After logging a few miles day hiking on various trails, we have come to understand why some people get into trouble while hiking. From wearing flip-flops on rocky trails to not having any water on a hot hike, many people think trails are a walk in the park. I wonder how many people who went out on a day hike ended up spending the night in the wilderness?
If you venture out more than a few miles on a day hike, it doesn’t hurt to bring along some “necessities”.
Here’s our short list:
- Hydration bladder or bottle
- A good pair of hiking shoes or boots
- Sock liners and merino wool socks
- Synthetic shirts and pants. Anything but 100% cotton
- A hat with a brim
- The Ten Essentials (listed below)
The Ten Essentials-A list created in the 1930s by The Mountaineers:
- Sunglasses and sunscreen
- Extra clothing
- First-aid supplies
- Extra food
Good to have:
- hiking poles
- large trashbag – makes good raincoat
- portable water filter or water purifier tablets
- toilet paper, antiseptic wipes. You never know.
- duct tape
Generally on day hikes, we take more than we need. More water, more snacks and a portable stove to brew that cup of celebratory tea at the summit. For those extended backcountry trips, every ounce counts so we use a checklist and carry only what we need with a few backup items like lighters, batteries and spare socks. Some gear buying tips-spend the money on shoes and a good pack. Research the gear on the web and read the reviews.
This is a nice GPS locator that I use: SPOT 2 Satellite GPS Messenger –
Bottom line, start with the ten essentials, you can’t go wrong.
Take it from this novice, if there are mistakes to be made in the backcountry, I will make them. Here are a some of the most obvious, take em’ or leave em’ but consider how the simplest oversight will change your backcountry experience.
– Not using a checklist. Oops, not enough toilet paper. (Leaves are single-ply though)
– Check available water sources ahead of time: Ranger station – Oh, sorry they’ve been furloughed! , online blogs.
– Check trail conditions at ranger station – Don’t forget the permit. You can be a renegade and stealth camp. That just sounds like fun.
– Bring a water filter or purification tablets. Results from failure to do so will take 7-10 days.
– Take the proper clothing. Cotton is almost always a no-no as it retains moisture.
– Bring a backpack cover or large trash bag for rain.
– Enough food and a 1-2 day backup supply
– pre-cooked bacon is like manna
– Bringing too much stuff – Setting your tent up on uneven ground or in a drainage area
– Not using a footprint under your tent and finding out there were sharp rocks there.
– Camping far from a water source
– Not bringing a mosquito net or bug repellant
– Not having adequate land navigation skills or maps makes for a longer hike
– Not having important spares like flashlights or matches
– Wearing shoes that fit just right and then finding out your feet swell another size and a half.
– Everyone smells bad after a few days in the backcountry
– Bees like Dr. Bronner’s lavender soap. Alot.
– Learned how important sock liners are. They cut down on moisture and abrasion.
– Permethrin sprayed on your clothing ahead of time repels bugs. This stuff works very well: Sawyer Products Premium Permethrin Clothing Insect Repellent Trigger Spray, 24-Ounce
– Long sleeves, convertible pants and a headnet work better. Columbia Men’s Bahama II Long Sleeve Shirt
– Light-colored clothing makes it easier to see the ticks.
– Leave the perfume and cologne at home and off of your skin. Unless you want to attract bees, bears and moose’s in mating season.
– Take extra batteries. Lithium ones last the longest but are expensive
– Learn the international rescue signals in case you need to signal the rescuer. It would be bad if you needed help and gave the ok signal.
– Hiking poles save the knees These are highly rated: Pair of Pace Maker Flip Lock “Expedition” Trekking Poles with Vulcanized Rubber Feet and Attachments
– Rattlesnakes can blend in with the leaves. Use hiking poles, chances are a rattler may strike the pole instead of your leg.
– Slow down, stop and take it all in. You’ll be surprised what you can see and hear.
– Most wildlife doesn’t want anything to do with silly humans.
– I’m a tick magnet. (not chick)
– I don’t fear most bugs, except ticks.
– Ticks almost always end up near the groin.
– Always let someone know where you are hiking, and for how long.
– Consider getting an emergency beacon or GPS locator, especially if you do a bit of solo hiking. Read my blog “Bitten by a Rattler on the Pacific Crest Trail”
– If you have pets at home, especially cats – check your pack before you leave. They like to leave presents or hide inside things.
– Bear canisters can be hard to open when its cold or wet. Try opening one ahead of time for practice. When camping, turn them on the side to keep rain-water out.
– While in the backcountry, if you pack it in, you should always pack it out. Except for poop and used toilet paper, that’s where I draw the line. If you hike Mt. Whitney, take care of your “business” ahead of time or you must use the wag bag. Yuck.
– Campfires are great for morale. Sadly, many areas out west in the backcountry prohibit them due to the risk of wildfires.
Bottom line, life’s lessons are better learned from others’ mistakes.