For those of us with a deep and abiding love for the outdoors, there are times when the call to get back into nature is so strong that we just want to throw our day pack into the car and GO. But, while spontaneous trips are often the best and most memorable, it is important to take time to pack essential safety gear any time you’re going out into the wilderness for camping or hiking.
You’ve likely heard of the “essential 10”—a list of must-have gear to take when hiking or camping—and, depending on who you ask, those essentials can vary. We’ve come up with our own list though, in truth, some of these are categories with more than one item. That being said, everything listed can fit in a small pack that you can keep as your “go bag” for those moments when, as John Muir wrote, “the mountains call…and I must go”.
Most of us take our phones along when camping or hiking to use in the event of an emergency, and some take them assuming they’ll be able to use them as a navigation tool. Sometimes this works…and sometimes there is zero cell service, so be sure to take a hard copy map of the campgrounds and hiking trails along with electronic devices.
Make sure you have plenty of nutritious, calorie-dense food, especially if you’re hiking into the back country. Take extra in case you are out longer than expected.
While water is not technically gear, it is vitally important while hiking and camping. Try to consume a gallon of water each day and carry plenty with you when hiking.
Rain Gear & Layers
The weather can change in an instant, so it is important to pack a poncho or rain jacket, a few moisture-wicking layers, and a hat.
Basic First-Aid Kit
You can find a standard first-aid kit made specifically for hikers and campers that is stocked with all the necessary items: tweezers, alcohol swabs, basic medications, etc. Your kit should go with you to the campground and on the trail.
Make sure you pack polarized sunglasses, a ball cap or other hat with a brim, and plenty of sunscreen.
Headlamps are great because you can illuminate your path while keeping both hands free (we happen to love this one).
Means to Start a Fire
Pack a windproof lighter, waterproof matches, a magnifying glass, and a fire starter stick like this one.
Knife or Multi-Tool
You likely take one with you when camping, but you should have a knife or multi-tool in your pack or pocket when you’re on the trail. You may need it to repair broken gear or to help in a first aid emergency.
Some Form of Shelter
If you’re camping, you likely brought a tent, but it is a good idea to carry an additional shelter. If you get lost while hiking, or if an unexpected weather event blows through, you may need an emergency tent. This lightweight shelter only adds 8 ounces to your pack…and might just save your life.
Think of these essentials as your hiking insurance policy—you may never need some of them but, if you do, you’ll be awfully glad you have them with you.
Here’s to thoughtfully packing and thoroughly enjoying all that the great outdoors has to offer!