Bringing the proper equipment will add greatly to your enjoyment, your safety, and the enjoyment and safety of the group. This stuff is essential if you are going out in the woods for more than a couple of hours. Make sure that you are comfortable with your equipment and you know where it all fits in. Do not carry anything in your hands; do not tie a jacket around your waist. Everything should fit in your daypack. Carry your wallet and keys in yourdaypack, at all times.
- Water – Two quarts of water in plastic water bottles (not soda bottles) – Bring at least a quart for a half-day hike, more for a full day or on a hot and dry day. Know where water can be replenished on your hike and what to do to make it safe.
- Lunch and snacks – Don’t ever go out without something to eat in your pack, whether it’s a half or even full day hike.
- Rain jacket (no matter what the forecast) – Afternoon thunderstorms or an unexpected cold front can leave a lost hiker suffering from hypothermia. A good raincoat is a great shelter against unexpected rain or cold.
- Matches/Lighter – A lost hiker will want to build a fire for warmth, comfort, and perhaps signaling. Although we see those survival guys on TV using flints or friction to build their fires, a lighter is lightweight and way easier to use.
- Pocketknife – Most lost hikers are found within 24 hours, so you won’t need to be hunting or even fighting off the wild animals. A pocketknife with a sharp blade is all most hikers will need.
- Paracord – 25 feet of parachute cord is light, small, and indispensable in an emergency. It can be used to whip up a shelter, hold a pot over a fire, or help rig a splint in an emergency. Throw a length into your pack if you haven’t made your paracord emergency bracelet yet.
- Whistle – The blast from a good whistle will travel further than a human voice and won’t get absorbed by the forest. It is the best way to signal your location to searchers. Tie one onto your pack and if you hike with kids, put one around each of their necks
- Long sleeve shirt (no matter what the forecast)
- Wool or fleece hat and gloves
- Personal first aid kit
- Small flashlight – Many lost hikers are what we referred to by park Rangers as simply misplaced. They have become delayed or took a wrong turn and wound up on the wrong trail. Rangers are sent backwards down the trail to catch the delayed hiker often finding them hiking in the dark. A lightweight flashlight or headlamp will make any travel after dark or the evening in your emergency shelter a lot more bearable.
- Plastic bag for trash and can be used for shelter
- Map (and know how to use it) – Never go anywhere new without a decent map of the area
- Compass (and know how to use it) – Learn to use a compass and keep it in your daypack. They’re cheap, reliable, lightweight, and work without batteries. GPS are great, but should the battery go, you’re lost
- Personal Survival Kit
If it is not the height of a warm summer, add:
- Warm fleece hiking sweater or jacket
- Rain pants
How to dress:
- Shorts and a short-sleeve T-shirt as the bottom layer.
- Hiking boots that are well broken-in and that go over the ankles
- Good hiking socks (not sports socks).
- Sunhat with a wide brim
- Bandanna which you need to keep handy
Dress in layers. Your first layer should be a short-sleeve t-shirt (synthetic, not cotton) even if it seems cool in the morning. You will warm up. Your second layer should be a long-sleeve shirt (also synthetic). If you need extra layers, you will have your warm hikingsweater and rainjacket. Shorts give you more mobility and keep you cooler; pants give you more protection from insects and brush.