One of my favourite parts of the holiday period is getting out on the trail. Getting out from behind the laptop and into my trusty hiking boots is the perfect way to unwind.
But as relaxing as nature is, it’s imperative to always have safety at the forefront of your mind – especially when you’re also dealing with the summer heat.
Whether you’re new to the trial or a seasoned hiker, you should always have these in your backpack.
If you’ve been a wildnerness lover for awhile, you may have heard of The 10 Essentials. It’s a list that was originally created by a group called The Mountaineers in the 1930s.
In the early 2000s the list was updated to systems rather than individual items. As the times change, gear and tech can too.
As much as I love technology, it can fail. That’s why it’s still a good idea to carry around an old school map and compass as well as GPS… and to know how to use them. Taking a basic wilderness course can help with this.
I would also include a handheld radio and Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) in this section, as they can help others navigate to you if you are ever in an emergency.
The SpotGen 3 is also a good choice if you want something that is all-in-one. In addition to global satellite GPS, it includes a PLB and allows you to send an updated location and messages to people back home.
And for an non-tech option – a whistle so you can attract help if you need it.
Sunscreen (I opt for SPF 50) and a wide brimmed hat are obvious here, but don’t forget sunglasses. Your eyes need just as much protection as your skin, and can suffer particular damaged if you’re dealing with snow glare in the winter.
You should also pack an extra layer of clothing. Prepare for the worst possible weather the season could throw at you. I would also recommend a water proof jacket.
In case you ever get caught after-dark.
Headlamps are at the top of my list as they allow illumination while also keeping my hands free. Some even have a strobe mode which not only saves battery life but can be used to signal in emergencies.
Hand torches are also a good option as many have a strong beam and can also be used for signalling.
Don’t forget spare batteries for your lights and radios!
You can get first aid kits specifically designed for hiking and camping. But if you would rather create your own, generally you’ll want to include:
- Band-Aids of various sizes
- Blister treatment
- Bandages and butterfly clips
- Antiseptic wipes
- Antiseptic ointment or cream (such as Dettol)
- fine-point tweezers
- Medical tape
- Pain killers
- Insect repellent and treatment
- Aloe vera gel
If you’re planning an overnight hike or are heading into back country, it is probably also worth considering investing in (or putting together) a survival kit with items such as: flint, waterproof paper, pencil, space blanket, gaffer tape, waterproof poncho, emergency shelter, glow stick, survival mirror.
If you have to unexpectedly spend the night in the bush, you’re going to want a fire. Firestarters are a popular method, but it doesn’t hurt to have some water-proof matches and flint as a backup. Worst case scenario – some ordinary matches or a lighter.
Repair Kit and Tools
A multi-tool is your best friend in the bush. Not only can it help you with food prep – it can be essential for emergencies. Especially if you need help with first aid, fire lighting, shelter building or repairs. I’m personally a fan of Leathermans, but there are a lot of options out there.
Speaking of which, a repair kit also isn’t a bad idea. You never know when you may need to patch your backpack, shelter or water reservoir. Worst case scenario – pack some gaffer tape.
You should always pack extra food on a hike in case of an emergency. Always remember that you will burn through more energy than expected while hiking.
If you’re on a day-hike, perishable foods are fine, but be sure to pack long life extras as well in case you need to unexpectedly camp for the night.
Trail mix, energy bars, crackers and tuna are all good light-weight options. If you have the ability to cook, you could also consider dehydrated meals, noodles and porridge.
Energy gels are chews are other lightweight options, and are especially good if you’re prone to an upset stomach if you eat during intense exercise. Just making sure you don’t use them as a complete food substitute.
It’s also important to take the right kind of food. Make sure you’re getting carbs and protein in order to stay fueled, as well as sodium and potassium to help keep you hydrated. Water alone isn’t enough.
Always pack extra water.
Hydration bladders are a good solution if you don’t want to keep pulling a water bottle out. They slip right into your backpack and all you need to do is bite down on the valve to access your water.
Just make sure you clean them regularly and let them dry out between hikes in order to avoid them in good condition and odour-free.
You can also get Hydration Backpacks that have bladders or reservoirs built in – but I prefer to always use a more spacious backpack that can fit more kit.
I also carry hydration powder to mix with my water. Hiking during Australian summer means I always need it.
You should also have a water filtration system in case you need to replenish your reservoir on the trail. Filters and purifiers, as well as tablets are all popular options. The latter can be bought in bulk for quite a cheap price on eBay.
And don’t forget to drink plenty of water in the days leading up to your hike. It’s important to already be hydrated before you hit the trail.
If you’re a day-hiker you’re unlikely to be carrying around a tent or sleeping bag. They probably wouldn’t even fit on your pack. But that doesn’t mean you can’t be prepared just in case you get stranded.
A bivy sack, emergency shelter kit or ultralight tarp can be life savers in an emergency. If it’s cold, you don’t want to be exposed to the ground as it will suck the warmth out of your body.
Worst case scenario – pack some garbage bags.