10 Essential Hiking Tips From Adam Sawyer

KEEN Ambassador Adam Sawyer, author of the “Hiking Waterfalls in Oregon” guide book and hiking leader for our “Million Steps Hiking Sweepstakes,” shares his 10 most essential hiking tips with us.

It’s important to have a very healthy respect for Mother Nature when hiking. Conditions in Oregon are notorious for changing rapidly and with little or no warning. The “expect the best but prepare for the worst” adage is a great thing to keep in mind when you’re preparing to go into the wilderness.

Always let somebody know where you’re going and when you plan on being back. Know your limitations, and err on the side of caution. If conditions of any sort are making you uncomfortable, that’s a good sign to head back or take appropriate action. You can always return at a later date; it’s best if you live to hike another day. Also, be prepared. Whether you are new to hiking or a seasoned veteran, the ten essentials are something that all hikers should have on hand. Here is a list of the updated essential “systems” hikers should have on hand any time they go into the wilderness.

  1. Navigation: A map and a compass are mandatory. These can be augmented with things like altimeters and GPS units, but always have a map of the area and a compass.
  2. Sun protection: Bring sunglasses, sunscreen, and proper clothing, including a hat.
  3. Insulation: Will there be a blizzard on the Timberline Trail in July? Probably not. However, you should have whatever it takes to survive the worst conditions that can be reasonably expected. No matter the season, start your outfit with wicking gear: clothing that is not made of cotton and that can wick moisture away from the body. Dress in layers, especially in cooler weather. Pack extra socks. If things are going to be cold or wet, bring additional layers and rain gear. Whatever the conditions are, avoid cotton.
  4. Illumination: Flashlights, headlamps, and LEDs all work. It’s good to have a backup or spare batteries.
  5. First-aid supplies: It’s up to you whether or not to bring such things as allergy pills or latex gloves. At the very least you will need some gauze, bandages, tape, and pain meds. There are many prepackaged kits available that include everything from bare-bones basics to an outdoor aid station.
  6. Fire: This includes waterproof matches, disposable lighters, and chemical heat tabs.
  7. Repair kit and tools: A knife or multitool is fairly standard. Depending on what you’re doing, duct tape and rope can be handy as well.
  8. Nutrition: At least enough food for an extra day and night in the wilderness. Nutrition bars, jerky, nuts, and the like all work.
  9. Hydration: Always have at least a water bottle or water bladder/reservoir system. You should also have some sort of water treatment or filtration on hand.
  10. Emergency shelter: If you’re backpacking, the tent you’re carrying covers this one. If you’re taking a day hike, consider a space blanket, rain gear, or even a trash bag.

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