Everyone that hikes away from a trailhead should be carrying the twelve essentials in their backpack. The 12 essentials are the top 12 most important things to carry with you when hiking or backpacking:
- Water. Carry your water in durable bottles that have secure screw on lids, not the bike water bottle type with the pop-up tops. These leak and your water will be gone and your clothes will be wet. Also be sure to carry water treatment in case you run out of water – this includes iodine tablets or a water purification filter.
- Map. Usually the best type of map to carry when hiking is a topo map (topographic map with contours). Knowing the topography around you is essential to staying on course and not getting lost. Bring a trail guide too (or photocopies of hiking route descriptions from books). Organizers must carry a map. Other members should do it.
- Compass. The other half of backcountry navigation is a quality compass. Don’t skimp on quality when buying a compass – get one with a pop up line of sight reader. A map is only useful for locating your whereabouts if you have a compass and if you know how to use it. Take a class on navigation or read a book on this important topic. A GPS device is a great addition to map and compass, but should not replace them. Organizers must carry a compass. Other members should do it.
- First aid kit. One of the most important items in this kit is a first-aid book explaining what to do in emergencies. You should take a first-aid course to learn proper life-saving techniques. Purchase and take along a travel-size first aid kit, available at sporting goods stores. If the kit doesn’t already include bandages and antiseptic lotion, pack them as well. Also, pack allergy medication for allergic reactions or stings. Organizers must carry a first aid kit. Other members should do it.
- Knife. Many people carry a swiss-army-type knife with mulitple blades and tools.
- Light. A flashlight is adequate, but a headlamp is preferred so you don’t have to hold it when performing tasks that require two hands. Don’t forget extra bulbs if you have a traditional headlamp (LED headlamps are better) and extra batteries wrapped in plastic so they won’t get wet.
- Fire. This really means heat. In the event of an emergency where you may have to spend the night in the cold, if you have fire-starter and wind-proof matches, you can start a fire to keep warm.
- Extra food. Yes, pack more food than you’ll need even though it adds weight to your pack. This means that after every successful hike you should still have food left over. I bring extra energy bars since they have the most bang for the buck (calories per gram).
- Extra clothes. Yes, even on hot hikes bring what you would need to spend the night. Many folks have hurt themselves not far from the car and needed a warm layer and a wind-proof layer to wait for help to arrive. Don’t forget gloves and a warm hat.
- Sun protection. This includes sunglasses for hikes that might cross snow. Sunblock for all but the cloudiest of days. Chapstick for any hike. And a wide-brimmed hat when appropriate.
- Hiking boots. Unless the Organizer tells you something else to wear hiking boots are a must. If your shoes aren’t comfortable or don’t fit right, you may get blisters. If you buy a new pair you should wear it for short walks before you go hiking.
- Toilet paper. I do not have to explain for what… or should I?
Not only your equipment is important when you go hiking. Your behaviour is very important too:
- Leave No Trace. Follow outdoor ethics and planning. There is much more to say on Leave No Trace than there is room for here, so for more information, check the Leave No Trace Page.
- Allergies. If you have any severe allergies, such as from bees, food, or medications, notify the organizer at least a couple days ahead of the trip so he is aware of this. This is a precaution for the event that you have an allergic reaction or become injured.
- You are in a group. You are not hiking alone. Keep an eye on the people that are behind and in front of you. If you do not see the people behind or in front of you, warn the group even if you have to shout.
- You are in a group. Yes, again, you are not hiking alone. Do not follow tracks that the group does not follow even if you think you save time, and do not be too fast. If the rest of the group does not see you, they are going to spend time looking for you.
- You are in a group. Yes, I am annoying, but you should not be when somebody is too slow. Patience. The speed of a group is the speed of the slowest member. The Organizer thought that the people, that joined the event, could do it. Talk to him if you do not agree.
Hiking rating levels
- Technical requirements – These requirements depend on the required skills and equipment. When you plan an event, you should explain what you expect from people joining the event, for example:
- Only walking equipment (no ropes, no climbing gear) and no climbing required
- Only walking equipment (no ropes, no climbing gear) and basic climbing skills because it is required light and short climbing (without ropes or equipment)
- Light-medium climbing skills and gear like ice-pikes or ropes
- Full equipment for climbing required
- Condition rating – This rating depends on the distance to walk, the terrain conditions and the elevation difference (cumulative) of the hike. Not taking into account terrain and other conditions of the track, in following table you can find a suggested rating: