Actually, our experience on the Beaver Creek Trail made me realize that you are always about 2 seconds away from disaster on a mountain -- a fall, an injury, heatstroke, illness. When you are hours away from civilization and out of cell phone range it is kind of scary to think about what you would do if something like that happened! Another experience we had made me realize that I don't in any way, shape or form want to be stuck on a mountain at dark. We were hiking Black Forest Section 16 which is an easy four mile trail where you are never far from a road. We left a little late and it started to get dark after we got about half way around the trail. Every pile of wood started to look like a bear to me (I have bear on the brain). There are no bears in black forest that I know of. Before long it was pitch dark and you couldn't see at all. We had a small flashlight, but it didn't help much. We were able to find our way to the road and walk it back to the car. At least we weren't tripping over tree roots. It made us realize that if we were on a mountain as it started to get dark and no where near to getting off the mountain, you only have a small time before it will get very difficult to find wood, build a fire, a place to build one, etc. It also made us realize we'd want more than a little flashlight if we had to stay on the mountain at night for any reason.
So, we made up a list of things to have when we are out hiking in the mountains.
GPS: I would say this is essential. Willy carries the GPS. Before we got it, we got lost on Beaver Creek Trail and we weren’t sure we were on the right track to get back to the car. Stress causes funny things and being lost on a big mountain causes stress. So after that experience we got a GPS and it has saved us from getting lost dozens of times. It is extremely comforting to know you are on the right track. Just last weekend we took some alternative trails on the Dome Rock trail to avoid water crossings and weren’t entirely sure we were heading the right direction. The GPS let us know we were. I used to download the trails on to my phone, but it always went dead before we could finish our hike. Not useful. Willy also carries a compass and a trail map. The trail map is very important because the GPS could lead you on a path (as the crow flies) that is impassible. You have to have a topographical map to help you find your bearings among mountains.
WATER: We both always carry a water bottle. For very long hikes we both pack extra water – 2 bottles. I’m thinking that for a moderately long hike that you’ve never been on it is also a good idea to pack extra water. We could have used extra water at Beaver Creek. Willy carries water purification tablets as well.
FOOD: We pack snacks - usually grapes and cheese. For very long hikes we pack a lunch. I have to eat every couple of hours or I can get low sugar and I start to feel sick. I carry candy for my low sugar episodes. We also pack 3 – 4 protein bars for each person for emergencies.
FOOTWEAR: We always wear hiking boots. We both shopped around and ended up getting the same kind at Dicks. I think the brand is Keen. It has a hard toe and high tops and is very comfortable. I think it’s better if they are a tiny bit larger to compensate for socks. We both wear hiking socks. Willy’s feet get really hot and he is still experimenting with socks. He just bought some really thin silk socks to wear under his wool ones hoping that it would help with his specific problem. When we start running into more snow in the mountains (it’s already there in small amounts), I am going to get some yaktrax that fit onto your shoes and help with walking through snow and ice. In the summer when I was wearing shorts I got a lot of rocks in my shoes. Willy is going to buy me some hiking boot covers to prevent this. Since I am diabetic I have to be careful of my feet. There have been a couple of trails that we have had to cross rocky creek beds – once several times over. If I know about it I carry my watersocks. Last weekend the water was freezing so I don’t know what to do if we run into that in the winter. I’m guessing we will have to avoid those trails until we figure it out. I’ve looked online for water proof shoe covers; most are not completely water proof or are too bulky to carry along hiking.
EXTRA CLOTHES: I take a light rain/wind breaker that rolls up into its own pocket (summer). I carry a similar coat, but warmer in the winter. I have a fleece lined bandana that can be used in a lot of ways – around the neck, over the head, to cover the face. I also carry a winter hat (in winter) and a hat with a bill. We carry extra face masks. I didn’t have a hat at Beaver creek this summer and I think I got some heat sickness. I found last weekend I needed the winter knitted hat in the freezing weather of the morning along with the bandana and would have liked the billed hat in the afternoon to guard my eyes from the sun (by then I had packed the bandana). I carry a light pair of gloves because my hands get hot when I hike. I have a light pair of mittens to wear over them when it's really cold. When we hiked in the summer I rolled up some long armour wear (top and bottom) just in case we got stuck overnight. All extra clothes go in a Gallon zip-lock to keep them dry. Now that it is cold in the mornings I wear my extra clothes. I wear layers – usually have a short sleeved t--shirt, the under armour, a thin long sleeved shirt over, a hooded sweater over that, and a hooded coat over that. On the lower half I wear under armor and jeans. I’d like to get some convertible hiking pants one day. During the summer, some of the extra clothing goes in the bag in case I need it. During the fall and winter I wear it and I end up stripping parts of it off as we warm up and then it goes in the near empty backpack in a plastic ziplock bag. We always check the weather and decide what to wear and pack on the day we are to hike.
HIKING STICKS: My sister-in-law insisted I get these. I did not want them and didn’t see how they could be helpful – stubborn me. I thought they would just be one more thing to carry. After I fell a couple times and I got vertigo on the edge of a mountain I was having second thoughts. My sister-in-law got some for me for my birthday. I got the Black Diamond brand from REI. They were a little more than $100. It took a hike or two to get used to them, but now I REALLY like them. They have saved me from a couple more falls. Lots of trails are gravelly and have scree – it’s easy to slide on it. The sticks are invaluable in keeping your balance on uneven terrain, climbing hills (distributes the burden to your arms and legs), and coming downhill (spares your knees and helps you to negotiate steep downward steps). Even on even terrain they assist in distributing the work and help you to keep an even pace. I feel they help me to work out my whole person.
PHONE: I still bring my phone, but most of the time we are out of range on our hikes. I figure if someone got injured, if we were close to the top of the mountain, the other could hike to the top and call for help (if there was service). Plus I can use it for pictures if I am tired of carrying my camera. The pictures aren’t as good as when I use my camera though.
EMERGENCY STUFF: We each have a tiny emergency blanket and poncho. I have a swiss army knife, matches, flashlight and extra batteries (for the GPS and flashlight). We still don't have good flashlights. I want to get us each a head lamp. We each have a lighter and small candle in case we need to start a fire. We each carry an extra pair of socks in a sealed plastic bag. We both fell in the creek at Beaver Creek. It doesn’t help to carry extra clothes if they get wet. Lol! We have a Cord/rope we could use to tie food up away from bears, make a tent out of our blankets, or whatever. I like to have extra ziplock gallon bags for shed clothes, trash, etc. Willy has a small plastic sheet. This could be used to separate us from wet ground if necessary. I carry basic first aid and CPR instructions. I just copied them off the internet.
FIRST AID KIT: We packed a first aid kit up with bandaids, medical tape, a bandage, some Tylenol/motrin, roll-on benedryl for itch relief, clariton for allergies, and an ankle brace. I have a few wet ones and a small bar of soap as well.
SAFETY: We take bear spray because I’m totally paranoid about bears-- have I said that before? I got some bear bells and may get one of those really loud whistles. It could come in handy to garner attention if we are in trouble. We do have normal whistles for that purpose. I carry sun block lip balm. The lip balm comes in handy if you get a little dehydrated or the sun burns your lips. We haven’t done it, but I think it would be a good idea to carry important pills that you take in case you end up in the mountains overnight.
COMFORT ITEMS: I always bring sun glasses and a case for them too. I bring Kleenex. Noses run when it’s cold. (-; I have a tiny spray bottle of hand sanitizer we use before we eat. Toilet paper comes in handy. I have a small bottle of bug spray, but I have only needed it once – on the Beaver Creek trail. We also have those little disposable toothbrushes that come with toothpaste pre-applied that you can get at the commissary. We carry a small face towel for our feet at stream crossings.
CAMERA - I have carried my SLR camera on many hikes but it is a pain. Now I have a small Nikon I bring that is much more practical, but the pictures aren't as fantasti, just super great. lol!
PACKED IN THE CAR: We also put a 2nd pair of shoes, socks and an extra outfit in the trunk. We haven’t used the extra clothes, but use the shoes and socks almost every time. It feels good to get the hiking boots off after a long hike. Willy likes to pack a cooler in the trunk with extra waters/sodas for after the hike. At Beaver Creek it totally saved us.
I sent this list to a friend who was going on a very long hike - like 16 miles or so up a mountain. His hiking companion told him he didn't need all this stuff -- you just needed to go! Well when my friend returned he told me that they saw scratch marks on the trees and smelled a musky bear smell and he and his friend were very glad to have the bear spray. lol! He also said that the hiking sticks saved him from falling many a times. I feel vindicated. (-;