- Map and Compass / GPS – A map not only tells you where you are and how far you have to go, it can help you find campsites, water, and an emergency exit route in case of an accident. A compass can help you find your way through unfamiliar terrain-especially in bad weather where you can’t see the landmarks. Either one without the other is significantly less. While GPS units are extremely useful, always carry a map and compass as a backup.
- Whistle – Carry a whistle with exceptional loudness to be used to aid in rescue or to scare off black bears .
- Extra Water – Without enough water, your body’s muscles and organs simply can’t perform as well. Too little water consumed will not only make you thirsty, but susceptible to hypothermia and altitude sickness.
- Extra Food – Any number of things could keep you out longer than expected: a lengthy detour, getting lost, enjoying time by a stream, an injury, or difficult terrain. Extra food will help keep up energy and morale.
- Raingear and Extra Clothing – Because the weatherman is not always right, dressing in layers allows you to adjust to changing weather and activity levels. Two rules: avoid cotton (it keeps moisture close to your skin) and always carry a hat. Remember in the smokies the weather can change at anytime .
- Firestarter and Spare Matches – The warmth of a fire and a hot drink can help prevent hypothermia. And fires are a great way to signal for help if you get lost.
- First Aid Kit – Prepackaged first aid kits for hikers are available at any outfitter. Increase your first aid skills by taking a class with the American Red Cross or Wilderness First Aid classes .
- Knife or Multi-purpose Tool – These enable you to cut strips of cloth into bandages, remove splinters, fix broken eyeglasses, and perform a whole host of repairs on malfunctioning gear-not to mention cut cheese and open cans. Also for protection !
- Flashlight and Extra Batteries – You will need a light to help you find your way in the dark and, if necessary, signal for help. Sometimes your hike can run into longer times than you expect so always be prepared for the worst .
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