Today as part of our safe hiking series we’re talking about how to pack for a hike.

Here’s where I confess that the contents of my daypack never look the same because the environment is constantly changing around me.

What I need for a short hike on our local forested trails 15 minutes from town at 8,000 feet where I can push my kid in a jogging stroller is  significantly different than what I pack when we’re headed 45 minutes from town for a day hike across alpine tundra at 11,000 feet.

A lot of popular outdoor bloggers publish generic packing list, and there’s some danger in this because what works here for me in November in Southeastern Wyoming is probably going to look at lot different than what someone in Australia or even Portland may need.

But, I’m going to share with you my generic packing list anyway. And then I’m going to tell you not to use it except to glance at it when you’re planning your hike. Instead I’ll encourage you to really spend some time thinking about where your going and what you’re going to need.

If you’re new to hiking or even if you’re not it’s important to think about the ’10 Essentials’ when packing for a hike. The 10 Essentials are a list of recommended items to have in the backcountry. They were developed by a climbing club called “The Mountaineers” in the 1930’s but have evolved with time. They include:

  • Navigation tool
  • Sun protection
  • Insulation
  • Illumination
  • First aid supplies
  • Fire
  • Repair kit
  • Nutrition
  • Hydration
  • Emergency shelter.

I like to think of the 10 Essentials as my emergency survival kit. If something were to happen to me or one of my children on a hike, these are the items that would keep us safe, sheltered, warm, dry, sustained and protected.

How to Pack for a Hike (and not forget anything)

For example, we don’t eat the food that it is in my survival kit, it’s solely for emergencies. But to save weight we don’t double up on items that we hike with every day. If we are already wearing sunglasses then there’s no need to pack another pair.

I add two things to the list. A small emergency whistle and a few large garden-sized garbage bags. if something bad happens I know it will be easier to blow a whistle to signal for help than to yell.

Usually my daypack has my emergency kit, camera, cell phone, wallet, a diaper and a few diaper wipes, keys, extra clothing, food and water and that’s about it. I know parents who hike with things like tents and sleeping bags but I like to pack light. Especially since when I’m schlepping babies and toddlers down the trail I’m never too far from my car.

I tend to take a base camp approach when I pack for a hike, I think of my car at the trailhead as a base camp with extra clothing, food, and water and my daypack as the items that I’ll just need for a few hours, depending on the length of the hike.

When we arrive at a trailhead I do a quick assessment of the weather and trail, mood of my children and how long we plan to hike. Then I take any items that I think we’ll need out of the base camp bag and throw them into my daypack.

Usually my 3 year old hikes with his own daypack. I want him to get used to carrying his own gear and if he gets separated from the group I want him to be able to be warm, enjoy a snack and have some water to drink while he waits for help to arrive. In it we always have:

  • Warm hat
  • Emergency blanket
  • Snacks he can easily open himself
  • Small flashlight he can turn on and off himself
  • Water bottle

He also wears a whistle for emergency purposes and we practice blowing his whistle and pretending what we would do if he were to get lost.

So what’s in your daypack? Do you agree with my packing list? What would you add? What would you get rid of?

I’d love to chat about this as a group. So join me for a google hangout soon. Look for details on your local Hike it Baby Facebook page. If you’re interested comment below with your gmail address or send an email to rebecca (at)justtrails(dot)com

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