Hiking carries with it certain dangers. One of the dangers of hiking is not being prepared for the hike that you are going to undertake. There are dangers from wild animals to falling and hurting yourself while on the trail. We recommend that before you go hiking on any trail you do research on the trail you are going to take and become familiar with your rout. Always be prepared for the unexpected in the wilderness. Ashley and I have been confronted with a number of unexpected situations from mountain thunderstorms, to helping people on the trails who were unprepared and needed assistance, to encountering rattlesnakes. The main thing is to know how you are going to react when the unexpected does occur.
Here is a generic list of something’s that every hiker should have with them. The most important thing is to tell a family member or friend where you are going and an approximate time of your return. That way if you do not come back in time, someone will know to start searching for you and to contact the authorities.
The following is a generic list and not every hike requires each of these things. They are just some suggestions.
Map: A map not only tells you where you are and how far you have to go, but it can help you find campsites, water, and an emergency exit route in case of an accident.
Compass: A compass can help you find your way through unfamiliar terrain—especially in bad weather where you can't see the landmarks.
Water and a way to purify it: Without enough water, your body's muscles and organs simply can't perform as well: You'll be susceptible to hypothermia and altitude sickness. Not to mention the abject misery of raging thirst.
Extra Food: Any number of things could keep you out longer than expected: a lengthy detour, getting lost, an injury, difficult terrain. A few ounces of extra food will help keep up energy and morale.
Rain Gear and extra clothing: Because the weatherman is not always right. Especially above the tree line, bring along extra layers. Two rules: Avoid cotton (it keeps moisture close to your skin), and always carry a hat.
Fire starter and matches: The warmth of a fire and a hot drink can help prevent an encounter with hypothermia. And fires are a great way to signal for help if you get lost. (Note since we are in an area prone to wildfires only do this if it is a life and death situation, there are big fines for lighting a fire in the wilderness)
First aid kit: Prepackaged first aid kits for hikers are available at outfitters. Double your effectiveness with knowledge: Take a basic first aid class with the American Red Cross or a Wilderness First Aid class, offered by many hiking organizations.
Army knife or multi-purpose tool: These enable you to cut strips of cloth into bandages, remove splinters, fix broken eyeglasses, and perform a whole host of repairs on malfunctioning gear—not to mention cut cheese and open cans.
Flashlight and extra bulbs: For finding your way in the dark and signaling for help.
Sun screen and sun glasses: Especially above tree line when there is a skin-scorching combination of sun and snow, you'll need sunglasses to prevent snow blindness, and sunscreen to prevent sunburn.