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Hiking through the wonderful wilderness and sleeping under the stars sounds like the perfect vacation for most of us. But if you don’t pack the essentials, it can easily become a frustrating or even dangerous trip instead.

There is some great advice by bikehikesafari.com about not overpacking and planning ahead, but today we want to focus on the essential gear. 

  1. Extra Food, Water, And Clothes

You should pack enough food, water, and clothes for your day or overnight trip. Once you have counted out the meals, you should add in one or two extra portions.

This is to keep you fed and watered in case you get lost. Ideally, these items should be easy to eat and don’t require cooking. For example, energy bars, jerky, and dried fruits are always a good choice. You can graze on them easily, eat them on the move and not worry about leaving trash behind.

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When it comes to water, you need to think about weight. Water is heavy and most people need around half a liter per hour when they are hiking. If you are walking in the heat, you will need an extra supply as well. Balance your need for water with how much you can carry.

Lastly, if your clothes get wet or damp, you can easily become ill. This is why a change of clothing is important. Should your leg fall into a watery hole, you will need to swap socks to stop hyperthermia from setting in.

  1. Navigation Tools

Navigation equipment can encompass a large amount of tech, but if we strip them back to their essentials, you should be looking for these tools; altimeter watch, compass, GPS device, maps, personal locator beacon.

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Some might suggest that all you really need is a compass and a map, but if you get stuck and need help these additional tools can easily get you out of a jam.

An altimeter watch measures the air pressure and uses GPS data to find where you are. The air pressure also tells you your elevation level. Giving a rescuer this information can make finding you easier.

GPS devices can do a similar thing to altimeter watches. They can also help you read your map. However, they can run out of battery quickly, so if you rely on one, you will need a solar panel charger to keep it going.

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Personal locator beacons or PLBs also use GPS, but when you press them they send your location to a governmental emergency service for instant help.

Regardless of if you use these technical tools, you should always use an analog compass and map in case the batteries lose charge on your journey.

  1. First Aid Protection

Your first aid kit should be small enough to fit in your backpack, but large enough to hold the essentials. This means including sunscreen, antiseptic wipes, bandages, and any personal medicine you may need – such as an EpiPen. 

  1. Survival Tools

As a minimum, your survival kit should include a headlamp, a knife, a portable and light shelter, and lastly a way to make a fire.

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The headlamp will make it easy for you to move around in the darkness. It can be easy to sprain your ankle when you need the toilet in the middle of the night, using a light attached to your head can help you avoid these issues.

Knives can be surprisingly useful to cut down small pieces of firewood, and the fire itself is needed to keep you warm. 

Your shelter should be light so carrying it on the journey doesn’t encumber you.

  1. Communication Tools

Lastly, you need a way to communicate with those not on your hiking journey. Although most of us use hiking to distance ourselves from the outside world, you may need to make contact to assure your family you are safe.

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In these situations, you should have a phone and a way to charge it. The easiest way to charge your phone in the wilderness is to use a solar panel. You can get small and light ones that hook to your backpack creating energy as you move.

Summary

You could argue that the backpack itself is an essential gear when you hike, and you’d be right. It needs to hold all of the items above and still be comfortable and manageable. 

When you pack your backpack, you should put your additional clothes at the bottom along with your communication tools. The solar panel should always be on display, while your first aid kit and navigation tool should be in arm’s reach. 

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