Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The 10 Essentials of Hiking

Recently I was privileged to be asked to speak to a local Boy Scouts troop about hiking and its essentials and the gear involved.  One of their leaders is a member of my congregation and well aware of my affinity for the outdoors and backpacking and the like.
I joined them for an evening and brought all my gear in to do a bit of a show and tell.  It was exciting answering questions for them and encouraging them to get out and enjoy the same things I do.  A part of my presentation was to review these 10 Essentials of Safe Hiking.  The foundations of this list have been around for sometime.  What you'll find here is my own personal take on these basic essentials.

The 10 Essentials of Safe Hiking
  1. Navigation - Don't get lost! Before any hike I always spend time with maps on the computer.  I like to have a GPX track of my proposed hikes ahead of time and on a device with me during hike to ensure I stay near my trail.  Its also essential to know the surrounding areas should the trail get lost.  When hiking on the high mountains I also have a prepared escape route should weather force a change in route on the way out.  Along with a GPS device a compass is also essential as the digital compasses are unreliable.

  2. Hydration - Running out of water is likely the hiker's first and foremost danger. Not only should enough water be brought along for a hike but backup plans should be in case if you should run out of water. Usually this will involve having the ability to get more water by having a filter, iodine tablets, or some other means.  During the hike I love to use a hydration pack as this offers easy access to the water for frequent hydration.

  3. Nutrition - Need to replenish those calories.  In recent years my hiking companions and I have been buying more into the GU energy gels for instant help.  We've also been partial to most of the typical trail essentials like GORP, beef jerky, and my personal favorite: Teddy Grahams.

  4. Sun Protection - Its no fun getting burnt up out on the trail. When hiking in high altitudes this is especially important as the burning happens much quicker. Hat and sunglasses are helpful, sun lotion also good.  I favor a bandanna draped over the back of my head and neck with a baseball cap over it.

  5. Insulation - Gloves, jacket, extra layers all essential depending upon the conditions and the unexpected surprises.  During summer hikes long sleeves and a jacket may be enough.  On winter hikes this becomes a critical essential.

  6. Fire - Don't leave home without it. Matches and firestarter as well as easy kindling like dryer lint are all light and easy essentials to throw in a pack.

  7. Illumination - It can be disastrous to be stuck on difficult terrain when it gets dark. Headlamp and/or flashlight needed as well as extra batteries.  A smartphone also can act as an emergency backup, but definitely not something to be relied on for long.

  8. First Aid - For handling those unexpected accidents that inevitably happen. Helpful to not just have the supplies for first aid but the knowledge of how to use them.  I usually have a dayhiker's pack with me.

  9. Shelter - Emergency blanket or poncho. Bivy sack for the more extreme situations. With this also comes having the essential knowledge of how to create shelter if that becomes necessary.

  10. Rescue - This last item is encompassing of a variety of things that might just come in handy. A whistle to alert others of your location when lost. Repair tools and a knife for handling unexpected gear malfunctions. The final item included here is the always wonderful fix-everything duct tape.

Of course there will be debate about other items that could be added depending on the type and situation of hiking.  For winter hikes an added essential like traction or flotation comes into play.  For backpacking hikes there may be several other essentials to consider.

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