Packing the five essentials whenever you venture out into the woods, even for a simple day hike, is a good habit to maintain. You may not use any of these on a routine trip, but you’ll truly appreciate your equipment if anything ever goes wrong.
The list of essentials once included individual items but has since evolved to a systems-based approach. Here’s how it looks in 2021:
Essential #1: Navigation Tools
Typical navigation tools to include in your arsenal include a map, compass, and GPS device.
Map: Having a topographic map is essential for any trip is more intense than an impossible-to-miss nature trail with lots of signage.
Compass: Combined with map-reading knowledge, having a compass is crucial if you get disoriented and lose North’s sight. Smartphones and GPS devices come with electronic compasses, but a standard compass doesn’t rely on batteries or weigh you down.
GPS Device: Though the compass will be your lifesaver at the end of the day, a powered GPS device can pinpoint your location on a digital map. Devices designed for outdoor use are usually weatherproof and durable. Again, you can use a smartphone GPS app, but these are the most fragile devices.
Essential #2: Sun Protection
Failing to pack sunglasses, sunscreen, and sun-protection clothing can lead to sunburn or even snow blindness in the short-term. In the long-term, exposure to the sun can lead to premature skin aging and cataracts.
Sunglasses: Quality sunglasses are necessary to keep your eyes safe from damaging radiation. If you plan to travel on ice or snow for a prolonged period, invest in extra-dark glacier glasses.
Sunscreen: Spending all day outside exposes you to ultraviolet rays, which is what causes premature skin aging and sunburn. Wearing sunscreen limits your exposure to these rays, provided you pick a formula that either:
Reports an SPF of 30 or higher, or Blocks both UVA and UVB rays
Sun-protection clothing: Clothing is another effective way to stop UV rays from touching your skin.
Essential #3: First Aid
It’s crucial to carry and understand how to use a first-aid kit. Though many people choose to personalize their kits to suit individual needs, there’s nothing wrong with buying a pre-assembled kit. Any equipment should have adhesive bandages of different sizes, several gauze pads, disinfecting ointment, adhesive tape, nitrile gloves, pain medication, and pen and paper.
You should also adjust this kit’s contents based on the trip’s length and the number of people involved. It’s wise to carry a double wall insulated water bottle and a compact guide on dealing with various medical emergencies.
Essential #4: Knife
Knives are very useful for first aid, food preparation, making kindling, repairing gear, and other emergency needs, making them vital for any outing. All adults in your group should have a knife, especially if you’re camping.
Essential knives might have little more than a single blade that folds out, but more elaborate multitools may include screwdrivers, fold-out scissors, or a can opener. Depending on your needs, you may want more options in your knife than others.
Essential #5: Firestarter
In an emergency, you need supplies to start and keep a fire going. This tool may be a typical lighter for most people, but matches are also useful if they are waterproof or stored in a waterproof container. Standard drug store matches are too flimsy to rely on, and you shouldn’t use them out in the wilderness.
As the name suggests, a firestarter is a combustible element that puts in the most effort in starting a fire. It can be the difference between life and death in wet conditions. The best firestarter ignites rapidly and stays hot for several minutes.
You can tuck away dry tinder in a plastic bag, store some candles, or even use lint trappings from the dryer at home.
It’s worth investing in multiple items for each category to tailor what you take on different kinds of trips. For instance, you can leave the GPS behind on short day hikes, but you will want everything when you go camping for several days. Always consider difficulty, duration, weather, and distance from emergency help.