While for the most part hiking and trail running are safe, fun hobbies, there are precautions that you really ought to take if you plan to be safe out there. If you’re doing a hike in a municipal park or on local, well-traveled trails near people and with easy access, you probably don’t need all the stuff I’m going to describe below. But if you’re aiming for more remote, less well-traveled, or more challenging terrain, you should probably plan on carrying equipment.
We’re by no means wilderness survivalists. The stuff we carry is designed to keep us alive for 3-4 days at the absolute max. But I think a lot of people underestimate how hard it is to survive in the mountains overnight. If it’s near freezing, and it rains, you can die of exposure the first night you’re out there. So it’s good to prepare for being stuck overnight in the cold. There are a lot of articles on the “Ten Essentials“, and we’ve slightly modified (and expanded) that list for us.
The first thing on the list is my pack. For a remote or longer day trip, I take my Osprey Packs Duro 15. If there were one thing I would change, it’s the color. I wish it came in highly visible day-glo colors.
It holds 2.5 liters of water in its reservoir bladder. Water is life. This is enough water for me for a nice long hike (I’ve done 15 miles with no problem). But I need more for a very long run. So we have ways to supplement if we’re going to be out there a long time. And if you get lost, and end up spending overnight, you’ll probably need more water than you started carrying.
Up next, food. Below is a sample of what I brought on our last long day hike. There are thousands of calories there, and no, I had no intention of eating it all. I also brought a turkey sandwich, and a few handfuls of goop-shots from Muir Energy, which are made of real food. All told I probably had 3500-4000 calories. That’s plenty for a couple of days. Beyond that, it’s pretty dicey. If I were going out on a seriously remote day trip where I didn’t expect to see other people? I’d want more.
Body Glide. Don’t chafe. Chafing sucks.
Fire. If you’re out overnight you need fire. Now, DO NOT start fires until absolutely necessary to save your life in the summer in the woods. You could burn a million acres and you can die. Fire is dangerous. But without fire, you will also die in the rain and cold. So if it’s warm and dry, don’t start a fire just to have one. But smoke is a good signal if you’re lost and can find a place where it will be seen. The dry sack is also important to keep your matches and kindling dry, and I keep a shirt and socks in there too for a dry layer. The knife will help you cut kindling. It should have a saw attachment.
Next: a rain shell, a couple different survival blankets, a first aid kit including duct tape, a whistle for signalling, toilet paper. In the pouches are also a couple of bright headlamps so we could see if we needed to move at night.
An extra battery. An analog map. Bear spray. and the Lifestraw that I reviewed before. This allows us to drink water we find on the trail, whether from streams, snow, lakes, or whatever. That’s crucial as you won’t be able to carry water for several days in the wilderness. You need to make safe drinking water.
And that’s it. That’s what we carry. It’s enough to keep us alive for a few days if we get lost or (not-too-badly) injured. And hopefully enough to help us get found. Another key: tell people where you’re going, when you’re leaving, and when you expect to be back. So that if you don’t check in they know to send help.
Like I said, we’re by no means wilderness survivalists. But that doesn’t mean we make no plans and prepare nothing. Any one of the items above could literally be the difference between life and death in the wilderness. Don’t go out unprepared. Losing a trail or spraining an ankle can mean dying in the forest if you don’t have anything with you to stay warm, dry, fed, and watered until help arrives.