Preparing for a Hike
Before you go on your hike, thoroughly familiarize yourself with the area on a map. Know which direction you should walk to get to a highway that you can't miss, which direction to go (right or left) to get to the nearest town if you have to go to the road. If there isn't a highway, is there another backdrop like a river, train tracks or power lines that you can't miss if you walk in one direction. Again, make sure you know which way to turn. Next, let someone know where you are going and what time you expect to be back so they can call for help if you do not return by that time.
Wear or take clothing with you that is appropriate not only for the weather and temperature you will be hiking in, but the temperature it could drop down to overnight should you become lost. Clothing worn against your skin should be made of wicking material. Also consider wearing or taking wool outer garments.
Take enough water with you for the hike which includes enough to get to another water source to use your water filter.
Takes some high calorie snacks like GORP or meal(s) for your day hike as you can easily expend 400 or more calories per hour while day hiking. Hiking with low blood sugar can increase your chances of making mistakes and increase the time it takes to complete your hike, or worse.
If you get off the trail.. STOP. Remember this acronym
Sit - You may be anxious, panicked, or even afraid. but don't let fear take control of you. Many hikers have perished (even when they had everything they needed and were not far from the trail) because they failed to just stop, think, observe and plan.
Think/Observe - How did I get off the trail? Did I walk down a wash instead of the trail? Can I back track to get back on the trail? Do I know what direction the trail goes. i.e. north to south ? Do I know which direction I went off the trail? Do I have a way to orient myself? If I walk in an oriented direction, will that put me back on the trail? Or, am I completely lost with no to get back to the trail? What do I have with me to help my situation?
Plan - Will you stay put or will you attempt to get back on the trail? If staying put, you need to make a plan to shelter in place and secure water, build a signal fire, mark an opening with a signal that can be seen from the air, put out a bright cloth (bandanna) that might be seen from the air. If attempting to get back to the trail, mark your current location to help a rescue team find where you realized you left the trail. Leave marks (such as arrows made from stones, pine cones, or wood shaped like arrows) showing your direction of travel. For average hikers, the best course of action is almost always to stay put and let rescue come to you. Only consider moving should there be no hope that rescue will come looking for you or will be able to find you.
Things to bring above and beyond what you will need for your day hike
Rain poncho - To protect you from the unexpected rain storm, to provide shelter should you need it (use with emergency blanket)
Emergency Space Blanket - To provide warmth if needed and used as a thermal barrier between you and the ground. Can be used in conjunction with rain poncho as a shelter.
50 feet of 550 paracord - To provide cordage to create shelter, along with other potential uses.
Multi tool - cutting tool you can use with other potential uses.
A lighter and a box of wind/waterproof matches. Always have at least two or more ways to start a fire. When suffering from hyperthermia it becomes hard to use your fingers, having a lighter could make a difference. However, a lighter may not work if it becomes wet so another way is needed.Learn to use a ferro rod.
Mini water filter that can remove 99.99999% of all bacteria and protozoa. This can be used with a straw to drink directly out of a stream, and will attach to your water bottles and bags. Having a way to make potable water could save your life. After maintaining your core temperature, water will be your biggest need.
2 to 3 Empty liter bags to collect water - Being able to collect two to three liters of water can prevent you from being dehydrated before you find your next water source should it be absolutely necessary to move.
Nutrition bars. Look for ones that are the highest in protein and carbs. While you can go 21 or more days without food, when your blood sugar drops it becomes harder to do everything.
Mini flashlight with strobe - It's dark in the woods. Use sparingly, however, when rescue is looking for you in the dark this can bring them right to you.
1" x 1" signal mirror - It is very difficult to see a person on the ground from the air. Use the mirror to signal a rescue aircraft.
Whistle - Since the sound of a whistle carries much further than your voice, it can help rescuers find you.
Large brightly colored bandana (our favorite is hunter orange) - If you can't stay in an opening, putting a bright bandanna out can help you get spotted. It also has many other uses.
Button Compass -If you familiarized yourself with the area prior to your hike, you may be able to hike out based on your knowledge of where backdrops are that will lead you to civilization.