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How to Master the 10 Essentials of Hiking

"Use common sense" is probably the best advice you can give a hiker. Here's a guide to doing that and mastering the 10 essential skills for having a successful day hike.


  • Step 1: Carry a map Carry a detailed map of the area where you will be hiking. Maps that indicate trails and landmarks or that have contour lines to show elevation are best.
  • TIP: Store your map in a sealable plastic bag to keep it dry.
  • Step 2: Use a compass Know how to use your compass with your map so you can find your way if you get lost.
  • Step 3: Have water Bring water and drink while you hike. Carry a water purification device, such as a filter, iodine tablets, or a stove for boiling.
  • Step 4: Pack food Pack enough food to last your whole trip, plus extra servings, just in case.
  • Step 5: Have first aid Bring a first-aid kit with bandages, medicine, and other emergency supplies.
  • TIP: Learn how to treat common injuries, like blisters, and how to improvise a splint for broken bones. Bring any medications that you may need.
  • Step 6: Bring rain gear Pack waterproof rainwear and extra socks in addition to good boots. Bring any changes of clothes you will need to stay comfortable.
  • TIP: Keep rainwear in an outside pocket of your backpack so everything else won't get wet if you get it out in a downpour.
  • Step 7: Pack fire starters Carry a dry box of matches or a lighter as well as kindling.
  • Step 8: Carry a knife Carry a knife or a multi-tool with you at all times for opening things, cutting tape, cooking, and personal defense.
  • Step 9: Bring a light Bring a headlamp or flashlight with working batteries and a spare bulb in case you are out after dark.
  • Step 10: Wear sun protection Wear sunscreen and sunglasses to protect your skin and eyes from the sun's rays.
  • FACT: Did you know? A 2008 survey at Yosemite National Park found that hiking was the primary activity of 35 percent of respondents.

You Will Need

  • Map
  • Compass
  • Water and a purifier
  • Food
  • First-aid kit
  • Rainwear
  • Clothing and footwear
  • Matches or a lighter
  • Kindling
  • Knife
  • Flashlight
  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses
  • Optional: Sealable plastic bag

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