You don't have to graduate from a wilderness survival school to hike in the woods or on mountain trails, however a solid grounding in the basics of the outdoors and hiking is essential. Joining a group or club can be an excellent way to gain knowledge and hiking friends. These days there is no excuse for leaving essential equipment at home because it is too heavy or bulky. Every year hiking gear becomes lighter, more compact and more durable. If you are hiking with a group always stay with the group and travel at the pace of the slowest person.

Basic Essentials Take a map or guide book. Plan your route before you leave home. Learn how to read a map and use a compass. Always leave a travel plan with a reliable person. Include the name of the trail or hiking area, and time you expect to return home. Don't rely on a cell phone. Take one with you to call for help if you are lost or have problems but don't depend on it. In mountainous areas reception is very often non-existent. Always plan to be self sufficient with enough emergency food, clothing, water and equipment to get you out of trouble. Listen to a weather forecast before leaving home.
Water: Always carry at least 2 quarts of water per person. Don't rely on trailside springs and creeks. Take water purification tablets or a filter in case you need to refill a water bottle. Flashlight: Always plan hikes with the intention of finishing in daylight, but always carry a small flashlight as a precaution. Check the batteries before you leave. Take extra batteries in case of emergency. Extra food: In addition to your lunch take a mix of nuts and dried fruit. To keep up a steady flow of energy it's better to snack at regular intervals all day. Whistle: A small metal whistle for signaling or making "bear noise" should be carried.

Our Hiking Food Recipe Basic Ingredients: Peanut butter, Milk powder, Coconut Flakes (Mix to taste). Add for variety berries and nuts. We mix a month’s supply and store it in the refrigerator to have ready for hikes.

The Traditional Ten Essentials
The Ten Essentials were assembled by the Seattle based Mountaineers to answer two basic questions: First, can you respond positively to an accident or emergency? Second, can you safely spend a night or more outside?"
  • Navigation (map and compass)
  • Sun protection (sunglasses and sunscreen)
  • Insulation (extra clothing)
  • Illumination (headlamp/flashlight)
  • First-aid supplies
  • Fire (waterproof matches/lighter/candles)
  • Repair kit and tools
  • Nutrition (extra food)
  • Hydration (extra water)
  • Emergency shelter

Clothing: Even on a warm summers day take a lightweight jacket, hat and gloves in addition to rain protection. A poncho is lightweight and covers body and pack. Wear a good pair of sox to help prevent blisters.

Sturdy footwear: Leave the sandals and tennis shoes at home. Lightweight trail boots with good tread and reasonable ankle support are important. Trails can be rocky with protruding tree roots making footing a challenge. Ankle support will save a twisted ankle.

First Aid: Band-Aids, stretch ace bandages, and moleskin are essential for day hikes. Don't forget any prescription medicines. Include instructions in case some else has to administer your medications in case of emergency.

Emergency shelter: A large garbage bag or a tube shelter and a foil emergency blanket.

Lightning Safety: At the first hint of thunder or lightening get below the tree line before a storm arrives. When you hear thunder, you are close enough to the storm to be struck by lightning. If caught above the tree line you should quickly find the lowest point away from trees in an open area. Lightening usually strikes the tallest trees and you don't want be standing under them when it happens. Make sure the place is not subject to flooding and no water is running through it. Crouch low - sit on your filled pack - but not if it has a metal frame. Make your body as small as you can to make as little contact with the ground as possible. Never lie down - you will be too much of a target and it will be more difficult to keep off the ground. Get off the mountain top as fast as possible.

Trekking Poles: Trekking poles provide shock absorbency by transferring part of the load from your knees to your arms and greatly reduces the need for leg muscles to continually provide balance. It has been estimated that the body's efficiency can be increased by twenty percent. The use of poles reduces the chance of a sprained or broken ankle, which can be problem for a hiker a long way from help. Crossing streams, wet rocks, exposed wet tree roots, logs, ice, and steep slopes are made safer with the use of poles. Telescoping poles can be stowed in your daypack when they are not needed. Many models have shock absorbers built in which allows less stress on the wrists and elbows. Poles with a slight taper on the handgrips provides a more ergonomical grasp.

Always Carry Out What You Carry In. Leave it like you found it. This rule applies to the entire environment. Animals, trees, earth, campsite, and flowers should be left as you found them. Leave only footprints. Carry out all of your garbage, don't feed the animals, or pick the flowers. Use a camp stove rather than making a campfire. Observe all "no camp fire" rules where applicable. If you must make a campfire, light the fire in approved areas and use only downed wood. Don't chop down or scar trees. And most important make sure the fire is completely out before you leave. One careless hiker can cause wildfires that destroy hundreds of acres and wildlife. Don't spoil other hiker's wilderness experience. If everyone observes the rules, we will all be able to enjoy what Mother Nature provides.

Camp Fire Safety Tips: Build Campfires only in Safe Spots. To prevent forest fires build your campfire in a place away from your tent or flammable debris and it should be sheltered from gusts of wind. Campfire Pit To prevent campfires from spreading out of control, build a campfire pit that will keep the fire contained. First, clear at least a ten-foot diameter circle around the fire site, removing wood, grass, twigs and leaves. Then dig a one-foot-deep pit in the ground and surround the pit with rocks. Dousing the Fire Water, sand or dirt should sit close to your fire at all times so that you can suffocate the flames if necessary and when you leave. Many forest fires are started because campfires were not properly extinguished. Follow these steps in dousing a fire:
  • Allow the wood to burn completely.
  • Pour water on the fire until the hissing sound stops.
  • Thoroughly stir the ashes and embers.
  • Cover the ashes with water, dirt or sand. Make sure everything is wet and cold to the touch.
  • If you have burnt any garbage make sure it is completely burnt. Other people's partly burnt garbage is an eyesore and not appreciated by other hikers who might want use your fire pit.
  • Never Leave Campfires Unattended Don't leave a fire burning unattended, even if it's small. Flying embers and sparks can set nearby vegetation alight and quickly spread out of control.

Preparedness is the brother of survival.

Back to Prepardness Index