The secret to staying safe while hiking is preparation

Whenever you head outdoors for an adventure, preparation is the key. Make sure you pack more than a water bottle and a snack. Whether you’re planning a short nature walk or a major overnight camping trip, it’s important to pack properly for outdoor excursions of any length.

Your phone can be part of those preparations. These hiking apps can help you find your way and navigate the trails. Plus, when you have a signal during your hike, it’s smart to check in occasionally so friends and family members know you’re safe. Before you go, make sure you tell them where you’ll be hiking and when you expect to return. Let them know if you change any of your plans.

Ready to get ready? Here are 10 items you should always take with you when you head into the wilderness.

1. Hydration

water bottle in backpack
Always make sure you carry plenty of water. (Photo: Syda Productions/Shutterstock)

It’s easy to become dehydrated during a hike, especially if you’re hiking in warm weather, so bring plenty of water. You can also pack a water filter or purifying tablets if you’ll be near a water source.

2. Nutrition

Hiking requires a lot of energy, so you’ll burn calories quickly and will need to refuel. You’ll have to carry your food, so pack nourishing, lightweight snacks like granola bars, trail mix, nuts or dried fruit.

3. First-aid kit

Bring along a small first-aid kit even on short hikes. At a minimum, the kit should contain bandages, antiseptic, tape and painkillers like ibuprofen.

4. Navigation

map and compass
Make sure you know how to read your map and compass before you head out on your adventure. (Photo: Rawpixel.com/Shutterstock)

Bring along a detailed map and a compass to help you navigate, and keep your map in a sealable plastic bag to protect it from the rain. Before you head out on your adventure, make sure you know how to use the map and compass.

5. Sun protection

It’s easy to burn even on cloudy days, so apply sunscreen before you head outdoors and bring some with you. Also, sunglasses are important, especially if you’re hiking in snow or above the treeline.

6. Insulation

Weather can change quickly, especially if you’re hiking in the mountains, so dress appropriately and bring rain gear and items you can add for warmth.

7. Illumination

woman wearing headlamp
A flashlight or headlamp can be very important when things get dark. (Photo: ZoneCreative/Shutterstock)

It gets dark in the woods, so pack a light source like a flashlight or a headlamp, as well as some extra batteries.

8. Fire starter

You may not expect to build a fire, but bring along waterproof matches just in case. If you’re hiking in a rain-prone area, pack a chemical fire starter or even some dryer lint to use in case you can only find wet kindling.

9. Pocketknife or multiuse tool

These simple tools can be used for everything from cutting bandages to repairing gear, so pack one just in case.

10. Backpack

You’ll need something to carry all these supplies. Look for a waterproof pack with a hip belt to help support the pack’s weight. It’s important to find a pack that fits you well and can hold all your supplies, so do your research or visit an outdoors store where employees can help you get properly fitted.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated with new information since it was published in October 2014.

The secret to staying safe while hiking is preparation

Whether you’re planning to camp overnight or hike for only a few hours, make sure you’re prepared before you hit the trail.

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