Be Prepared, Safety First!
Seven Essentials List — a list of seven “always-have-’em” items first developed by outdoor clubs in the 1930s. Of course, many want to know if there are any items we can skip on our casual short day hikes…
The overly cautious and responsible answer is that yes, you should take everything with you all the time. The reason most accidents happen is because people weren’t prepared to deal with a situation on the trail, or that they didn’t know how to deal with an accident or injury once it occurred.
1. Map – NECESSARY: Never, ever, ever leave home to hit the trail without having a map of the area in your bag. A physical, paper map is absolutely essential to anyone spending time in the wilderness – they’ll help you if you get lost, they’ll help you locate landmarks and options if a route is closed or more difficult than you thought, and you don’t have to worry about batteries running out. Of course, it’s not good enough to have a map – you have to have a good topographical map – not just a sketched out diagram from the web – and you have to know how to read it.
2. Compass, Supplemented with a GPS Receiver – OPTIONAL / NECESSARY: It would be great to take a GPS receiver with you, that would be mainly use for keeping track of trails. If you’re not confident in your cartography skills, compasses are cheap and light, and you should consider them necessary.
3. Sunglasses and sunscreen – NECESSARY: A decent pair of polarizing lenses will do wonders for you. Not only will they prevent sun glare, but they’ll also shield your eyes from drying winds AND errant branches and brush. Sunscreen is ALWAYS important, even on cloudy days. You’re going to be spending a few hours outside in direct sunlight, and you’re probably going to be sore the next day. You don’t want to have a sunburn, too.
4. Extra food and water – NECESSARY: … to a point. I don’t pack full MRE’s for a casual 2 to 3 hour day hike, but it is always wise take a few energy bars or pieces of fruit Always take more water than you plan on drinking, too. It adds a little bit of weight to your pack, but if you spend more time on the trail than you were planning to, you’re going to be thankful.
5. Extra clothes- NECESSARY: … again, to a degree, dress in layers, you can remove your top layer if it’s feeling warm at the trailhead. But it’s nothing too fancy — a fleece pullover for the top, a hat and gloves, and convertible pants would be considering dayhike “extra clothes.”
6. First aid kit – NECESSARY: This is another never-leave-home-without-it item for me. A lightweight medkit from REI that came with gauze, bandaids, tweezers, a signal whistle, antihistamines, painkillers, and all sorts of other goodies. We recommend supplemented it with some duct tape, chewable pepto bismol, some hand warmers, blister bandagaes, and a few other items, and have actually used it quite a bit on the trail – mostly for minor things. If you get a headache in the middle of the woods, that hike back to the car gets a lot nicer when you’ve got aspirin to take. Also, you’ll look like a hero if you come upon someone who has a cut or sprain and doesn’t have a kit. Well worth the money.
7. Knife – RECOMMENDED: A Swiss Army Knife is perfect; you’ll rarely use it. Still, the potential uses for a knife are pretty strong, so it’s probably worth taking one along.