A day hike seems like a pretty safe venture, right? Even a two- or three-day hiking trip should go off without a hitch, correct?
Well, “seems” and “should” don’t always translate to “will.” Lots of things can go wrong when you’re hiking in the wilderness or mountains. You need to be prepared for them.
From extreme weather to unexpected encounters with other hikers or wild animals, there are a number of things that can disrupt an otherwise idyllic trip.
Today we’re going to look at some hiking survival tips you should keep in mind. You never know when one or more of these might save a life.
Plan and pack
Make a plan. This is always a good idea, but it’s especially important when there are plenty of unknowns. Right before you take that first step, send a text to someone you trust with information on where you’re headed and why. As well as a GPS location and an image of your group. This info could be crucial to rescuers trying to find you.
Pack a first-aid kit. This seems like a no-brainer, but it’s amazing how many hikers don’t include this item in their backpacks. Nobody plans to get sick or injured, but it happens often. Everything from aspirin to an Epi-Pen should be included, with an emphasis on antibacterial wipes, bandages and slings.
Include a poncho. Even if the weather forecast is for cloudless days, you should have protection from possible precipitation and wind. If you end up getting lost or stranded, that poncho can serve double-duty as part of a shelter.
Carry food and water. Yes, these items add weight, but they also sustain you and keep you from becoming dehydrated. Pack one day’s worth more than you think you’ll need. Carry a water purifying straw in case you run out of your water and need to take some from a river, stream or creek.
Don’t make matters worse. If you’re lost, get to a place that seems the safest and from which rescue would be the easiest. And then stay put until it’s no longer safe to do so.
Unexpected items to bring
Obviously you’ll have a sleeping bag if you’re staying near the trail overnight. But don’t forget the little things that can make a big difference. They include:
- Fire starters
- Signal mirror
- Phone charger
But there are also a few items that may not have even thought about bringing along on your hike. Take for example a butt pad. According to GearJunkie, they recommend bringing a DIY butt pad which can come in handy for sitting on wet soil, mud and rocks. Just use foam from a sleeping pad to construct it.
Another unexpected item is a golf ball. Golf balls are an effective tool for massaging deep into the muscle tissue of the legs and feet. And after a long day of hiking, they can come especially handy and useful for relieving aches and pains.
An extra pair or two of socks will also be valuable. Especially if the pair you’re wearing gets wet. Socks can also serve as makeshift gloves and to help dress a wound. Throw a few rocks in a sock and you’ve got a weapon.
Garbage bags. In addition to collecting your trash so as to reduce your footprint, you can wrap garbage bags around you if you’re cold.
Duct tape. Just because.
Leave these items at home
So, we’ve discussed the various items you should definitely take with you on a hike.
But what about the items you should NOT take with you? After all, we may be tempted to include a few extra items, but some of them may weigh us down and turn a positive experience into a negative one.
Here are five no-no’s when it comes to a hike. It’s OK to keep them in your vehicle, but not on your person or in your backpack.
- Fellow hikers and whatever critters you run into on a hike will probably not be impressed with gold necklaces and Rolex watches. Leave them at home.
- Too many clothes. One extra set of clothes should be plenty. Anything else is just going to make your backpack heavier.
- Unless swimming is on the agenda during your hike, a towel is probably unnecessary. A washcloth should be sufficient.
- Any guidebook you need should be accessible online, assuming you can get an Internet connection. If you really like to rest and read periodically during a hike, pack a lightweight paperback.
- Anything you can buy on-site. Miscellaneous over-the-counter items that you can purchase near your destination don’t need to be included in your backpack. You probably won’t need them anyway.
Some people say, “If you’ve got it, pack it.” That might work for a leisurely vacation, but not for a hike. Less is more, but make sure you pack the essentials.