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Setting out on a multi-day trek is an exciting endeavor, for sure, but if you’re not prepared with the proper safety gear, you can have a bad time in a hurry. Even shorter hikes can pose dangers, especially if you’re hiking in remote terrain where you aren’t likely to encounter other hikers.
The good news is, hiking safety essentials come down to a small group of items, which should still leave plenty of room in your pack for hiking gear and whatever creature comforts you can’t live without. Each hiker will have their own ideas about “safety,” but general hiking safety gear includes first aid, food, shelter and water filtration.
Hiking Safety Legwork
You may notice that a few key things are missing from our list — and that’s by design. Certain items are highly personalized choices and will require some investigation and trial and error to determine how to best suit your own needs:
- Proper footwear: You will be on your feet for most of the day. You want to devote time and resources to finding the best pair of hiking boots that work for your feet, the load you’re carrying, and support any ongoing injuries or other issues. If you’re pushing serious mileage, a pair of custom insoles may not be a bad idea.
- Backpack: Same goes for what you’ll carry everything in. There are several great backpack companies, and you want to pick the right volume for what you’ll realistically bring. Heavier loads might require internal framing in a bag, while loads sub-40 liters might be okay without. It’s worth a trip to your local outdoor store to get properly fitted for a bag and talk with someone who has done your route or something similar.
- Shelter: There’s a certain amount of pride in only tent options, and you could potentially get away with just a hammock in the height of summer (unless you’re in mosquito country), but any other time of year likely calls for an enclosed space. There are ample one and two-person setups out there, with the more advanced and lightweight materials typically costing more.
So consider the following 11 items a solid starting point for your safety list. While you’re at the outdoor store getting fitted, ask the staff about their recommendations. Seasoned hikers have a way of knowing about those little unexpected mishaps, many of which can be prevented with a bit of pre-planning.
1. SOL Fire Lite Fuel-Free Lighter
BEST RECHARGEABLE FIRE STARTER
Fire is crucial on the trail, and there are several ways to go about it. One option is this weatherproof electric lighter with a rechargeable LED light on one end. The bonus is that it also includes a small rope that you can peel back to start as tinder when needed. It’s a lightweight convenience for a trail essential (just please be mindful of all local fire restrictions wherever you’re headed).
2. Ben’s Tick & Insect Wipes
QUALITY INSECT REPELLENT OPTION
Insect bites are more than just annoying — they can lead to serious issues during your trek and the days after. These wipes work to repel both ticks and mosquitoes (another double-duty way to save on space and weight). If deet isn’t your thing, several other solid options are available.
3. Garmin In-Reach Mini Satellite Communicator
BEST COMMUNICATIONS TOOL
If you’re leading a hiking expedition, then a reliable satellite communicator will ensure that you can always call for help in an emergency. This could be a lifesaver if a member of your group is lost or injured in the field. The Garmin In-Reach line of communicators aren’t satellite phones, but they do allow two-way text communication via the global Iridium network. For casual day hikers, this is obviously overkill, but for longer backpacking trips, we highly recommend this product. You will need to subscribe to the satellite network before your expedition.
4. Darn Tough Vermont Full Cushion Merino Sock
BEST MEN’S HIKING SOCKS
Socks as safety gear? That’s right. Without the right socks, you can quickly develop blisters that can make it difficult to walk, especially for inexperienced hikers. The right socks matter almost as much as the proper footwear, and there isn’t a better option than Darn Tough Vermont. Hikers far and wide know the value of the cushioning built into DTV’s hiker lines, and they last forever. On the rare occasion they fail, the company backs them with a lifetime guarantee. They’re worth the investment.
5. BioLite Headlamp 330
BEST HIKING HEADLAMP
There’s no use in fumbling around with a flashlight while trying to dig something out of your pack, so go hands-free with a quality headlamp. BioLite’s 330 is a solid choice with bright light, long battery life and plenty of good social measures that help extend the impact of your purchase.
6. LifeStraw Flex Advanced Water Filter with Gravity Bag
WATER FILTRATION SYSTEM
If you have the luxury of being near a water source during at least a portion of your trek, filtering along the way cuts down on the need to carry in all of your drinking supply. Some smaller filters pull directly from the source, but we find that a gravity filter is just more sensible. You can push water through as you need it and have a stationary source hanging from a tree or elsewhere.
Read More: Get the Famous LifeStraw For 50% Off
7. All Good Sport Sunscreen
BEST HIKING SUNSCREEN
Whichever direction you choose to go with sunscreen, make sure it’s one with as few chemicals in it as possible and one that is certified reef-safe. Keep in mind that any non-natural substances you bring into the wild may end up in the soil and water and that all play a role in the future of our precious outdoor spaces. All Good is a sensible choice that’s both protective and water-resistant.
8. AMK Mountain Hiker Medical Kit
BEST HIKING FIRST AID KIT
A good hiking first aid kit will combat blisters, minor aches, bumps, bruises and a splinter or bee sting. If you’re going into potential unknown wildlife territory, you may need to add a bit to the kit just in case of unwanted encounters.
9. Camp Chef Stryker Stove
BEST PORTABLE HIKING STOVE
Camp stoves have come a long way from the bulky Colemans of yesteryear (although those are great for car camping). This all-in-one system from Camp Chef breaks down into a portable unit and makes very efficient use of its small fuel source. If you’re part of a multi-person expedition, you can potentially link your stove to additional cooking surfaces to really get a trail feast going.
10. Columbia Bora Bora Booney
BEST HIKING HAT
Sunburns miles from civilization are no fun. Go full-brim when searching for a good hiking hat and find one that can also stand up to all of that eventual sweat. You can save on your total expenditure here, as evidenced by this solid option from Columbia. The side venting helps keep your noggin cool, and it includes built-in UPF 50 protection.
11. National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map Collection
A paper map is an excellent idea because paper maps don’t run on batteries. Whether stopping at the Forest Service office on the way out or spending a few bucks on a map, having an analog copy of your terrain is never a bad idea.