I have been busy this week at a First Responder course, which will prepare me for medical emergencies on the trail during outdoor programs this summer. This got me thinking about what essentials are needed on an outdoor adventure to be prepared for the unexpected. These items are essential to your survival should your day hike turn into an unforeseen over-nighter (in no particular order):
Headlamp – You wait to see the sunset from the top of a mountain and then are stuck navigating the way back to your car in the fading light. Good thing you brought your trusty headlamp (with working batteries!).
First-aid kit – Your boot is rubbing your foot the wrong way - ultralight first-aid kit to the rescue! You should know how to treat wilderness injuries including blisters, sprained ankles, cuts, or whatever other misadventures you may get into. Contact your local outdoor organization or visit REI to find out about wilderness first aid courses in your area.
Sunblock – You’re hiking on an exposed ridge with the sun beating down on you, good thing you packed the sunscreen to stave off a nasty sunburn.
Food – You were just going on a two-mile hike, but accidently took a wrong turn and your hike turned into a five-mile trip; now your stomach is making noises that are scaring off the wildlife. No worries, you packed a couple of power bars. My personal favorite is Clif’s Peanut Butter Pretzel Mojo Bar.
Fire – That accidental five-mile hike actually turned into an overnighter and temperatures are dropping. It’s ok though, you brought a lighter and fire starter*, now if only you’d brought marshmallows…
Knife – So many scenarios…need to cut moleskin* from your first aid kit, open a can of chicken to add to your rice, turn your shirt sleeve into toilet paper, cut a length of cord, etc. A little multi-tool can be your new best friend.
Water – You packed a water reservoir* and bottle since it was going to be a hot day. Too bad your reservoir has been leaking since the start of the trail two-miles ago. You get out your water treatment system at the next water crossing and fill up; making sure the lid is secure this time. You can bring a water filter or treatment tablets just in case you’re in need of water and want to avoid giardia*.
Insulation – You’re ready for the high temperatures of the high desert, but you also remember that the nights can be cold, so you pack an insulation layer such as a puffy jacket or a fleece.
Navigation – You packed your GPS to guide you along the trial, but there are so many trees it can’t get a signal. Have no fear, you don’t rely on technology so you brought a map and compass – trek on!
Raingear – The day started off with blue skies and birds welcoming you into the mountains with their song. Clouds began appearing at midday and are now looming over the next ridge threatening to dump mass amounts of precipitation on you. Little does Mother Nature know you packed your waterproof jacket. If you don’t want to shell out the money for a rain jacket that is actually affective – a garbage bag makes an excellent poncho, just don’t forget to make the head hole before you put it on!
Now that your essentials are packed, visit Backpacker’s online skills section and get lost in the tutorials and expert advice. Think you’re a survival expert already? See how you would fair with their quiz - Would You Survive?
Fire Starter – There are a lot of commercial fire starters out there, or you can saturate a cotton ball with petroleum jelly. Wash out a film canister and store your homemade fire starters in the canister. Good luck finding a film canister these days though…
Moleskin – Combine this artificial skin/band aid on steroids with duct tape and no blister stands a chance.
Water Reservoir – Think IV bag filled with water in your backpack; that’s actually how CamelBak, the leading maker of hydration solutions, got its start.
Giardia – Steer clear of this diarrhea-stomach-crampfest disguised as a water-borne pathogen.