It’s not that I have anything against baseball caps. I often wear them hiking, biking, kayaking, running, skiing, climbing – you get the idea. But for a long-distance thru-hike, I really need to cover more territory. I am a pony-tailed hiker most of the time, and there’s a lot of exposed skin. A wide-brimmed sun hat is de rigueur so I don’t need to go through the daily ritual of slathering sloppy sunscreen on my ears and the back of my neck.
Before I hiked the John Muir Trail in 2012, I wandered into Midwest Mountaineering here in Minneapolis and stumbled into a relationship with Kavu that changed my life. Kavu is an acronym for an aviation term describing the perfect day: “Klear Above Visibility Unlimited.” I mean how can you not want a bit of this sensibility on your body while hiking – especially on a thru-hike when some days might possibly be a bit less-than-perfect and you gotta push through anyway with a big smile on your face?
Before any hike, you should ask the question “could I spend the night here?” – blissful hiker
The ten essentials don’t take up much space in your pack: Navigation, Illumination, Habitation, Insulation, Protection, Medication, Reparation, Incineration, Nutrition, and Hydration
Have you ever set out on a beautiful sunny day that turned into a wet misery half-way through? Did a snowstorm suddenly change course and dump right on your course? Maybe you missed a turn and when backtracking, got lost? That’s the reason the “ten essentials” were created, to help prepare us for the unexpected.
I had fun making each “essential” end in the same suffix, reminding me to never “tion” them, even on a short day-hike.
this sign tells it like it is based on the misfortunes of many an unprepared hiker
Navigation – I always throw in a map and compass. If it rains, snows, or there’s a white out, a compass will keep you moving in the right direction. One wilderness survival course noted that a compass can also keep you from walking in circles should you get lost (!) I have a GPS with spot locator beacon for multi-day hikes that allows me to stay in touch with the outside world should I have an accident or become delayed. But it’s best to keep in mind that rescue could be hours, even days, away.
Illumination – In case you’re be-nighted, you should throw in a headlamp. An extra set of batteries in a ziploc is not a bad idea too.
Habitation – Could you sleep out here tonight? I like to have an emergency bivy sack with me. They’re very light and small and could also help if you get cold. Depending on where you go, a more comprehensive bivy is worth the weight.
Insulation – “Dress in layers” and bring extra layers. Hypothermia kills fast and just being shivery can leave you feeling crabby.
Protection – The sun might be free, but it can burn your skin and bring on heat exhaustion. I find sunscreen messy, so I dress like an Arab in long sleeves, long pants, and hat. Umbrellas are awesome.
Medication – Throw in the basics, like bandaids, tweezers, aspirin, etc. Consider where you’re going when packing a first aid kit, do you need a splint, an epipen, ice pack? I always take the ever-versatile athletic tape.
Reparation -When the sole comes off your boot, you’ll be really slowed down. Believe me, I know. You can store a bunch of duct tape on your water bottle. Safety pins can repair almost everything.
Incineration – I throw a lighter in a ziploc and cotton balls slathered in vaseline in another ziploc for a fail-safe fire starter.
Nutrition – Take a few extra calories for a happy, healthy, fueled hike which may last longer than you anticipated.
Hydration – Remember you can survive three weeks without food, but only three days without water. Iodine pills weigh next to nothing and kill most bacteria. Don’t forget a water bottle.
There is no 11th essential, but I’d add take along a good attitude, one ready to turn back and give up the summit if the day turns against you. The hike will be there tomorrow and it takes a balanced person to avoid getting into the position to need the essentials.
~Hike on and have fun, alison
Storms brewing near the saddle between Mount Shavano and Tabeguache Mountain, CO