Necessity is the mother of all inventions. It also gives birth to profound realizations that don’t necessarily involve the creation of a new gadget. Case in point: the rationale of the preference for headlamps over handheld flashlights among hikers. When you’re scrambling your way up a steep incline and grappling twigs and earth to keep yourself from sliding down the mountainside as the day is ending, you realize why it’s wise to strap on your light source rather than stubbornly hold on to it as you climb. Lesson learned.

If you’ve been in a similar situation or are about to go on a trek, do yourself a favor and run through this essential list to ensure you’ve got all bases covered (and also so you don’t have to be in a state of dire need during your hike). Consider headlamps (yes, bring a spare one) the first item of the following list.

Water

kandersteg-to-lam
Photo taken at Kandersteg

You’ve ticked all the to-bring boxes and believe you’re good to go. But have you brought anything to drink in your pack? This essential, no-brainer must-bring item tends to be blurred out of the picture when you think it’s so easy to get a bottle of water or fill up your bottle on the way to your destination. Then, you get to the starting point and realize you haven’t really prepared your hydration. Uh oh. Never leave home or your lodgings without sufficient hydration to avoid complications during your hike. You can opt to bring a handheld purifier or iodine tablets if your route has sufficient water source.

First Aid + Survival Kit

Sure, you got band-aids in case you get scratched, but that’s not enough to ensure you’re capable of handling outdoor emergencies, some of which typically happen to hikers, even the experienced ones. You should not only have band-aids of varying sizes and sterile gauzes in your kit, you should also have an antiseptic, sanitary surgical gloves, elastic bandage, sports tape, tweezers, duct tape, triangular bandages (for splints or as tourniquet), safety pins, emergency blanket, fish hook, signal mirror, whistle, waterproof matches, petroleum jelly, wound ointment, painkillers, paracetamol, and antacid.

Multitool

The ideal one has a knife that you can use to cut small pieces of wood and even prepare fish, as well as a pommel that can double as a hammer, which comes handy when you’re going to pitch camp or put up a shelter.

Tent or Hammock

This is important if you’re going on an overnight trek and will be hanging out in the great outdoors for an extended time at some point during your hiking adventure. See to it that you’ve got the right tent for your location and the climate. You can’t possibly use a summer tent when you’re up in snowy terrain, for example.

Compass or GPS

glacier-de-moiry
Photo taken at Evolene

A map plus a compass or GPS is your ally on the trail and helps you stay on track. Using your smartphone as a back-up navigation is a good idea, but not when it’s the only thing you rely on for directions. You should bring along a compass in case your digital tool backfires or drains. Most of all, you should know how to use both and have practiced doing so before your trek.

Thermal Blanket or Jacket

If you’re very much into travelling light, even to a destination known for its chilly temperatures and snowy landscape, an emergency blanket may be a suitable thermal solution, but only as a temporary one (and as a ground sheet and shelter liner or reflector). They can never replicate the comfort and warmth that a thermal blanket, bed, or jacket can provide.

Food

Of course you’re bringing provisions with you, but are they enough? And are you bringing the right ones? The “right ones” depend on where you’re going and the length of your hike. For example, if your trek will be humid or hot, you probably should cut down on food that will easily spoil (those that come with soup, gravy, or are generally moist). Generally, nuts, dehydrated meals, and and high-energy food are good choices. You can repack canned items in resealable bags to minimize trash and backpack weight. Never assume you’ll find enough edibles on the way and back to be on the safe side. If your hike is short, bring enough to snack on plus a little extra just in case.

Have something to add to this list? Let us know in the comments!

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