Safety essentials to bring in your backpack for your next hike

By Vanessa Racine, Canadian Red Cross
Heading out for a hike is a delightful way to explore nature. Whether you’re an occasional walker or a hiking aficionado, you’ll need specific equipment to be better prepared in an emergency. To determine what you need to bring on a hike, think about how far you plan to hike, how remote the location is and what the weather forecast has in store. What essential items do you keep in your backpack? This checklist will help you pack some key essentials for your next hike:
The basics – Essential items
  • Water and snacks - they’re a must for keeping your energy up while hiking. Opt for high-protein (nuts, cheese, protein bars, etc.) and calorie-rich (energy bars, dried fruit, etc.) foods that provide quick energy.
  • Emergency clothing - extra layers of synthetic fabrics or wool and a warm hat. Temperature and weather conditions can change quickly in the mountains
  • Sun protection – pack a hat or cap, sunglasses, sunscreen, a long-sleeve shirt, etc. Be mindful of prolonged exposure to UV rays. A sunburn or heatstroke can quickly spoil your hiking experience.
  • Insect protection - insect repellent spray, tick removal kit, loose clothing with long sleeves and legs, etc.
  • Fire-making supplies - a lighter or matches, pieces of wood and paper kindling. Flames have a thousand and one uses—to boil water, cook, provide heat and light, and to help locate you in an emergency. Please adhere to fire restrictions in your region.
  • Knife - including a locking blade, corkscrew, saw, screwdriver, and tweezers – for a thousand of uses.
  • Light – a headlamp or flashlight with extra batteries.
  • Whistle – one that is shrill, works in cold and wet conditions, with sound that carries through a storm or wind.
  • Mobile Phone – make sure it’s fully charged and bring a back-up power source to recharge.
 A woman with a green backpack, sitting on a rock, looking at the landscape of mountains with colorful trees
And for any eventuality
  • Navigation aids – a quality compass and area map. Make sure you can read the map and the route you have before leaving. Also, make sure you’re not relying on your phone for a map, as you won't have access to a network in some places.
  • Itinerary - shared with a friend or family member: Before heading out onto the trails, take a moment to let someone know which trail you plan to take and when you expect to be back. In the event of an emergency, this simple precaution will be invaluable to search and rescuers.
  • First aid kit - a must in the outdoors. You can either purchase a ready-made kit or prepare your own by gathering the necessary items in a small watertight bag, including medication.
  • Survival blankets - they are readily available in outdoor stores. Even if you are unlikely to need one, it can be very handy in an emergency. And since a survival blanket is ultralight and packs up very small, you’ll barely even notice it in your backpack.
During a hike, common wilderness ailments include blisters, heat exhaustionhypothermia, and cuts, scrapes and breaks. With some planning and preparedness, you can be ready to respond no matter how far from home you are.
Of course, you’ll also personalize your packing list to contain the supplies and equipment you’ll rely on when far from home. Your gear packing will also depend on the environment, weather, and activities you’re planning.
Happy hiking!
Canadian Red Cross wilderness and remote first aid courses teach you essential skills and provide guidance for planning, preventing injury, promoting safety, and responding to emergencies in isolated environments. Learn essential first aid skills and safety planning for your next adventure. Find a course near you at

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