All it takes is watching one episode of North Woods Law or Googling the statistics of hiker rescues to realize that safety should always be the first priority when heading out into the wilderness. Overall, hiking is a safe recreational activity, location and experience level-dependent, of course. However, this doesn't mean that hikers won't find themselves in a bind, and without a proper safety kit or extra precautions taken, a bad situation can turn worse very quickly.
In order to avoid a stressful situation and in the name of being prepared, there are just some things that every hiker should have with them at all times.
Hiking App Or Alert System
This might not seem necessary in the slightest especially for a trail that you've hiked plenty of times before. However, it's the variables that we should always account for as hikers - the weather, the change in blaze markers, or the event that there's no one else on the trail or that we might get distracted or hurt.
A hiking app such as AllTrails can provide guidance, while a locator hiking app such as Cairn can give away our exact location while also sending a detailed hiking plan - with timestamps and GPS location - to a support circle.
Headlamp Or Flashlight
Hiking after dark is something that many people don't anticipate but end up doing by accident. This happens often when trying to reach mountain summits as the conditions, such as the elevation, the side of the trail that's away from and behind the sun, are not accounted for on a trip we think will take four hours, but actually takes six or eight.
In the event of this happening, don't panic - simply turn on your headlamp or flashlight and stay on-course, looking for the blazes. Don't rely on your phone for this, either, as it'll just zap the battery when you could be using it to call or text for help.
Protein Bars, Water, And Extra Non-Perishables
Let's say that during the trek through the woods at night, finding a way out with the headlamp takes longer than it should. In this case, extra food is a great source of protein, energy, and general sustenance.
Hikers may not anticipate eating that extra granola or protein bar but things do happen, and at least foraging for food won't be on the list of things to do. If nothing else, it'll keep a hike full until they get their bearings enough to keep going or stay put.
Extra Layers Of Clothing
During the excursion that turned into a hike that's twice as long as originally anticipated, extra layers of clothing can be the difference between hypothermia and comfortability.
We don't often account for the fact that higher elevations also mean cooler weather and, as the sun goes down, less daylight also means cooler temperatures. A spare sweatshirt, pair of leggings, gloves, a hat, or even thick socks can all be helpful.
Pocket Knife Or Tool Gadget
The use of a pocket knife or some kind of gadget tool simply can't be underestimated while hiking. Not only is it helpful in the event that you're stuck somewhere and need to make shelter, but it should also be part of everyone's first aid kit.
Cutting gauze or medical tape becomes far easier with a pocket knife, and opening a can of food can mean the difference between eating or going hungry for the night. In extreme situations, it can be used as a means of self-defense, as well.
A Tarp Or Temporary Shelter Materials
Preferably, a tarp that's brightly-colored so that a rescue team can easily find hikers is best. Something as simple as this weather-proof material can be used as a makeshift tent when hung over two tree branches or over a hollow tree log and will do the job for an overnight stay.
This can also help during sudden, severe rainstorms, as it will keep hikers dry until the weather lessens and they can start trekking again.
Some Type Of Signaling Device Such As Flares Or A Whistle
The same way that a roadside safety kit will have flares to signal an emergency situation, a hiker should be thinking the same way about their trip on foot.
While flares might seem excessive when hiking in a largely wooded area or a park that spans hundreds of acres, it's an easy way to signal an aircrew or nearby rescue teams that you're not far off. Alternatively, a whistle is a great, loud, audible signal that will alert anyone around you of where you are.