The return to hiking.... I remember this!
This past holiday weekend I took the family to one of the large state parks for the day, Ludington State park in Ludington, MI. I grew up camping there every month all summer long for years at a time. By the time I was 13, I knew every inch of that state park. For a while it was my summer home away from home... And all that came rushing back to me when we pulled into the park entrance. I had a fantastic day hiking the trails with my family being in nature far away from the noise of the city. One thing I did notice is that everyone else we padded on the trail had no clue about hiking. Dressed in flip flops and t-shirts they all looked cold on the lake side of the trails where the wind blew hard. And by the sheer number of water bottles thrown on the ground it seems that most also have no respect at all for nature let alone being prepared for a day long hike in the woods. Granted, not everyone in my family was prepared completely but I did a partial job of it, here is what I carried... 1 small backpack, I took a camel-back pack and removed the bladder. I put 4 bottles of water in place of it. 4 people sharing a single camel-back hose is kind of icky. In this back pack I threw in about 6 granola bars and 2 small packs of nuts and fruit, and a small first aid kit. I also had my iPhone with an extended battery sleeve that lets the phone go for about 3 days with my gps apps. Oh and a trail map.. something that most people don't grab. That was it. I dressed in shorts but wore decent tightly laced tennis shoes with high socks and I had a light windbreaker I was wearing. I knew we were hiking less than 5 miles into the woods so at most carrying a person we had no chance of getting stranded, plus I was in territory that I knew completely. I felt comfortable that if something happened, we would be fine. But it's not enough if you are hiking in one of the massive parks in territory you do not know like the back of your hand. If you were to go hiking in the deep woods or Arizonan desert what I brought is not nearly enough. my "day pack" for a unfamiliar hike is the following... Compass. Map. Water filter straw survival whistle emergency blanket signal mirror firestarter waxed cotton in straws first aid kit .5 oz small spray bug repellant or single serving bug repellant packets 2 packets of sun screen. 36" of duct tape small sewing kit 2 gallon sized ziplock freezer baggies bright orange or red bandana small LED flashlight no batteries in it 2 sets of batteries for the flashlight wrapped in separate small baggies and ends taped. pack of juicy friut gum at least 2-3 sugar hard candies 1 carefully wrapped white thin plastic shopping bag Plus at least 2X the food that I think I would need while hiking. ALL of this can easily fit in the camel-back bag with room to spare.. What I also would bring is some technology as well and require others in my hiking group to do the same... 1 FRS/GMRS radio that uses AA batteries 1 small GPS that uses AA batteries 1 SOLAR AA battery charger 4 rechargeable AA batteries at least 1 set of spare Alkaline AA batteries for emergency use. The most important part is that all devices use the SAME battery type. my GPS uses 2 AA batteries. My FRS radio uses 1 AA batteries, my LED flashlights also use AA batteries. This way my power supply for every device can be used in every other device. This can be life saving. the GPS Is useful if you know how to use it. the way-point of your car MUST be set before you leave. Better GPS's have a stored database of way-points like cities and hospitals. Color screens do not last very long on battery power, black and white screens can go for days on a single set of AA batteries and are easy to read in high noon sunlight. the GPS in your car is junk for hiking, get a REAL hiking GPS. should not cost more than $200.00 for a fancy one. Many hiking "purists" will scoff at the GPS use. MY GPS will get me out of the woods faster than your compass and maps. and because I am planning for power consumption batteries are not an issue. What is an issue is breaking the GPS, which is why you get a hiking model. Plus I have the compass and map as a backup. Longer hikes I also bring the following. 2 more emergency space blankets. 1 emergency tube tent 4 chemical light sticks 3600 calorie emergency ration brick That's it. other than the water you need, but that should be in everyone's camleback bladder and canteen, if you do it right all of it will take up very little space. The above stuff will make a huge difference if you get lost or worse.