People who live outdoors most of their life find ways to not get lost. Case in point: last weekend, I went hiking with my girlfriend in the woods where she grew up. Two seconds into the bush and I was lost. I was stunned: you always hear about people getting lost in the woods, but you never really understand how easy it is until you actually stand in the middle of a clearing and realize that every patch of forest looks pretty much the same. And the trail? You can’t see it anymore.
We didn’t get lost, because my girlfriend grew up basically a forest person, and she actually knows her way around a bunch of trees the way we know our way around city streets. But it got me thinking: as city folk, we’re really screwed as far as going out to the woods. But it got me thinking — if I were to ever go back out into the woods, I’d need to be prepared.
So beyond the essentials: food, water, backpack, what are some of the necessary ingredients to a successful outdoor adventure?
Well, for one thing, you’ll need…
SOMETHING TO WALK IN
The outdoors is a filthy place. You think those streets downtown are covered in dirt? Well, the hiking trail are made of dirt, and sometimes straight-up mud. So one thing that you will defnitely need is a good pair of warm, waterproof hiking boots. Ditto a pair of good hiking socks.
Pictured: Scarpa Kailash GTX, $209
SOMETHING TO START A FIRE WITH
You’re going to want to bring matches, carried in a waterproof container. Lighters are more convenient, but can fail more easily, so it’s better to have the matches on hand.
Also, consider bringing along a FireSteel, a magnesium-based firestarter. Its striker can produce a 3000o C spark, just about anywhere.
SOMETHING FOR EMERGENCIES
You’re going to want to bring an emergency pack, including a well-packed first aid kit. The size and expense of these packs will vary based on the length of your trip, but definitely pick up a first aid kit with all of the essentials.
SOMETHING TO CLEAN YOUR WATER WITH
That means Water Purifying tablets, and, if something happens to those, bring something to boil water in.
SOMETHING TO KEEP THOSE ANIMALS AT BAY
Sometimes, the worst thing about nature is the nature. Last weekend, we lay on the grass and looked up at the stars. In the city, you can’t see the Milky Way, which is a glorious, awe-inspiring sight. By contrast, in the country, all you can see are clouds of mosquitoes. So pack a good bug spray.
If you’re in the right place for it, you might also want to consider bear spray. A good bear spray is advertised as such (don’t pick up just any pepper spray), and is effective at deterring bear attacks from up to 30 feet.
SOMETHING TO GEAR UP WITH
You’ll want a knife with a full tang, i.e a single, continuous blade, not one segmented into parts. You’ll want a knife with a durable handle; a knife with a hollow handle, or with built-in gadgets like compasses might snap or break off.
Also, pack about 50 yards of Paracord, which can help whenever you need to tie anything or help yourself up and down hills and small cliffs.
A whistle comes in handy in rescue situations–you can use it to make noise to warn animals away, and as a way to alert rescuers to your location. Ditto a signaling mirror, which can reflect light.
For those situations where you are lost, you’ll want a space blanket. It should be light, durable, and made from reflective Mylar. A good space blanket shields you from the wind and the elements, prevents hypothermia and even lets you direct the heat if your fire back onto you for more warmth.
Obviously, bring a compass too. This is the obvious one. When matched with a map and used properly, a compass lets you know where you are, and what direction you need to go,
You’ll also want to pack a roll of duct tape, with which you can repair just about anything — a tear in your tent, sleeping bags, etc.
SOMETHING TO COMMUNICATE TO THE OUTSIDE WORLD WITH
You’re going to want to bring your cell phone, and some back-up batteries. If you’re really panicky about communication, you can invest in a SPOT messenger, a communicator that uses satellite to contact emergency services. These are a bit pricy, however. Another option is a portable CB radio.
A small touchscreen GPS is de rigeur as well, and could mean the difference between getting a little lost and getting really lost.
And when it’s that easy to get lost out there, that’s an important distinction to be able to make.