By Christine Reed - adventurer, author and Walking Connection hiking guide.
There is a tried and true list - the "10 Essentials" for hiking, that's been around since the 1930's. Originally created and released to encourage the average person to get outside safely. The list is as follows:
Map - Compass - Sunglasses and Sunscreen - Extra clothing - Headlamp or Flashlight
First-aid supplies - Firestarter - Matches - Knife - Extra food
When I first started hiking, I didn't know about this list and I found myself in many predicaments. After many sunburns, one brush with snow blindness, several frozen hands and a few times being benighted on a trail, I finally said "I need to just keep my day pack loaded with the essentials so I don't forget something EVERY time!"
Lo and behold, a list of the essentials wasn't an original idea.
When I first found this standard list of essentials, some of it felt a little like overkill. A map? A compass? I'm not going on an arctic expedition, I'm hiking a Front Range trail in Colorado with 200 other people on a Saturday morning. Firestarter? What do I need that for?
But now, only a few years later there are many "Updated 10 Essentials" lists out there, that present different takes on what you might need depending on what kind of hiking you are doing. And it is pragmatic as a day hiker not to carry the things you don't need, while also not underestimating the potential situations you could find yourself in on a short, popular, familiar trail.
So the best advice I can give the casual hiker is to start with the 10 Essentials, consider where you are hiking and how familiar you are with the area, think about what you might need as well as what those around you might need.
These days I do hike with sunglasses and sunscreen-- every time! I never leave home without a headlamp (I actually have several that live in my different backpacks and one in my vehicle.) I always remember gloves and a hat, and I have a 99 cent plastic poncho that lives in my pack. I carry a mini first aid kit (useful even if you don't have training) and I never leave home without plenty of snacks and water.
Some lessons must be learned the hard way -- and like me, you may find yourself hiking out of the rim of Grand Canyon in late May with frozen hands clutching your trekking poles, thinking to yourself, "how could I have known it would snow?" BUT -- if you had just kept your standard kit packed as always, you would have been ready with gloves, even in a freak weather cycle.
Christine Reed is the author of 'Alone In Wonderland',
a hiking adventure memoir not to be missed.