I’ve Hiked Everywhere From Patagonia to Nepal — I’m Packing This – New York Magazine | Gmx Pharm

Photo: Jeremy Rellosa

When venturing out onto the trails, backcountry, or remote areas, creating a plan and an itinerary—and sharing it—is the most important safety measure you can take, ahead of any gear you bring with you. You should let your friends and family know where you’re going, who you’re with, what you’re up to, and when you expect to leave and return. That way, if something goes wrong, at least one other person will be waiting for you and they know they can send help.

The first time I spent a night alone in the woods was my sophomore year in college. The plan was a one-night backpacking tour around Spruce Knob in West Virginia. But things didn’t go as planned. The maps I had printed out at the library turned to papier-mâché from the rain, I took the wrong route and forgot to pack my food, resulting in a restless night of sleep I was convinced I had heard sound of a crying baby. (It was most likely a red fox.)

That one night in West Virginia was formative, not only because it was my first time alone, but because I learned from my rookie mistakes. Since that trip I have backpacked and hiked in Northern Peru, Patagonia, Nepal and trails in the Northeastern US, Sierra and Rocky Mountains, particularly the Sangre de Cristo Mountains when I was in Santa Fe, New lived in Mexico and worked as an editor at Outside Magazine. Each of these experiences—a mix of solo backpacking, group hikes, and shorter day hikes—taught me something new about preparedness and safety in the wilderness.

Aside from making a plan, I like to make sure I have the right gear in my backpack when I head out into the wilderness. The odds of using all of this survival and emergency gear on a single trip are unlikely (depending on the type of trip; taking all of these items with you on a through hike would make more sense than lugging them on a short day hike close to the city), but the peace of mind they give me is priceless because being prepared allows me to enjoy my time in nature even more. Here is the checklist I go through before every trip.

Garmin inReach Explorer+ satellite communicator

Getting your bearings is crucial for traveling in remote locations. Physical maps and compasses are good too (and you should always study a trail or topographical map of the area you’re heading into), but two-way communicators like the Explorer+ (and the smaller, lighter Mini 2) give you digital access to the same maps and topography around you. On a trip to the Jemez Mountains in New Mexico, I took a turn in my route that quickly turned my hike into a real bushwaking experience: I was way off track. I pulled out my Garmin, pulled up a map of the area and found my way within minutes. With Explorer, you can send and receive messages to friends and family without cellular service. This feature makes it my favorite; You can use apps like AllTrails or onX to download offline maps, but I like the convenience of knowing I can communicate with loved ones when needed.

Black Diamond Alpenglow Pro Hoodie
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Prolonged exposure to harmful UV rays outdoors can lead to sunburn, eye damage and even skin cancer. UPF clothing and the right sun gear, like sunglasses and sunscreen (also check out the best facial sunscreens we recommend), can not only make your time outdoors more comfortable, but also protect you from the ill effects of prolonged exposure to the sun preserve free time. I love this Black Diamond hoodie, which I wore for almost ten days straight on a climbing and camping trip to Yosemite last summer. It keeps my skin cool and covered while wicking sweat.

Sea to Summit Lightweight 4 liter dry bag

Long-term exposure to the elements is one of the most insidious outdoor hazards. Having the right layers, like the right rain jackets and insulating tops and bottoms that keep you dry, warm and generally protected from the elements, is a priority in any outdoor gear. The type of insulation you bring depends on the time of year and location. Keeping those extra layers dry should be a priority. I stuff them in this Sea to Summit sack that I keep in my backpack. This way I can keep my valuables and extra clothing dry if I get caught in a downpour and my bag gets soaked. These are also good for packing bear chow.

Petzl Actik Core headlamp

When the sun goes down, you want to be able to get your bearings and look around. I like this 75-gram Petzl headlamp, which emits 450 lumens on the highest setting and has a red light setting that’s great for reading and completing chores at night with other campers, as the dim light is less harsh on the eyes is. (Most camping headlamps range from 200 to 400 or more, and an ideal lumen setting for seeing the trail is around 300.)

Goal Zero Flip 24 power bank

I also bring an extra power source, like the Goal Zero Flip power bank, to charge my GPS or headlamp (if it comes with a rechargeable battery like the Actik Core; if not, bring extra batteries). Having extra juice for these devices is crucial to keep yourself safe.

Adventure Medical Kits Mountain series hiker medical kit

First aid kits come in different sizes with different loads, but what medication or medical equipment you bring depends on the size of your group. I keep these little ones in my climbing and hiking packs and recently used the blister care pack to patch my heel after my feet suffered from breaking in new climbing shoes.

Leatherman Free P4

Swiss Army knives are a Boy Scout classic for a reason: They offer a variety of tools for all kinds of backcountry tasks in one device. I like my stainless steel Leatherman which is on the heavier side at 8.6 ounces. But it has so many handy tools that I still take it with me on day hikes or camping. Extra paracord can be useful for replacing torn shoelaces, creating shelter, or hanging a clothesline. Bear sprays and bear horns are also more important for certain locations, especially in the mountain west, so do your research to know what types of wildlife might be in your area. If you are staying in a place with a lot of insects, consider bringing bug sprays or an insect repellent layer to protect against mosquitoes and ticks.

UCO Stormproof matches

If your situation allows, you can keep warm by starting a fire, drying yourself, and preparing food—all critical to wilderness survival. To achieve this, you will need a dry environment, waterproof matches, and iron starters that you can use to light kindling and build a larger fire.

Clif Bar energy bar

It’s always a good idea to bring extra food, even if you don’t think you’ll need it. High-calorie foods like energy bars are safe bets to keep you full and energized when you’re out in the wild longer than expected. My favorites are Crunchy Peanut Butter Clif Bars.

LifeStraw Go filter bottle with 2-stage filtration

Access to safe drinking water is a priority when traveling in the backcountry. If you run out of the drinking water you’ve brought with you, a portable water filter can help siphon harmful bacteria out of streams and ponds. I use this bottle which has a built in filter cap so I can fill my bottle up at a stream and sip through the straw – this got into the clutch once my friend and I had finished the water we had packed on a three – Day backpacking tour in Patagonia. Iodine tablets can also kill bacteria, but they don’t filter out the more visible deposits in muddy water.

Nuun energy

For strenuous hikes, I like to take these Nuun hydration pills, which are loaded with electrolytes and 80 milligrams of caffeine per pill.

SOL rescue blanket

A heat-reflective blanket (like what marathon runners might wear after a race) is a lightweight emergency option when you don’t have enough insulation in colder environments. Maintaining a stable core body temperature is essential for survival when exposed to the elements, and this pocket-sized layer can help you achieve that. Luckily I never had to use this, but at 2.5 ounces it’s so light and packable that I can fit it in any backpack I take to the woods.

Kammok Kuhli Camping Tarp

If you have the space for it (and don’t have a sturdier shelter like a tent), a tarp, like this 10-ounce model from Kammok, can double as a shelter to protect you from the rain, wind, and the elements.

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