Several years back, I went on a hiking trip with a group of my closest friends. It was last-minute and by time we arrived, the sun had begun to set and we knew it would be dark within the hour. We all hopped out of the car and started up a hill, thinking we would make it a quick hike and get back before it was too dark. Boy, were we in for a surprise! We wandered off the trail away and were trudging through trees and bushes when it got dark. Very dark. Without any preparation, the only things we had on us were our phones, clothing and shoes. No flashlight or compass. We pulled out our phones and used the very small light it illuminated to try to navigate ourselves back down the hill. Thankfully, we made it back to our car after three hours, a lot of mud, and blue lips from the drop in temperature. Now no matter how long or short of a hiking trip I go on, I prepare for hiking by bringing these 11 things.
1. Hiking Boots: Wearing comfortable shoes with grip will keep your feet from aching and slipping on loose gravel, wet ground or steep hills. Many times, I have come home from a long hike with several sore blisters from wearing uncomfortable shoes.
2. Rainwear or a garbage bag: Garbage bags are easily folded down and stored in a small space but can be worn over a jacket or bag to keep out rain from soaking your clothing. I always wear a light jacket and carry along a garbage bag on any camping trip.
3. Water Bottles: Staying hydrated is the most important thing you can do on a hiking trip. Never, ever forget water. Never.
4. First Aid Kit: Accidents happen no matter how many hikes you have been on or how short the hike is. A survival kit usually has band aids for small scrapes to keep out the dirt, aspirin to dull the pain of a small injury, and cold packs to keep the swelling down. Learn how to make a first aid kit and how to fully use it.
5. Insect Repellent: With the beauty of nature comes the annoyance of bugs and unless you want to be swatting at mosquitos and flies the entire time, keep a bottle or insect repellent in your survival kit. I always spray it on before I hit the trails and then throughout it depending on how many bug there are.
6. Flashlight with spare batteries: Learn from my experience and bring a flashlight even if you are only planning on hiking during the day. A simple accident or loss of direction can take that day hike into the night. Extra batteries are a great idea for longer camping trips.
7. Toilet Paper: If you are human then you are going to use nature’s bathroom on a camping trip and unless you like the feel of leaves, I would recommend bringing along toilet paper. Remember to take it out with you in a small garbage bag!
8. Knife: A knife can come in handy to cut clothing, open something, use in an emergency situation or as a means of protection. Know what a proper knife should have and how to use it.
9. Matches: If the temperature drops and home is too far away, starting a fire can save your life and keep you warm. Fires also keep animals away. Make sure those matches are stored in a water-proof container. I know from experience that wet matches don’t like to light.
10. Snacks: Bring several snacks to munch on while hiking and a few extra in case the hike lasts a little longer than planned.
11. Compass: A compass can navigate you back home and keep you from walking circles. Always have on in your survival kit and know how to use it. It took me a few tries to really understand how it works.
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