By Jack Russillo · 2 years ago
When your life depends on it…
That’s when you most wish you’d brought along that important piece of equipment you left at home.
Along with helping you learn about travel, the Voyage team wants you to be as prepared as possible when adventuring out of your comfort zone.
To help you get the most out of your experiences, whether it’s a week-long backpacking trip or a day hike through the forest, this list has been created to improve your preparedness for most any trek. A few of the following items may seem obvious to the casual lover of the outdoors. For others, they may be unfamiliar chunks of metal and plastic stitched together, used for God knows what. Regardless of your experience with any of these tools, they’re listed here because they can turn a dire situation into a survivable one.
During my first extensive backpacking trip under my own power, I learned very quickly how other parts of my body can get sore aside from my legs. Each time I had to sip water—which was often, as the Wonderland Trail kicked my late-teen ass frequently—I was forced to dismantle my entire backpack to reach my water bottle. Doing that repeatedly sucked up hiking time and much-needed energy. Since then, I always make sure to pack my two-liter Camelbak bladder when I depart for a hike. The weight distribution helps ease my back muscles while allowing for easy access to my water. Refilling the bladder is simple, and it makes the journey easier as you go since you’re sucking weight out of your backpack.
When it comes to longer, excursions, body-heat regulation becomes an important factor. Excessive heat leads to the loss of key bodily liquids and nutrients, harmful overexposure of skin, and increased fatigue. To help ward off the heat, a gaiter acts as the bandage that protects a bare part of your body that affects us more than almost any other—the neck. The neck is the part of the body most vulnerable to the sun’s rays and the gaiter helps to fend against intense UV exposure that would otherwise have tiring effects on the body. During cold-weather outings, the gaiter mitigates wind damage and locks in heat that would typically be allowed to escape. Aside from wicking moisture—which holds more heat than normal air and can freeze at colder temperatures—the gaiter can also be soaked and used as a dampened towel to cool down during a hot summer hike.
Forget water purification packets. The best way to drink water is to do so directly from the melting glaciers that you’ve just hiked to, but it’s important to take the proper precautions to ensure that you don’t leave with a bout of giardia or dysentery. To make sure you get back down the mountain safely, bring along a personal water filtration system to drink the freshest water available while staying safe. While a pump filter is handier for cleaning larger amounts of water, straw style filters are lighter in weight and work well for a single person. I’ve had my LifeStraw for a few years now and it works wonderfully for me. Some of the best water I’ve ever tasted has come through that little blue piece of plastic.
These are great for hiking in any season. Not only is it another method of carrying water that you know is clean, it’s a way to keep it at any desired heat. For alpine ascents, a pre-made cup of hot tea makes the early morning shivers disappear while a sip of ice-cold water in the middle of the day after hiking miles under the hot sun is the best remedy for the weariness of a long day’s trek. These containers often are a bit heavier than traditional water bottles, but if you’re deciding what luxuries on the trail, temperature-regulated liquids should be at the top of your list. There are many different types of thermos, but any time I head ou, I make sure to bring my Hydro Flask with me.
This one might be a little strange to some, but it’s a wonderful plant! Although this mint plant is only in season during the warmer months of the year, it can be dried to save for future use. Lavender is useful because it has been known to repel insects like moths and mosquitoes. This means that on longer trips when you go days without showering, you won’t have to keep walking around in 48-hour-old bug spray. Instead, just stick a few flowers on your backpack and start hiking. After a couple of hard, sweaty days, your tentmate will likely be grateful you included the plant on your packing list.
To make sure you cover as many bases as possible, get a knife with a serrated edge. The different textures will make cutting sticks exponentially easier and will usually preserve the integrity of the blade as well. From fending off vicious animals in the wilderness (hopefully it doesn’t come to that) to skinning tree bark to make rope, this classic tool is a must for anybody venturing into nature. For brand suggestions, my Gerber Gear pocket knife that I’ve taken on every hike during the last two years has yet to fail me.
If you’ve ever tried doing a snow hike in tennis shoes, then you likely already know what I’m talking about. Crampons provide the essential traction that is needed to get, well, anywhere on a snowy trail. Any trail that has at least a slight incline is dangerous to attempt without the grip that comes with wearing crampons. Sure, traction spikes often get the job done, and those are perfectly acceptable. But in order to ascend any icy or snowy slope that even resembles a hill, crampons are the best option. They offer the most stability and allow you to practice basic mountaineering tactics. Additionally, they can double as a gruesome murder weapon if you encounter a yeti on the mountain. My Black Diamond crampons were pretty affordable and have worked well so far. From what I’ve seen, they’re solid for anything non-technical.
Did we miss anything critical? Do you have a handy tool that you ensure is always in your backpack? Reach out and let us know!