I’ve had backpacking trips that included rain, snow, lightning, rockslides, altitude sickness, and twenty-mile days – all in a summer weekend. Wilderness trips can be dangerous, but you can make then less so, by having the following ten essentials in your backpack.
1. Knowledge. What good is a compass if you don’t know how to use it? Play with matches if your fire-making skills are shaky. Learn what to do when you see a bear. Read a little, practice a little – knowledge is more likely to save you than gadgets.
2. Map and compass. These are together, because that’s the way you need to use them.
3. Matches and lighter. Bring both, or waterproof matches and a fire starter of some sort. Having two ways to start a fire is much safer.
4. First aid kit. Buy a pre-packaged one or build your own. Make sure it has pain relievers, bandages, disinfectant, and notes on basic first aid procedures.
5. Foot care. Your first aid kit needs moleskin, and maybe a pin, to treat blisters. Your feet have to be well cared for when you’re hiking miles from the nearest road.
6. Water purification. A filter works, but...