A Guest Blog by Evan Greenwald, Outreach Associate at Monongahela National Forest. From navigation basics and water to first aid, nutrition, and more, here are Evan’s “essentrails” for a successful hike around the Deep Creek Lake area… plus a few of his favorite local hiking spots!
Navigation: I always bring a map of the area I’m hiking and a compass instead of a GPS. This is due to dying batteries, lacking GPS signal, and I like to think I’m a nature purest.
My personal compass is a Suunto MC-2 Pro Compass. I like it for its multi-use aspect. It has a signal mirror, as well as a magnifying lens. Also the clear backing makes it easier to navigate using a map. It also folds down to tuck in a smaller pocket of your pack saving room for other goodies.
Sun Protection: I get a sunburn from standing too close to the fridge light while the door is open. So I always bring sunscreen and sunglasses. (Plus sunglasses make me look mysterious). I really like Oakley sunglasses but any polarized pair will do. For sunscreen I go with anything SPF 30 (since anything over that is fake and doesn’t do anything more than a 30 would).
I use Oakley Frogskins when I’m out on the trail. They are polarized to protect my eyes from harmful radiation from the sun and they help you see through water better to get a look at fish and such which is helpful when trout fishing.
Insulation: As elevation changes so does weather, and rain can happen anywhere anytime. I always pack at least one extra layer for a day out on the trail. I would say anything made of synthetic material is good. I always try to kill as many birds with as few stones as I can so I try to make one of my layers raingear. This limits the amount of space I take up in my pack.
I use Frogg Toggs raingear when I head out on my adventures. The main reason is price. You can get a full rain suit for around 20 bucks. The other reason it because it folds up pretty small and comes with a carrying case. This just makes for easier storage and space saving. They are also pretty lightweight but keep you fairly warm. Obviously the amount of layers you are going to bring changes with season, but for peak summer best case scenario I at least have my Frogg Toggs.
Illumination: I like to make sure I have some source of light in my pack no matter how long I plan on being out. This is because not everything goes according to plan and the trail gets really dark without the sun. It becomes all too easy to get turned around and lost.
I use a Petzl headlamp as my light source. This is because it is small for packing into my pack and when I go to use it it’s completely hands free. I also like this lamp because it is waterproof for if it rains or gets dunked in a creek. It also has a strobe feature which is helpful in an emergency situation and saves battery life.
First-Aid Supplies: No matter how far in advance you plan and schedule your hike, accidents can happen. That’s why I always bring a pre-assembled first-aid kit in my pack. I always make sure I have bandages, gauze, medical tape, an Ace bandage, antibiotic ointment, burn/sting cream, aspirin, a pair of medical scissors, and a tweezer.
You can buy a simple pre packed first-aid kit for around 20 dollars from really anywhere. I choose based on its contents and size, but if you are worried you can have a really big kit…
Fire: It is always a good idea to have a way of making of fire packed with you. Again, even if you don’t plan on being out after dark or overnight, Mother Nature may have different plans for your trip. Fire is an excellent source of heat and a great way to signal in the event of an emergency.
I use the Gerber 31-000699 survival fire starter. I like it because of its small size and safety rope so you can wear it around your neck for safe keeping. It also has a small waterproof chamber to store tinder in so you always have a dry source to start a fire with. Plus, Bear Grylls has his initials on it…
Repair Kit/Tools: It is always a good plan to have some tools on hand when out. You may need them for first-aid, food preparation, or making kindling for a fire. Plus, if you have an issue with any of the other things you may bring i.e. trekking poles, backpack frame, tent, inflatable mattress, etc.
I carry a Gerber Legendary Blades Suspension Multi-Tool. I like this because it is an entire set of tools in a compact light design. It also comes with a carry case that can attach to your belt. This frees up more space in my pack (for snacks…it’s always for snacks). It has 12 tools including screwdrivers, pliers, can opener, and knives.
Nutrition: Always have food…Even when you aren’t in the woods…Hiking can take a lot out of people especially when there is large changes in elevation. You can burn more calories than you realize and quickly start feeling it.
I usually bring a bag of trail mix or granola bars with me when I’m on the trail. They are a good source of protein and carbs to help burn while you are hiking. Other good ones are energy bars, jerky, or dried fruit.
Hydration: Along with your calories you are burning off you are also sweating out all of your body’s water supply. This can happen very quickly on long hikes in the heat especially. You should plan to have at least 2 liters of water per person on the trail.
I carry a 3 liter Condor Hydration Bladder in my pack. I like using it because I can slide it in my pack and have the straw on my strap so I don’t have to constantly stop to drink. It also has an insulating layer on the straw to keep the water cool.
Emergency Shelter: Whether you plan on sleeping under the stars or not you should at least give yourself the option to be out of the elements. That’s why you should always have a plan for a shelter or an actual physical shelter in your pack. This can be dependent on your level of hiking you plan to accomplish that day. If it’s a day hike just knowing how to construct a simple lean-to should suffice. If you are on a backcountry excursion however you should have an actual shelter with you. You can distribute the pieces among the people you are hiking with to lighten the load.
I use a hammock camping system made by Serac. It includes a double size hammock, camping cover, and mosquito net. I like this because it comes in 3 small packable carry bags to fit neatly in my pack. It also keeps me off the ground in wetter conditions and is way more comfortable than sleeping on the rock hard ground.