Hiking Essentials

July 22nd, 2017

We have hiked all over the southwestern part of Colorado and southern Utah over the past few years. Our adventures have taken us into some very remote wilderness areas. We have observed many hikers on the trails including members of our own hiking club. Everyone thinks that hiking is like a walk in the park and that accidents can’t happen. I have news for you, it can and it has happened to me.

I broke my leg in a remote section of southern Utah. Fortunately, I was able get back to the trail head. After being in a boot and unable to hike for a few months, the safety and survival aspect of hiking became embedded in my mind.

Here are the items every hiker should have with them when hiking especially in remote wilderness areas. I call these the “hiking essentials.”

Proper Footwear

Depending on the terrain and conditions you will be encountering should determine the type of footwear to wear. I see a lot of hikers with low cut boots or even sneakers. You really need boots with proper ankle support and comfortable soles. This is very important when hiking in rocky conditions and on slick rock.

Hiking in water and stream crossing is a possibility on some hikes. Some people recommend water shoes or sandals. I don’t like getting sand and pebbles under my feet which occurs when hiking in sandals. I suggest having multiple pairs of hiking boots and letting them get wet. This also, provides the necessary ankle support when hiking in wet canyons or streams.

Hiking or Trekking Poles

Hiking poles will make hiking a whole lot easier. This is especially true when hiking on rough and uneven terrain. The poles to help support you and carry your weight by adding stability and reducing the amount of energy that you need while trekking. You need to adjust the tips of your poles for the trail surface. Having rubber tips are very helpful on hard surfaces like slick rock that you will encounter on canyon hikes.

There are lots of different types of poles available. Handles will vary as will the type of material used in the poles. My poles are made from carbon fiber that makes them light. Each person will have their own preference.

Well-Equipped First Aid Kit

Injuries can vary from scrapes and bruises to a cut. It could be a sprain, dislocation, or a fracture. Accordingly, make sure the kit is well stocked with enough content to handle even the most serious injuries. I carry a supply of tape just in case. Also, I have a supply of my prescription medicine with me. 

Source of Fire

Fire can be your best friend in the wilderness. You can use fire to stay warm, cook, illuminate, and to protect yourself. Always carry a way to make a fire. This can be matches, a lighter, or flint. These are must-have tools and the knowledge of how to use them.

Source of Light

Light can be in the form of flashlights or fire. You never know when you might get caught out and darkness sets in. I carry a headlamp which is light and easy to carry in my backpack. It has two types of light, a regular light beam and a red light beam that blinks for emergency situations.

Adequate Water

An attention getting fact is you can survive only about  3 days without water. I have seen hikers with only a couple of bottles of water. That’s not enough. Carry enough water as you can without creating a burdensome load. We like a backpack water reservoir which carries up 60 ounces.

For longer hikes you might carry purifiers, iodine pills or a life-straw. This isn’t always reliable because you might not be able to find a water source. Therefore, always try to ration the water you brought with you.

Energy Rich Food

Fruit such as bananas and oranges are the best examples to provide a quick burst. Carry trail mix and energy bars that contains sugar foods that release energy quickly. Other considerations include buffered electrolyte salts that help reduce heat stress, muscle cramping, and increase energy levels.

Map and Compass

In addition to your GPS bring a map of the area you will be hiking. You might never need it but having the ability to read a map is an essential skill. It won’t add much weight and you’ll be glad you brought it if the need ever arises. Your GPS might not work in situations where you can’t access satellites to give you a location. This occurred in Fiery Furnace in Arches N.P and can happen in slot canyons.

Emergency Shelter

Sometimes you might find yourself in a situation where a day hike turns into an overnight event. If this ever occurs you need to be prepared with some sort of emergency cover such as a plastic tarp and or a bivy blanket. These items are light and don’t take much space. Hopefully, you’ll never need to use these items, but you will glad you had them if the need arises. 

Some Other Items to Consider

  • Knife (jack knife, hunting knife)
  • Duct Tape
  • Whistle
  • Mirror
  • Paracord
  • Carabiner
  • GPS
  • Toilet Paper
  • Bandana
  • Sort Section of Rope
  • Gloves
  • Camera
  • Wind Jacket

This is a pretty complete list. While it may seem like a lot of stuff, you’ll be glad you had these items if an emergency ever arises. We hike in some very remote areas where help will take a while to reach you. Fanny packs aren’t a smart idea when hiking in wilderness areas. A good backpack that balances well is a great investment and will carry everything you need. Enjoy your hike and be safe.


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