If you operate heavy machinery while mixing medications, don’t usually wear your seat belt or life jacket, and enjoy using the hair dryer while lounging in the bathtub, this post is NOT for you.
This last Friday I left work around noon and headed up Highway 2 for a few short hikes now that the day gives me just that much more daylight to enjoy the outdoors in.
Two of my favorite short hikes after work are the Index Town Wall and Heybrook Lookout that neighbor each other just outside of the town of Index, WA. The Wall is 2.6 miles RT with 1270 of gain and Heybrook is 2.6 miles RT with 850 gain (plus the 7 story lookout tower).
I can do them back to back in about 4 hours (includes my drive time from work and in between hikes). These hikes are perfect because they have amazing views of the Cascades, I rarely see more than 1 or 2 other people, and right now they offer some extra gymnastics with downed trees and water on the trail.
I was coming down from Heybrook when I was reminded again about how many people will wonder out into the wilderness (yes, even if it’s only a short way from the road and you have cell phone reception) without any preparation or supplies. I was passed by 2 young ladies who didn’t appear to have anything but a camera between them heading up the hill at 4pm. They even asked me in exhausted voices if they were almost there yet (at a little over a mile in).
Last week on Tiger Mountain, we witnessed a father/daughter team on the trail with nothing but a bottle of Coke between them waiting for EMS services about 300 yards FROM THE PARKING LOT because dad got the bright idea to walk a log over a creek and fell off injuring himself. There have been numerous stories in the news lately all repeating the same thing by lost and cold hikers that they went in unprepared, not thinking that something could happen to them.
I don’t head out on a trail without the bare minimum of 10 essentials and often have even more “just in case”. Now don’t get me wrong, I manage to forget at least one thing every time I go out. But I believe in redundancies for the important things so I am always carrying enough to get me through almost anything that might happen. I have to admit I AM A KLUTZ. Although I do most of my personal damage in the safety of my own home (cut myself, fall down the stairs, burn myself), I can manage to bang myself up pretty good while playing in the woods. By the grace of God I have been limited to blisters, splinters, punctures, bruises, scrapes, and that one time I feel head first backwards into a waterfall. It’s all part of the fun, right?
I know my friends probably wonder if my pack is a bottomless pit and I sometimes liken it to a clown car you see at the circus with how much I can manage to fit inside.
Here is the day pack I am using now (I use a different one for extended day hikes or those requiring snowshoes). Here is a link to where you could find it: Wenger 18 I was lucky enough to score mine from Groupon for $15 awhile back. Amazon has them, too. See my note below on my latest day pack…
When I got home from my hikes on Friday, I unpacked my pack and took a picture of everything that was inside. It looked like this:
Although I did wear some of these things, they were all inside at some point during my two hikes (except my bandanna and watch).
As you can see, it was A LOT. I even had some extra things because I forgot I had already thrown in a warm hat, for example. Here is how I sort my 10+ essentials:
Some of these things I bought, some were given to me by loved ones who know I collect mini things and some I just found on the trail! But as you can see, I had way more than I would probably need. Many things I carry have more than one use: 10 Survival Uses for Tampons. I do drop some of the backups for backpacking (no multipurpose knife, emergency shelter or flashlight). But you never know what the conditions can bring or if you may get stuck out later than expected. The Hmart bag (in the first picture) had my gaiters in it which I didn’t end up needing.
Now I joke that I use my compass more for the mirror to make sure I don’t have anything in my teeth, but there have been a few times over the last few years where it came in handy to make sure I was heading in the right direction. This last Saturday when I was on a snow covered, new-to-me trail (Boardman Lake)and there were no tracks to follow in between the lakes, I was able to use my map and compass to take a simple bearing on where I wanted to go. I don’t remember everything I learned in the navigation class I took here: Mountaineers Basic Navigation , but I am definitely a better map reader and it has helped when I find myself off trail (intentionally or not).
The most important thing I can say aside from always taking the 10 essentials with you when you step into the wilderness, is to keep your pack in your car along with a jug or jar of water (I use a growler) and you will always be prepared for wherever your adventures take you. This includes the “food” essential; I keep my pack stocked with food that can last like bars and nuts.
I also keep my maps in the car but if for some reason I don’t have one, I will take a picture on my phone and/or sketch a map from the one posted at the trailhead. You never know and you don’t want to be THAT GUY (OR GAL) we hear about on the news!
PS. I apologize now if I come across like your mom or offend anyone who may resemble remarks here, I can get a little fired up about this. But we are talking about personal safety, as well as the safety of the others who may have to come rescue your a$$ for not being smart or prepared. Or more exact, jeopardizing the lives of people I personally care about who happen to do that rescuing kind of stuff. Just sayin’.
Comment below if you have any questions about the things I carry. Hike on!
Editor note: I picked up a Osprey Talon 22 liter pack at an REI garage sale and it has become my main day pack. I like the hip belt and the ability to store my poles on it if needed.