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mrkstvns

15 Essentials for a Forest Hike

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I had a lot of fun doing a short urban hike a few weeks ago, and now we're planning our next great hike. This one will be a little longer (a bit over 10 miles) and will be in a forest (Davy Crockett National Forest). Step one in planning is to have an idea what we're doing, where, when, and what kind of conditions we expect. Davy Crockett National Forest is in East Texas and it's typical of low-land southeastern forests (i.e., fairly flat with only moderate elevation changes, lots of pine trees with a smattering of sweetgum, white oak, and a few other hardwoods, unimproved dirt trails that are not particularly rocky.)

I'm continuing to stress that we plan for OUR activity, not somebody else's, so we take canonical packing lists with a grain of salt. We look at the items on the list and we THINK about them. Does the weight of each and every item justify carrying them?  

A forest hike has more variables than an urban hike, so my "essential" list is expanded to 15 items instead of 10.

What do you guys think?  

Bring:

  1. Very small, light, comfortable day pack
  2. Map
  3. Compass
  4. Light first aid kit (be prepared for blisters, cuts, scrapes and possible twisted ankles / fall injuries)
  5. 2 Liters of water (assuming no potable sources en route)
  6. Lifestraw or other compact filter (backup use only...could be a "Leave at Home" item...)
  7. 12 ounces of trail mix or other snacks
  8. Poncho (bring a good one if over 30% chance of rain, else the el cheap-o emergency poncho is okay)
  9. Knife (not the jumbo multi-tool)
  10. Lighter and/or matches
  11. Wad of toilet paper (not a whole roll...when ya gotta go, ya gotta go!)
  12. Small lightweight trowel (for cat holes, cuz when ya gotta go, ya gotta go)
  13. Walking stick (unimproved woodland trails have rocks, tree roots, gullies, be prepared!)
  14. Tick remover (we're in the woods, ticks abound)
  15. Spare clothing if weather/season justify it

Leave at Home:

  • Sunblock (we're in the woods, it's shady)
  • Sunglasses (we're in the woods, it's shady)
  • Cash (we're in the woods, deer don't run 7-11s)
  • Flashlight (10 miles should take us 4 hours, we're starting at 8am, it's unlikely we'll be out in the dark, but if you have an overabundance of caution, pack the lightest light you own)

Bottom Line...
Be realistic. Consider your location, the weather conditions, etc. Pack for your hike, not somebody else's.

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Seems that if you are going to deliberately decide the BSA's ten essentials are not right or required since it is a short (10 miles) hike, then be confident in your assessment.  If you are including a knife, filter, and matches to ensure that you are prepared in the event something goes wrong (why is a flashlight an overabundance of caution and not a knife, filter, or matches), then the logic for not including the flashlight is questionable. 

I do not think the 10 essentials are "canonical" in an effort just to be directive in nature, but based on lessons learned the hard way over time and written in blood.  

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For a 10 mile hike, I might be inclined to pack more food than just trail snacks.  Lunch, perhaps, given your estimated finish time of around noon.  Or cash, if you might decide to stop for lunch somewhere after the hike.  Certainly, cash would weigh less.

Consider using some kind of backup communication device (other than cell phones) in case you all get lost or someone gets injured.

 

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24 minutes ago, Navybone said:

Seems that if you are going to deliberately decide the BSA's ten essentials are not right or required since it is a short (10 miles) hike, then be confident in your assessment.  If you are including a knife, filter, and matches to ensure that you are prepared in the event something goes wrong (why is a flashlight an overabundance of caution and not a knife, filter, or matches), then the logic for not including the flashlight is questionable. 

I do not think the 10 essentials are "canonical" in an effort just to be directive in nature, but based on lessons learned the hard way over time and written in blood.  

The BSA lists are "starting points". They're exhaustive and cover a lot of situations that may be irrelevant to your activity. For example, I'm in Texas and most of my hikes take place in warm weather....why on EARTH would I waste space and weight on things like hand warmers or insulated jackets? Things like that may be great for hikes in northern climates, but they're as useful to me as carrying a load of bricks.

Your point about the flashlight is well taken.  Small maglights and LED headlamps weigh so little that they deserve a place on the list along with the other "just in case" items.

Thanks!

 

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15 minutes ago, Thunderbird said:

For a 10 mile hike, I might be inclined to pack more food than just trail snacks.  Lunch, perhaps, given your estimated finish time of around noon.  Or cash, if you might decide to stop for lunch somewhere after the hike.  Certainly, cash would weigh less.

Consider using some kind of backup communication device (other than cell phones) in case you all get lost or someone gets injured.

 

Yep.  A lunch would be better than packing only trail snacks. Maybe lunch and a smaller amount of trails snacks is the smarter way to go....

I'm not sure what kind of "communication device" other than a cell phone would be practical and useful. As an adult leader, I'd have my cell phone with me, but certainly every scout doesn't need the tempting distraction of having one so they can play Fortnight as they march down the trail. Hence, it has no place on the packing list. 

For emergency purposes, I think one or two cell phones (held by adults) is good. It gives you some measure of communication if service exists, otherwise, the tried and true method of sending a buddy pair to call for help works just fine.

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I'd be tempted to have some snacks, and yes, maybe lunch, but also an emergency snack. This is an individual list right? Because I'd maybe have some group kit rather than individual kit. Why have 5 compasses and maps when you'll be walking as a group? Instead of everyone shelling out for a lifestraw, as a group take some water purification tablets for emergencies. We'd probably have an emergency mobile or two, sealed in a watertight bag.

And, of course, your very small backpack...needs to be big enough to fit everything in!

Of course, your mileage may vary, and you might be more likely to need more than 2 litres of water in a morning in Texas than you would in a whole day in Blighty. In which case, individual lifestraws make more sense (assuming your route will actually cross any likely water sources).

Lists are good! :)

  • Upvote 1

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Sounds about right for a patrol. Not every scout needs a compass, map, trowel, TP, etc ... Unless you're trying to train scouts in a particular skill (e.g., with navigation, it's good to show each scout how their own compass works.)

Proper clothing can obviate the need for a tick remover. (I have no idea how well it does pulling them off your jeans that are properly tucked under your high socks. But, I'm not afraid to use fingers.) And, if you're not wearing proper clothing, you might need a mirror to find where that tick has landed!

Flashlight batteries double fire-starter, especially if the metal from the tick remover can serve as a resistor!

One essential: pencil (okay, down south you don't have to worry about pens freezing, so one of those is good too) and small notebook. Almost as essential as a neckerchief.  And of course ...

Don't forget your full-size neckerchief!

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33 minutes ago, mrkstvns said:

Yep.  A lunch would be better than packing only trail snacks. Maybe lunch and a smaller amount of trails snacks is the smarter way to go....

I'm not sure what kind of "communication device" other than a cell phone would be practical and useful. As an adult leader, I'd have my cell phone with me, but certainly every scout doesn't need the tempting distraction of having one so they can play Fortnight as they march down the trail. Hence, it has no place on the packing list. 

For emergency purposes, I think one or two cell phones (held by adults) is good. It gives you some measure of communication if service exists, otherwise, the tried and true method of sending a buddy pair to call for help works just fine.


We sometimes use walkie-talkies with a good range, so that we can contact someone (not on the hike) in case something happens.  Other communication devices might be appropriate but can also be more expensive (satellite phone, emergency beacon).

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hmmmmm.....no Plan B!..   Reminds  me of the poorly prepared Church group we had to pull off of the Chesuncook lake. Failed to take into account that the weather could go from bad to hideous. 

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To add to other good comments thus far: to go with TP, a small vial of hand sanitizer. I would also add sunscreen even though one is in the woods, the amount of uv penetration may not be insignificant. This might be a decision made by individuals more prone to sunburn than others. 

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On 10/25/2019 at 2:12 PM, Thunderbird said:

You mentioned east Texas.  What about chigger or insect repellent?

Point well taken.  I don't think there's a time of year in this corner of the world when bug bites aren't likely to happen.  Repellent goes on the list! 

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Some  thoughts on and suggestions for your "leave at home" items

Sunblock - two lightly soaked 4x4 gauze pads stored in a small zip lock bag will cut the weight.  Easily stuffed in a personal First Aid kit.

Cash -  can be left in the vehicle and not carried. After the hike, be assured your Scouts will be wanting some extra calories from a Fast Food cartel. Other items that can/should be left in vehicles....several gallons of water, a small cooler with ice, additional snack items, and a more comprehensive first aid kit.

Flashlight - never assume you won't be out after dark (consider always the subjective risks)... headlamps work best that run off of AAA batteries. Carry spare batteries.

Other items to ponder on

Small microfiber towel (auto part stores).  These have many uses (I've used these to sop the dew off of my tarp to fill water bottles.  They also serve as prefilters for silty water .....

Shemagh - the Swiss Army knife of bandannas 

 

 

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My opinion only.  3 liters minimum (I have an Osprey Bladder in my pack, and I always have an extra nalgene bottle full as well.

My headlamp always stays in my pack.....just in case

 

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