Day Hiking Essentials: A Guide for Beginners - Safety and Emergency Gear
Emergencies happen, and it’s important to be prepared for those “just in case” moments. What if the weather suddenly changes and you are unable to get back to the trailhead? What if you get hurt? Have an allergic reaction to a sting or bite? Are approached by an aggressive animal? Are overcome by the heat? Get lost? There are many things that could go wrong, and while you should never let your fear of those things keep you from the trail, you should always be prepared to manage an emergency should one occur.
Your safety and emergency kit should include:
- First aid kit – There are many premade kits out there, or you can piece one together. I carry the following items:
- Basic first aid kit (bandages, band aids, safety pins, tweezers, antiseptic wipes, antibiotic ointment, and sting relief cream)
- Sawyer bite and sting extractor kit
- Blister relief kit
- Emergency shelter – Don’t Die in the Woods World's Toughest Ultralight Survival Tent (Amazon) is a good option. You can also purchase emergency blankets or sleeping bags from the same company.
- Compass - It is easy to get disoriented in an unfamiliar location, especially in the woods. A compass can help guide you back to civilization.
- Umbrella – Use this for rain or shade from the sun.
- Whistle – It is commonly known around the world that three equal whistle blasts represent distress and a call for help. Every hiker should carry a whistle and ensure it is readily accessible.
- Hand warmers – I keep these handy in case I am out later than expected and it’s super cold outside.
- Fire starter – It can be difficult to start a fire if the wood is wet or it's too cold for your lighter to work. Always carry a backup, such as all-weather tinder and stormproof matches. As a backup for your backup, carry a flint fire starter; practice using it before you hit the trail.
- Duct tape – There are a ton of uses for duct tape, so it’s always good to have some with you. I carry a coreless roll which makes it more lightweight and compact.
- Sunscreen – Reapply every couple of hours to help prevent a sunburn and avoid heat exhaustion.
- Insect repellent – Protect yourself from illness spread through insect bites, especially ticks and mosquitos.
- Bear spray – If you are hiking in bear country, be sure to carry bear spray and know how to use it. Most encounters people have with wildlife are peaceful, especially if they learn beforehand how to properly handle those interactions; even so, you can’t control wild animals. Always be aware of your surroundings and know how to react to each particular type of animal should it try to approach you and/or act in an aggressive manner.
You cannot prepare for every situation; however, by using general caution while out on the trail, and through adequate preparation for emergency situations, you should be able to handle most circumstances you may encounter. If you would like even more assistance preparing for emergencies, consider taking a basic first aid and/or CPR class.
On a final note, be sure to check the weather often throughout your hike, and always let someone know where you are going, including the route you plan to take and the amount of time you plan to be out exploring.
We hope you found our day hiking guide helpful! Good luck on your next adventure, and happy exploring!
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