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10 Items Every Hiker Should Carry

Oct 07, 2016
Melissa Hincha-Ownby

October marks the start of my favorite time of the year to hike. Living in Arizona, October days can still be warm, but the nights cool off, so morning hikes are ideal. My father has a background in wilderness search and rescue, so even if I’m only planning on taking a shorter hike in an urban mountain preserve, I know how to be a prepared hiker. Although there are lots of useful products that cater to the casual hiker, these items make my list of top 10 items for the everyday hiker.

hiking boots and walking sticks on a dirt path

1. Water
This may seem obvious but not only should you carry water, you need to make sure you carry enough water. A little water bottle isn’t going to last for a 5-mile hike. If you’re hiking with your dog, remember to bring his water, too. I’ve been on a hike where my dad had to offer his water to a dog because the owners didn’t plan accordingly.

2. First aid kit
Accidents happen. A well-stocked first aid kit is inexpensive and doesn’t add much weight to your daypack.

3. Whistle
If you happen to get lost while hiking, a whistle can aid in your rescue. A whistle is not only louder than your voice, it carries farther and you won’t have to worry about what happens when you lose your voice because you were yelling.

4. Emergency light
An emergency light can help in your rescue should you get lost. It is also useful should your hike run longer than expected and you end up in the dark. I have an emergency light/whistle combination that I love. They are inexpensive and you can find them at your local big box or outdoor supply store.

5. Sun protection
Sun protection is a must when hiking, even if you’re hiking on a cold winter day. A sunburn can lead to dehydration, so proper sun skin care is important.

6. Food
Don’t leave for your day hike without food or snacks. It helps to refuel your body while hiking, so don’t forget to pack some extra.

7. Proper clothing
Dress properly for the weather and don’t forget that layering is a great way to prepare for a changing weather forecast.

8. Personal locator device
Depending on where you hike, a mobile phone may be sufficient, but our family prefers to hike with a satellite-enabled personal locator device. The device allows our friends and family to follow along on our hike. Should we find ourselves in trouble, we can send an emergency alert and first responders will be notified of our precise location.

9. Fire starter kit
Like a first aid kit, a fire starter kit is inexpensive and lightweight. You never know when you’re going to get stuck out on the trail overnight, so a fire starter kit is a must have for your hiking pack. A fire is a great way to stay warm, light up your surroundings and help search and rescue personnel locate you. Don’t forget to completely put out the fire before you leave.

10. GPS/Map/Navigation Tool
A handheld GPS device can help you stay on-trail in the most remote locations, but in the absence of such a device it is helpful to have some sort of backup navigation tool, even if it is as basic as a topographic map and a compass.

If you’re an avid day hiker, what do you keep in your pack?

Photo courtesy of Melissa Hincha-Ownby.

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