gloves.
- Fire starter and matches. If you are lost or need to spend the night outside a fire can help prevent an encounter with hypothermia and signal for help.
- First aid kit. It is recommended that you take a basic first aid class to know how to treat potential injuries on the trail.
- Knife or multi-purpose tool. For emergency repairs of all kinds, you will want a knife.
- Flashlight. If you are caught on the trail after dark, a flashlight can help you find your way.
- Sun screen / sun glasses. Especially above tree line when there is a skin-scorching combination of sun and snow, you'll need sunglasses to prevent snow blindness, and sunscreen to prevent sunburn.
If you feel lost, stop, count to 10, drink some water, eat a snack and assess your situation. Ask the following questions: Can you determine where you were last certain of your location? If so, try to navigate back to that point. Can you return to a known trail or location? If not, stay put. It's easier for rescuers to find you near your original path if you stay put. Here are some more tips:
- If you become lost, keep calm, stay dry, keep warm and stay put.
- If you need to spend the night, a campfire can provide heat, light and comfort. A campfire can also help others find you.
- If you feel you can try and find your way out of the woods, remember that following streams downhill will nearly always lead you back to signs of habitation.
- In case of accident, at least one person should remain with the injured person. Know and use basic first aid techniques. Others in the group should carefully note the location and contact the local Forest Service.