Before setting out on a hike, make sure you’re prepared for the unexpected.
The American Hiking Society outlines 10 things needed on every hike, starting with appropriate footwear.
Trail shoes are fine for a short day hike that doesn’t involve carrying a heavy pack or negotiating difficult terrain. But hiking boots, which offer more support, are a better choice for longer hikes, carrying heavier loads, or traveling on more challenging terrain, the society says.
Even if you have a GPS unit, you need a map and compass as a backup. It’s also important to carry enough water and have a way to purify water from sources along the trail, experts advise.
Take extra food in case you’re out longer than you planned because of getting lost, suffering an injury or traversing more difficult terrain than you expected.
Even if the weather forecast is good, bring rain gear and extra clothing in case the prediction is wrong. Dress in layers so you can adjust to changing weather and activity levels. Do not wear cotton clothes—which trap moisture close to the skin—and always carry a hat.
Sunscreen and sunglasses are other necessities, especially above the tree line where sun and snow combined can cause snow blindness and sunburn.
Even on a day hike, you need a whistle, flashlight/headlamp and matches or lighter in case of an emergency. Three short bursts on a whistle is a signal for help.
Always carry a first-aid kit—and better yet, take a first-aid class. Prepackaged first-aid kits for hikers are available at outfitters. Another important item is a knife or multi-purpose tool, for cutting strips of cloth into bandages, removing splinters and fixing broken eyeglasses.
Your daypack or backpack should be comfortable and have a rain cover to keep your belongings dry.