Essential Hiking Gear for Beginners
Whenever we set out on a day hike in the hills, there is always a particular thought at the back of my mind. It always occurs to me that if anything were to happen to one of us, somebody (or a team of people) may well have to risk their own safety in order to help us. Therefore it is only right that we do everything we can to prepare and look after ourselves. Of course accidents happen, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t take every possible precaution.
This means dressing appropriately, having enough food and water and researching the route. But more importantly it means carrying some basic safety equipment and, crucially, knowing how to use it.
I’m going to cover what I think is the essential hiking gear that everyone should carry in addition to food, water and clothing.
First Aid Kit
I never go on a walk without a first aid kit. When packing your kit, bear in mind that it needs to perform two main functions. Firstly, you need to be able to deal with minor injuries, for example cuts and grazes, blisters, sprains, insect bites and splinters. Secondly, you need to be able to treat more serious injuries, like stabilising a broken bone.
Here’s a brief run down of what is in my hiking first aid kit:
- Plasters & blister plasters
- microporous tape
- wound dressings
- triangular bandage and safety pins
- wound cleaning wipes
- crepe bandage
I will also often take some basic medication, i.e. paracetamol, rehydration sachets, insect bite cream and antiseptic cream or spray. If it is hot I will also take suncream and on longer hikes it is advisable to have some water purification tablets with you.
Here’s a few more of my hiking safety essentials:
It may be light when you head out, but from October -March the light fades very quickly. A good torch can help you find your way home if you get caught out, or can help you attract attention in event of an emergency.
A foil blanket is so cheap, takes up so little space and yet could save your life. A great way to keep a casualty warm, or keep you cosy if you find yourself in bad weather with no shelter.
I love our Vango Storm Shelter 200. Not only could it prove vital in an emergency, but we also plan to use it on day hikes if we need somewhere dry and warm to eat our lunch or change Finn.
Map and Compass
As with so much safety equipment, it’s no use just carrying a map and compass, you need to know how to use them. Look out for navigational courses (Cotswold Outdoor & Ordnance Survey sometimes run free workshops) or google it!
I’m a bit of a dinosaur, I prefer to use a map rather than sat nav, but I still always have my phone on me. Signal might be patchy in the back of beyond, but even cheap phones tend to have a decent GPS on them. If not it’s easy to download an app (I use Viewranger) to help you navigate. It’s nice to have a backup when my sense of direction fails me!
With smart phone batteries seemingly lasting a matter of minutes these days (or so it seems!), a powerbank is a great bit of kit. I swear by my VARTA portable phone charger and always have one in my rucksack. It means I can use my phone all day and not have to worry about the battery. This power bank will charge a phone twice (or a tablet once) in about 2 hours.
Small, cheap and a hell of a lot easier than shouting. If you need to attract attention a whistle could make all the difference.
What safety equipment do you always carry? Have I missed anything?
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