What to Carry on Day Hikes
People often ask what you should carry on day hikes. Here’s a list of the stuff I dumped out of my backpack to get it ready for cleaning:
  • 100oz hydration pack, filled with water even on a short, easy hike
  • small first-aid kit
  • comb, for removing cholla branches
  • LED head lamp. Got to remember to check those batteries!
  • mostly-depleted roll of toilet paper, with a lightweight hand shovel
  • mostly-depleted roll of duct tape
  • small multi-tool
  • compact digital camera
  • compass. Although I feel obliged to carry one, I never look at it. Desert navigation is by landmarks. Just remember that in Arizona, the sun is in the south at mid-day. You can also navigate by the moon and stars.
  • map, unless I have the trail memorized
  • hand-held GPS, carried in a little case on the top of the backpack
  • whistle, signal mirror, and LED signal light
  • cell phone, with a list of telephone numbers
  • extra car key
  • emergency information: my prescription list, and doctors’ business cards
  • two days’ supply of my prescription meds.
If there will be steep grades, boulder scrambling, or bushwhacking, I use a pair of walking sticks to save my knees and wear work gloves to protect my hands.
In my car I keep:
  • large first-aid kit plus instruction book
  • a complete change of clothes. When the hike is far from home, changing into clean, dry clothes greatly improves the drive back. Change your shoes and socks, at least.
  • some freeze-dried food and emergency equipment, in case I get stranded
  • gallon jug of purified water
  • on hot days, an insulated jug of purified ice water, with plastic cups
I use my GPS only as a recording device. It’s a simple-minded model that doesn’t include maps but does an adequate job of recording latitude and longitude and downloading the tracks and waypoints to a computer using the TOPO software from National Geographic. If you are carrying a hand-held GPS for navigation – something which I’ve tried but don’t recommend – it will provide continuous readings of the distance and direction from where you are to a chosen waypoint, such as the trailhead you started from or a destination you programmed in. It will also record the latitude and longitude of the gold mine you found, or, where to send emergency help.

Two more suggestions for what to carry in your backpack:
  • Water purification tablets.
  • Waterproof matches or something else to start a fire.
Chuck Parsons

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updated June 26, 2017 © Copyright 2017 Arizona Trailblazers.  All rights reserved.