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The 10 hiking essentials

26 April 2022

Going hiking can be a step into the unknown, so whether you are planning to be outside for weeks or just a day hike, it’s a great idea to be prepared with The Ten Essentials. If you are new to hiking, make sure you check out our Hiking for Beginners guide for tips, tricks, and trail etiquette. 

No good preparation is without an emergency plan. Using RECCO® reflectors aides Search and Rescue teams with locating you in emergency situations. When the radar signal from their detectors hits a reflector, the signal bounces back and indicates immediately where you are. Our Rescue series provides built in RECCO® reflectors for a safer, more confident adventure. 

The Ten Essentials

So, what are the Ten Essentials? Back in the 1930s, an American organisation called The Mountaineers created this checklist to help adventurers be prepared for emergency situations when out hiking. The conditions of your hike will determine how much of these essentials you will need to bring, for example, if you’ve chosen a popular trail in good conditions, you probably won’t need to bring as much as compared to if you had chosen a lesser-known hike in the wilderness. With that considered, here is what applies to hikers today: 

1. Navigation

Map - A map of the area is a must-have on any hike, especially if you are unfamiliar with the terrain or route. A physical, handheld map is a great alternative if you are in a situation where you are without a smart device.  

Compass - It can be easy to get lost on more complex trails. Of course, many smart devices are GPS compatible, however, a typical compass is a reliable backup as it is light and doesn’t rely on batteries or signal to function.  

GPS Device - A GPS provides you with an accurate location but remember to check battery power and always bring spare batteries. You can also download a GPS application on your smartphone, but you will need to consider a weather-resistant case and a long-life portable charger.  

Altimeter - You can find an altimeter either as a smartphone app or a watch. It has specialist features, such as measuring air pressure and supplying GPS signals for precise location. It is an incredible tool to figure out exactly where you are on your trail, and often used by modern hikers everywhere. 

Applications - AllTrails and GaiaGPS are handy apps and websites for navigation and tracking day hikes. You can also download Google Maps for offline use as this provides a good backup, do note however, that it is not ideal for detailed navigation. 

2. Sun protection

Sunglasses - No matter the weather conditions, sunglasses are always recommended. Glasses that supply UVA and UVB protection are a must for preventing eye damage, especially on snowy trails where hikers can develop painful conditions such as snow blindness.

Sun cream - Sun cream is not just for hot weather! Wearing a good sunscreen of at least SPF 15 or 30 will protect your skin against UV rays. How often you reapply the cream will depend on the conditions of your trip, for example, if it’s sunnier and you are prone to sweating more, try to reapply as often as every couple of hours.

Headwear and clothing - Dressing right for your trip is imperative. Try light colours, longer sleeves and a lightweight fabric. All these factors will protect your skin from UV rays and excess sweating. Hats are great for all-around sun protection and keeping cool. Hats with a fuller brim additionally keep the sides of your face and neck covered – areas we often forget! Even if you are covered up, don’t forget to apply sun cream! 

3. Light

Headlamps - When hiking, many people prefer a headlamp so that their hands are kept free for other essential tasks, such as cooking. Make sure to remember spare batteries! 

4. First aid

Any first aid kit should include the following key items; Bandages, skin closures, gauze pads, dressings, wrap bandages, medical tape, antiseptics, blister prevention and treatment, tweezers, a needle, sterile gloves, hand sanitizer, anti-diarrheal medicine, antihistamines, topical antibiotics, and over the counter painkillers. (Such as anti-inflammatories.) 

If you are on medication, do not forget to bring your personal prescriptions and if you have allergies, particularly to insect venom, an EpiPen is highly recommended. What you bring will depend on the length and nature of the trip.

5. Repair kit and tools 

In case of emergency, a basic repair kit is a great thing to have with you. This includes everyday household items such as duct tape, scissors, a knife, and a screwdriver. Knives especially are important for many tasks such as food preparing, repairing, and first aid. A multi-tool is also worth considering, as it is a compact, easy-to-carry hybrid of many tools. Remember to pack some outdoor, biodegradable wet wipes to clean your tools between the different usages. 

6. Fire

Whilst on the trail, you will need to be able to light a fire safely. Fire not only acts as a heat source, but a light source, cooking appliance and an emergency signal. Pack reliable equipment such as waterproof matches and a lighter and don’t forget your firestarters! Things like tinder, dry grass or sticks found on your trail work perfectly. For some outings in adverse weather, fire will not always be accessible, therefore, a stove can be used as your heat source.

7. Shelter

Shelter is often overlooked by day hikers, but in emergency situations you may end up spending the night outdoors and need means to keep warm and dry. Something like an extra-large binbag or tarp is a lightweight and affordable alternative. In wet and windy environments, you can opt for a tent, or even a bivy sack, which is far more durable in adverse weather and acts as a cocoon for insultation.

8. Nutrition

It is imperative you bring more than enough nutrition to keep you going and choose the right food and drinks for energy preservation. Easy to carry, dry foods such as granola bars or mixed nuts are a great source of extra food when out on the trail. 

9. Hydration

Staying hydrated is one of the most important things on your trip, failing to stay hydrated could lead to dehydration. Water intake depends on you, your body, and the intensity levels of your chosen route, however, remember to drink water at regular intervals, not just when you are thirsty. Before you go, learn how to purify water. Always begin your journey with a full bottle of water, additionally if you prefer cold water, you can also freeze some – but not all – of the water you brought with you, and it will melt gradually along your journey. 

10. Additional clothing

The outdoors can be extremely unpredictable. Additional clothing may be needed if the trip exceeds a day, or the weather takes an unexpected turn, and it is essential to know how to layer correctly. For adverse weather like wind or rain a light, easy-to-pack shell layer is recommended, these can add enough protection without weighing you down too much. Protect your hands with gloves and your feet with a change of socks, as this helps to prevent blisters and other walking injuries. For colder climates it is good practice to insulate yourself, so why not try an extra warm fleece?