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5 Essentials for Hikes and Treks

Little Lakes Valley Trail, Bishop, CA. Photo by Alex Naeve

With summer rapidly approaching, we’re planning our adventures, mapping out hikes and reserving campgrounds. Deciding what to pack on an excursion can be a daunting task: what items are necessities, and what can we leave at home? What would we really need in case of an emergency? Whether day hiking, backpacking, or overnight car-camping, there are a few essentials we need to be sure to have in our packs before we head out.

#1 Water. Even a quick day hike can turn out to be a lot longer or more challenging than we expected: sometimes, we might have to modify our planned route due to trail closures or weather conditions, or maybe the views are so spectacular, we decide to extend our out-and-back hike to the next waypoint. In any case, we might end up on the trail for longer than we originally anticipated. Be sure to carry a full water bottle--plan to drink around 32 ounces of water every 2 hours. Consider bringing water filter or a pack of iodine or chlorine-based water purification tablets as well--these can literally be a lifesaver.

#2 First aid kit. Always carry a small first aid kit in your pack, and know how to use the supplies in it! A basic first aid course will cover everything you need to know about treating common injuries, such as sprains, scrapes, blisters, splinters, and insect bites.

#3 Food. Keeping snacks on hand, like energy bars, dried fruit, and trail mix, can get you over that last hill, or even through an unplanned night.

#4 Map and Compass. Have a paper map of the area, as well as a small compass. Phones and GPS units are excellent navigation tools, but they require batteries. Having a backup paper copy of a map can get you out of a tight situation. Check out this article on Backpacker for tips on reading topo maps, and this one for compass basics. Experts suggest printing out two copies of your trip's itinerary: one to keep with you, and one to leave under the seat of your car.

#5 Emergency kit. Keep a small kit containing at least a space blanket, matches with tinder, a small knife or multi-tool, sunblock, insect repellent, a poncho (for wet weather or as an emergency shelter), a whistle, and a small keychain light (make sure the batteries are still good, ahead of time!).

Before you head out, check the weather forecast, and make note of what time the sun sets. If you'll be hiking in the late afternoon, you may want to pack a jacket, too.

What are your outdoor adventure plans this summer? Let us know in the comments!

Little Lakes Valley Trail, Bishop, CA. Photo by Alex Naeve

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