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Five Essential Hiking Items to Help You Escape a Bind
Plus More Summer Wilderness Tips
By Steve Jansen | June 19, 2018
The “10 Essentials of Hiking” is an often-cited tip sheet that includes no-brainers on what to pack for a wilderness trip, such as sunscreen, a fire-starting device, first-aid kit and drinking water. But what about the not-so-obvious items that can really help if you’re in a pickle?
While fire danger has temporarily closed many outdoor activities in the Cibola National Forest (including the La Luz Trail in the Sandia Mountains), there are still plenty of explorations around town. Tim Henley, a lecturer at The University of New Mexico School of Medicine’s International Mountain Medicine Center, suggests taking these items with you during a hike in case you’ll need to spend an unplanned night underneath the stars.
1. Flashlight and Portable Power Device-in-One
Black Diamond makes a flashlight that doubles as a USB charging station for handheld electronics. The apparatus is about the size of a marker. “I once left my phone off airplane mode and the battery immediately drained,” Henley says. “So I always make sure to carry backup power.”
2. Emergency Shelter
This can include a small tarp, a military-grade mylar blanket or a bivy sack, which is a small, lightweight waterproof shelter.
3. Repair Kit
A repair kit that includes cord, duct tape, scissors and safety pins is more applicable for mountain bikers and backcountry skiing, Henley says, but it can be useful for hikers. If a shoelace breaks on your hiking boots, break out the duct tape. Meanwhile, “a cord or rope can be used to secure a backup shelter,” Henley says.
4. Glow Stick
Instead of starting a fire in the parched New Mexico forest, a safer method to attract attention is a glow stick. “If you tie it on an end of a rope and swing it around at night, it creates quite a bit of illumination,” Henley says.
5. Hiking Apps
Henley’s favorite backcountry smartphone apps include:
- Topo Maps, where you can download U.S. Geological Survey maps to your phone and access GPS coordinates without using phone data.
- Peak Finder, which, even when it’s offline, shows the names of all the mountains and peaks in a 360-degree panoramic display.
- NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) Weather Radar is Henley’s preferred weather app due to the exhaustive amount of useful data.
Other Hiking Tips
- Not everyone loves trekking poles, but Henley says they can relieve weight from your hips. If you sprain an ankle, the poles can help you hobble downhill. Additionally, “some companies are integrating trekking poles into the assembly of tents and tarps,” Henley says.
- It’s good to carry an actual compass, but smart phones usually come with a pre-loaded compass app.
- If you don’t want to lug around a bottle of sunscreen, pick up a traveler’s size container at the store.
- Water-wise, Henley recommends carrying two liters (half a gallon, or eight cups) for a day hike. If you don’t have a hydration pack, some companies make water bottles that you can crush down, which saves valuable space in your backpack.
- And as far as food, Henley suggests carbohydrate-rich meals. His go-to: a turkey sandwich.
“The thing about the wilderness is just go out there and get a sense of what you like and the items you want to carry,” Henley says.