How to Go Hiking – Part 3: Navigation Tools, First Aid, and Emergency Supplies

Navigation tools, first aid supplies, and emergency supplies.

Part 3 of our “How to Go Hiking” series looks at the hiking navigation tools, first aid supplies, and emergency supplies hikers should carry on the trails.

Chris & Mac of Grey Otter Outventures

Chris & Mac
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So, we have our pre-planning done and have our water, hydration, and food worked out, but what about safety?  Yup, it matters.  Realize, although it may seem docile, you are entering a wilderness environment and things can happen.  Having basic hiking navigation tools, first aid, and emergency supplies may make the difference between self-rescue and being “those people” on TV with an embarrassed look and a big bill from the rescue teams.  So, what do we need?

  • Navigation Tools

It is critical to carry navigation tools when hiking.  You should always have a map of the trail and area you plan to hike – period. That said, maps are great, but you must know how to read it and should carry a compass, that you know how to use, because it will do you no good to have a map but no bearing on direction.  In addition, your cell phone can be very helpful.  There are numerous apps that provide trail maps and track your location and progress.  (Our favorite tracking app is Gaia GPS.  You can visit them here.)  Because cell phones are electronic, however, they are not a substitute for a map and compass.  Batteries can die and phones can break.  Again, you don’t want to be “those people” so carry both.

  • First Aid Supplies

It is important to carry a basic first aid kit with you on the trails. It doesn’t need to be fancy, but should contain some band aids, disinfectant ointment, gauze pads, gauze wrap, tape, hand wipes, antihistamine tabs, and aspirin.  We personally add to that a tick remover, antihistamine topical, foot tape for blisters, sunscreen, and bug wipes.  We know this may seem overkill, particularly for a basic hike, but it is not.  These items add virtually no weight to your pack and sometimes even the most non-threatening hikes may have hidden dangers.  Obviously, if you intend to go far out in the wilderness, you would want to beef up your first aid supplies to match the potentials you could encounter on the trail.

  • Emergency Supplies

Carrying emergency supplies when you hike is vital to ensuring your safety.  It is a good idea to carry a reflective heat blanket in your pack should you get lost and must spend the night. They are small to carry (about 3” x 3”) and very inexpensive but can make a big difference if you have the need.  You should also carry some waterproof matches and a small reflective mirror for signaling.  Additionally, a small knife should find its way into your pack.  It will come in very handy if you need to fix something like a broken piece of equipment.  Beyond these items, we also carry a few tie wraps and a small roll of quality tape to make a quick repair should something break.  You will be surprised how handy tie wraps and tape can prove to be on the trail.  In addition, we carry a cheap plastic poncho (usually less than $2) in case of unexpected rain and a small backup battery to power the phone in case its battery dies.  It is also a good idea to get an inexpensive water filtration system for the trail.  You don’t need anything fancy for an emergency filtration system.  You can find something appropriate for under $25.  They are very light and take up almost no space, but having one may just save your life should you get lost or run out of water miles from the trailhead.  Just remember, things fail, often at the worse possible moment, so be prepared.

  • Bottom Line

I know, I know.  All this seems like overkill, but none of the above is expensive or heavy to carry.  The one in 10, 20, 30, times you need one of these items, you will be happy you have it.

Gear We Use for Day Hiking

To see descriptions of the gear Chris & Mac use for day hiking, as well as links to manufacturers and retailers offering the gear for sale, please CLICK HERE.

SAFETY DISCLAIMER:  The activities discussed in this website are outdoor activities and, as such, have inherent risks to which participants are exposed.  It is not the intent of this website, nor is it possible due to the variability of weather, terrain, equipment, and experience, to detail all of those risks.  The information contained in this site is informational, but not instructive nor exhaustive.  It is the sole responsibility of the user to ensure he/she is in good health, fully prepared, and fully informed as to dangers before undertaking any of the activities discussed in this website and the user does so at his/her own risk.  The user understands that by using this website he/she acknowledges and accepts all risks associated with use of information from this website and participation in any particular activity addressed herein.  Please see “Terms of Use” for additional information.

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