Hiking and Backpacking: The Ten Essentials

January 18, 2021

Going into the great outdoors can be a very centering experience. It’s been shown to lower stress and improve your mental health.  Being in nature can do this, but one must be prepared as it is the wilderness that is sought.  In the wild, the unexpected can happen.  Read on to learn how to be prepared for hiking and backpacking.

A Seattle based mountaineering group called the Mountaineers created a list of essentials in the 1930s.  The plan was to provide a list of what one would need to deal with an emergency and survive a night or more in the wild.  It has been adapted over the years, but has remained mostly unchanged.

Hiker woman with trekking sticks climbs steep on mountain trail, focus on boot

Hiking and Backpacking Ten Essentials:

1. Navigational materials:

Technology has adapted this over the years, but essentially has what is needed to always know where you are.  Historically this meant map and compass.  Altimeters can be used in conjunction with those to reference altitude.  Now we have GPS devices which subsequently would need backup batteries.  Also included would be PLB (personal locator beacon) and Satellite phones.

2. Headlight/Flashlight:

Have a light source to deal with being out after sundown.  Headlights are handy as they can be used hands free.  Remember extra batteries.

3. Protection (Sun & Bugs):

Be prepared with sunscreen and insect repellant.  Remember sunglasses to protect your eyes. In areas with particularly heavy clouds of bugs, consider a head net to keep them away from your face.

4. Food:

Many lists say “extra” food, but it might be better to say adequate food.  Remember if you get into a situation where you have to stay longer, you will need extra food.  Just don’t bring so much that it weighs you down too much.  One can go for a few weeks without food.

5. Water:

Again let’s say adequate water. If water is plentiful in the form of springs and streams, you don’t have to carry as long as you have a way to treat the water.  One can go for only a few days without water. If water is scarce, you will have to carry what you will need.

6. Clothing:

Carry adequate clothing to cover any environmental or weather situation you may encounter.  We have a saying at Bill Jackson’s.  There is no such thing as bad weather; just inadequate clothing.

7. First Aid Kit:

Have a first aid kit stocked with enough materials to cover you for your trip and then some.  If you are hurt early in the trip, you will need to care for the injury till you are out.

8. Knife:

Have a good quality knife which will hold its edge, and perhaps a sharpening tool for when it dulls.  Having the ability to cut something can come in handy in multiple scenarios.

9. Fire Materials:

This will include the initial spark or flame in the form of a fire starting striker or waterproof/windproof matches, but also tinder. Tinder will make the flame last a little longer to provide more time to build the fire up.  If it gets cold or if you are dealing with a hypothermic person, you may need this essential.

10. Shelter:

This can be as simple as and emergency blanket or bivy. It can be as elaborate as a tent.  Shelter from the elements can be a life saver.

Go forward with this list, and explore.  Connect with nature, and be prepared for any challenge it may present.  As always, the staff at Bill Jackson’s Shop for Adventure is here to help you as a sounding board for your gear selection.  Let us know if you have any questions.  Call us at 727-576-4169 to drop and email.