If you’re a keen hiker you’ve probably heard people talk about ‘The 10 essentials’, but do you know what they are? Knowing what they are and having them in your backpack could help save your life.
I’ll have to admit I wasn’t up to speed with all the 10 essentials but given that I’ve got my eye on some longer hikes this summer I’m going to make sure that these are all in my backpack just in case!
Here are The 10 essentials for hiking, no matter where in the world you are, and why you should have them with you.
You might be starting your hike early in the day and your preparation might tell you that it’s only a four hour hike, but what happens if you take a wrong turn and get caught in the dark? Hiking trails get very dark and there’s only so long the torch on your phone will last before that fails on you (cutting your communication and light source!).
Everyone you’re hiking with (including yourself) should carry a small headlamp in their backpack. This doesn’t have to be anything fancy and can be picked up cheaply. Headlamps are small and light – just make sure you’ve put in some freshly charged batteries or, better still, have some spares with you.
Here are a few headlamps that’d do the job!
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2. Firemaking kit
Being able to make a fire in the wild can help you stay warm in case of an accidental overnight stay on the mountain. Your firemaking kit should ideally include some waterproof matches and some firelighter. Lint from your tumble dryer will work great and it’s a useful way to use it up too!
It’s also a good idea to be sure you know how to make a fire. Watch a few videos on youtube (we find the ‘log cabin’ methods to be most useful) so that you’re good to go.
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3. Nutrition and hydration
Hikes are miserable when you’re not properly fed and watered. Pack more food and water than you think you’ll need. Think nuts for more sustained energy and chocolate bars for an instant energy hit.
Bring at least 1 litre of water per person and ideally more; especially in warmer climates. If you’re on a trail with a few water fountains then fill up your bottles every chance you get.
You might want to add a water filter or water treatment device to your bag in case you have to refill your bottle from a stream or lake.
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Weather changes quickly in the mountains. And, just because it was warm at the bottom, doesn’t mean it’ll still be hot at the top. Make sure you’ve packed lightweight layers and a waterproof shell. Think what you’d need to survive were you forced to spend the night outdoors and pack that.
For any full day hike or route that isn’t on a well marked trail, make sure you’ve bought a topographical map and compass with you (and know how to use them!).
Even if you usually use a GPS device it’s important to know how to use a map and compass as GPS devices run out of battery and aren’t always reliable.
Waterproof maps are the best option should the weather turn on you!
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6. First aid kit
You can either buy a small pre-made first aid kit, or make your own. A good first aid kit for hiking will include blister treatment, disinfectant, scissors, tweezers and bandages amongst others.
You may also want to add in some pain killers and bug spray/bite relief.
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7. Emergency shelter
In case you do find yourself stuck outdoors overnight, you’ll be glad to have some emergency shelter in your backpack. This would also be useful if a member of your group has become injured, or the weather takes a turn for the worse and you need some shelter.
If you’re on an overnight trip you’ll already have something, but for day hikes it’s a good idea to take a bivy sack, brightly coloured tarp or large orange plastic bag. This will help keep you warm and dry as well as make it easier for search and rescue to spot you.
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8. Sun protection
Sunstroke is very dangerous (and makes you feel awful!). The best way to protect yourself is to wear a hat that gives you neck and face shade, wear plenty of sun cream and have sunglasses too. Don’t forget lip balm as chapped lips suck!
And remember, just because there’s still snow on the ground, or it’s cloudy, that doesn’t mean you can’t get sunstroke or sunburn.
9. Signalling device
If you do get lost yelling for help won’t get you very far. Your voice only travels so far and there’s only so loud you can shout. Not to mention you’ll begin to lose your voice too!
Pack a whistle which will help alert people to your whereabouts. Make sure your phone is fully charged and try to avoid using it/turn it off to save battery.
If you have a portable charger pack that too. But don’t rely on your phone as you may not always have signal.
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10. Repair kit & tools
The repair kit will include things like a camping knife/multi-tool device, small scissors, duct tape, cable tie and a little shovel or trowel. These items are handy for slicing food, splitting firewood, cutting bandages, making minor repairs to tents and other odd-jobs.
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EXTRA: Going to bear country? You’ll need this
If you’re going anywhere where bears may be present then it’s better to be safe than sorry and pack the following items. In general bears will stay away if they hear or smell you but it’s just not worth the risk.
If you want more safety tips for bear encounters check out this post!
A can of bear spray should be kept somewhere easily accessible. You don’t want to be faced with an angry bear and have to empty everything out of your backpack before you find it! Also make sure you know how to use the spray before you have to use it!