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


Krumholtz

Krumholtz

Trees clustered together in the sub alpine stand a much better chance of surviving the harsh conditions. Called krumholtz, these tree islands are miniature ecosystems unto themselves, providing mutual protection against the elements while acting as a catch basin for moisture. A krumholtz provides habitat for lesser plant species as well as insects, birds and mammals big and small. Usually trees in the krumholtz, German for "crooked wood," are old if not ancient, stunted by a short growing season, harsh weather and a paucity of nutrient-rich soil. Branches tend to flourish on the downwind side only.

Illustration by Manami Kimura