More people get into trouble when day hiking than backpacking, kayaking or any other activity. People head out with the intention of doing a quick hike then returning to the city. They travel light but by doing so find themselves ill-equipped to handle emergency situations when they arise. When it comes to hiking it seems that a Visa card is the one thing that you can leave home without. The following is a list of essentials which no hiker should ever forget.

 

Checklist

  • Flashlight with fresh batteries. Can be used as a signal at night as well as a source of light.
  • Whistle. A whistle can be used to contact rescuers or other hikers across a distant valley even in thick forest cover. Three whistle blasts or three of anything for that matter, including shotgun blasts, signal fires or logs in a triangular pattern, is an international distress signal.
  • Waterproof matches AND lighter. A lighter is useless when wet. Keep matches and lighter in a waterproof container.
  • Firestarter or candle can be very helpful getting the fires started during inclement weather. Usually small, dry twigs can be found close to the trunk of small trees. Ostensibly rotten red cedar logs often contain dry, pitch impregnated wood just under the moss and decay. Use a pocketknife to shave thin strips of wood which can be used as firestarter.
  • Pocketknife. The uses are manifold.
  • A large orange plastic bag can be used as a waterproof sleeping bag and signal flag.
  • Water and food. A selection of granola bars, energy bars and the like will go a long way towards reducing the misery of a couple nights in the bush.
  • Extra clothes including a wool sweater, long pants but not jeans, waterproof shell with hood or hat. Wool stays warm when wet. Cotton including denim robs the body of heat when wet. Breathable fabrics like gortex are far superior to just a plastic or nylon windbreaker and are priced accordingly. Hypothermia is the enemy.
  • First aid kit and first aid course, not in that order.
  • Compass, topographical map and the skills to use them.
  • Common sense.

The End


Dentalia

Dentalia Shells

These thin, tubular mollusks formed the currency of commerce throughout the Pacific Northwest as long as 3000 years ago. Pre-European civilization is often considered a barter economy, with, for instance, coastal tribes swapping oolichan grease directly for prized Oregon obsidian. Commodity traders, however, could rely on this wampum to close a transaction when interest in the goods was decidedly one-sided. Called hykwa in Chinook jargon, dentalia shells possessed all the necessary attributes of money, being portable, recognizable and durable but rare and desirable enough to foster trade. Being available in a variety of sizes, the tusk-like shells were even divisible into small change. Professional traders are known to have tattooed measuring lines on their forearms as a handy calculator of individual shell values. Only a handful of groups, including the Nuu-chah-nulth in the vicinity of Tofino, possessed dentalia in quantities sufficient enough to make them wealthy. Harvesting the deep water mollusks was no easy undertaking however. From a dugout canoe a long, broom-like apparatus was thrust straight down into the muddy sea bottom then retrieved. With any luck a shell or two would be trapped amongst the stiff twigs at the end of the handle. Dentalia were also ostentatiously displayed as symbols of wealth and power in the form of body adornments. Perhaps most recognizable are the breast plates invariably worn by cheesy Hollywood Indians.

Illustration by Manami Kimura