Going hiking? Don’t forget to bring 'The 10 Essentials’

Two unidentified women hike in Griffith Park near the Hollywood sign.
Two unidentified women hike in Griffith Park near the Hollywood sign.
Jason Redmond/AP

Lost hikers have been in the news lately. Here are some basic outdoor tips to keep you, your friends and your family safe.

Plan your route and tell someone about your plans: A miscommunication between children and parents can lead to a helicopter search and rescue effort. Make sure you tell a friend or family member what time you plan to be back home. 

Call a nearby ranger for weather and trail conditions: Remember that temperatures at higher elevations or in the backcountry can be different from nearby neighborhoods. Contact local park officials and rangers about specific weather and trail conditions. 

If you’re going to one of the national forests or recreation areas, including the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area (SMNRA) from Pacific Palisades to Thousand Oaks, Los Padres in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, Angeles in the San Gabriel Valley or Cleveland in Orange, San Diego and San Bernardino counties, call the nearest ranger station and ask them about any trail closures or any other restrictions. SMNRA and the national parks in Joshua Tree and the Channel Islands are also on Twitter and Facebook. Smaller, local park districts often have staff on site as well, like the Eaton Canyon Nature Center.

Wear proper shoes: Especially on trails with creeks, water falls or rocky terrain, you will want to wear shoes with proper grip. For extra protection from sprains, wear boots that cover your ankles. This means no Converse, flip-flops, ballet flats or Uggs. 

Be prepared: One of our commenters recommended “The Ten Essentials” for anyone going on a hiking trip, and we’ve compiled them below. This list dates back to the 1930s, but the writers, the Mountaineers outdoors club from Seattle, Wash. have updated it since then. Print it out here. Here’s the basic 10 system with some extra tips:

  • Map: Get a detailed paper map at national forest ranger stations or nature centers or print one from park websites.
  • Compass: It's a good idea to carry a small compass, even one on a key chain. Do not rely on a smartphone compass app, as it will drain your battery.
Sun protection
  • Sunglasses
  • Sun screen
  • Hat
  • Jacket: Temperatures can drop quickly as you reach higher altitudes and after sunset.
  • Extra socks: When hiking in areas with waterfalls, creeks, rivers, your socks may get wet from river crossings.
  • Flash light or headlamp: It may get darker sooner than you think, especially in areas with steep canyons.
First-aid supplies
  • Basic first aid items include: bandages, gauze, tape, aspirin
  • Toilet paper: If there are no bathrooms on the trail, you'll need toilet paper and a plastic bag to carry the used paper. Do not leave the used paper on the trail.
  • Medication, inhalers, medical necessities: If you require regular medication or inhalers, bring those with you.
  • Waterproof matches, butane lighters or firestarters
  • Only use equipment you know how to safely handle.
Repair kit and tools
  • Items can include: extra laces for shoes, extra battery pack for smartphone, duct tape for backpacks.
  • Anything that you need to repair the gear and equipment you are carrying.
  • Snacks: fruits, nuts, energy bars, cheese
  • Lunch
  • Extra water, especially on warm days
Emergency rain shelter
  • Emergency space blanket or large plastic trash bag: Use it as a poncho in case of rain to keep the water off your body and backpack.
Source:  Mountaineers' Ten Essentials