When proper preparation equates to life or death, a sense of urgency replaces lax attitudes. In the recent film, Everest, mountain climbers spend weeks preparing to summit the 29-thousand-foot peak, Mt. Everest. They practice hiking the terrain. They load packs with essential supplies like oxygen tanks, ice picks, food and various other necessities. Their preparation led to lives saved and lost.
While the majority of us will probably never attempt to summit Mt. Everest, many of us plan to summit several other peaks, from California’s Mt. Whitney to Colorado’s Mt. Elbert. Whatever hike you plan to accomplish, big or small, be sure to have the proper preparation to successfully and enjoyably reach your destination. Here’s a list of items to bring when preparing for a short day-hike or for a 14,000-foot summit:
Although water may seem like a given, many a hiker has set out on a trail with too little of this precious cargo. It’s better to pack more than you think you’ll need, as opposed to not enough. Water is one supply that most experienced hikers will risk over-packing and deal with the added weight to avoid dehydration. Water reservoirs are a great way to carry more water because they mold easily to fit in a pack and can hold more water than a typical Nalgene. I also recommend carrying a filtration straw or other water-filtration system to use on a creek or pond if you deplete your initial supply earlier than expected.
Protein-packed snacks, e.g. nuts, power bars and tuna, are important for hikes of all distances. When you’re at 12-thousand-feet with a couple miles left before the summit and the altitude making you work extra hard for oxygen, your body will beg for a new energy source. So, be sure to have snacks that are high in energy nutrients. Fruits and nuts, mainly nuts, are a good place to start.
Mountain weather can change in an instant. When packing for a hike, know your terrain, check the weather and prepare for the worst. If you’re hiking up Mt. Whitney in the summer time, you’re less likely to run into snow, but you may reach the top and find the air freezing and snowflakes falling. Oftentimes when you’re doing a hike that elevates by several thousand feet, you can expect to experience much cooler weather at the top. Sometimes you’re in your t-shirt from the bottom to the top. Either way, it’s best to pack a jacket, gloves and hat, just in case.
4. First-aid Kit
Clumsy or not, anyone can get injured on a trail at any time. As the old saying goes, it’s better to be safe than sorry. That’s why outdoors men and women carry basic first-aid supplies. You could get massive blisters on your heels by the halfway point where you really have no choice but to keep going. In those kinds of situations, you’ll want to have gauze, moleskin or other bandages to mend your wounds so that you can still make it back to your car. You never know what the trail may hold. A loose rock could land you with some gashes that need cleaning and bandaging. Remember, when you’re out on a trail, you only have what you (and your friends) brought with you; be sure to have those just-in-case supplies.
When I say “whistle,” I’m not referring to a special outdoor device. I mean the good old-fashioned, noise-making tool that coaches uses when instructing players. A whistle is a great addition to any hikers pack. And while you can purchase special whistles particularly made for hiking situations, a basic whistle is a good place to start. Whistles are often carried for emergency use. They can be used to call for help when yells are just not loud enough; again, better safe than sorry.
Along with these core supplies, you may need to add a few more to your list depending on the hike. Be better prepared by researching the area you plan to hike. Get to know the terrain and what other hikers have found useful. For example, you may find that the mountain range you plan to visit is known for bear sightings, so you add bear spray to your packing list. Proper preparation makes a world of difference on the trail.
By Mackenzie Foster
Mackenzie is a writer who loves to travel, be outdoors, find adventures, meet new people, hangout with old ones, ponder truth, and enjoy just about anything else that involves truly sucking the marrow out of life. Whether it's hiking a 14,000-ft mountain or traveling around the U.S. living out of her SUV, she loves to explore. Check out her blog at bandanabow.com.