Ten Essentials – Solo Female Hiker

The ten essentials for hiking.



I recently shared a post on my Facebook page that was originally written by the Kananaskis Country Public Safety page. They posted a photo of a fully charged cell phone laying on the table with a headlamp. The post read:

“We can’t help but notice a pattern developing in our local Bow Valley mountains. In the last week we’ve been called to assist with 19 hikers!! Yamnuska, EEOR, and Ha Ling have all managed to stump new hikers and cause a rash of 911 calls. Luckily none of these have involved any injuries, but they have kept us and CO’s out into the wee hours of the morning on multiple nights. 

The above photo highlights the contributing factors of most of these calls:
1) Headlamp- days are getting shorter and shorter. Keep a headlamp (or flashlight) in your pack at all times.
2)An alarm- start early!!! late afternoon/early evening is too late to start an alpine scramble!
3)A fully charged phone battery is essential. The light on the phone is fine if you are trying to find your keys underneath the car seat, but it is not enough to navigate through the hills. Aside from that, the phone is a critical link for communication.

Now to ask a quick favor. Just a guess, but we expect many followers of this page already know this. If you know any new hikers, or people who don’t know this, please share this post. The novelty of 2am hikes wears off after 3 in a week.”

I’m not going to be shy about this … this ticks me off. I have two first responder sons … people need to stop putting their lives at risk over the decision to carry a flashlight or read a map. Stop forcing someone out of their bed in the middle of the night. Stop scaring their wives and children with whether or not they’re going to get hurt helping someone that didn’t take care of themselves.


Stop it. How dare you?


I’m saying this because first responders aren’t going to be the ones that say, “How dare you?”

You know why? Because they’re a special breed of people who’s entire focus is to take care of others. They won’t guilt you about it because they never, ever want to be responsible for you questioning asking for help. They will get out of bed over and over and over again, happily, to save 100 people that could have taken care of themselves because of the potential they are going to save the one person that couldn’t.

No excuses. It’s literally easier to be prepared than it is to hike the trail. Take the responsibility of putting together a small bag that can be grabbed at any time. Leave it in the car for easy access … it doesn’t need to be big or bulky or heavy.

There’s a list called “The 10 Essentials of Hiking” … you can come up with a quick list any time thanks to the world of Google. The items are not big, and for populated day hikes, they can even be extremely small. The concept has been around for many years and lists have been adjusted to account for modern technologies.


  1. Navigation (map and compass) – even on the most popular trails … a photocopy of the immediate area you plan on being in is all that’s necessary. Even better, leave a copy of the map on your car dash, and with a friend.
  2. Sun protection (sunglasses and sunscreen) – don’t use the “I put it on before I left the house” excuse … the whole point to this list is for emergencies … what if you need the help and end up laying prone on the sun side of an open slope for 5 hours waiting? This lives in my first aid kit.
  3. Insulation (extra clothing) – I hike in the mountains, temperature changes that require a new layer can happen in minutes … if I’m wearing short sleeves, this is long sleeves. If I’m wearing long sleeves, this is short sleeves.
  4. Illumination (headlamp/flashlight) – This one is so easy. There’s no excuse for not having a light on any walk or hike.
  5. First-aid supplies – Why anyone would put themselves hours away from communication (there’s no cell in the mountains) without the ability to treat at least a decent sized wound, is beyond me. You don’t even have to have a full “accident” or even fall down to get a significant wound … a simple branch whip to the face can change your entire day or life, for that matter. Here’s a link to my kit.
  6. Fire (waterproof matches/lighter/candles) – Another one so easy to bring with you that it falls in the no-brainer category. It’s only going to make you more comfortable. Think about that potential 5 hour wait for help. You don’t have to be lost for it to take that long.
  7. Repair kit and tools – a small Leatherman multi-tool is all it takes. Another item that is standard in my first aid kit.
  8. Nutrition (extra food) – A couple of energy bars in the bottom of the bag that live there all season “just in case” … that’s 600 calories.
  9. Hydration (extra water) – Because I hike around water, for me, this is water treatment pills and they stay in my first aid kit. I always have a container, a bottle of some sort, and bring the water I intend to drink for my hike.
  10. Emergency shelter – a poncho is the perfect solution … it’s both rain protection and a shelter in extreme circumstances.


Other essentials I usually have in my day pack but are sometimes reserved for slightly more remote hikes:


  1. Knife … I always have a fixed blade knife. Mine is a Mora fireknife, so I also always have a secondary means of firemaking.
  2. Fire bundle … a tiny Ziploc bag with steel wool and waxed cotton. Sure, I can spark a fire without it. But why do I want to? I have nothing to prove and if I’m in an emergency situation needing fire, why wouldn’t I want to be able to spark that fire in seconds, while shaking and scared? The bundle is smaller than a credit card.
  3. Blanket … thanks to the Costco down throws, this is a super lightweight addition to the pack. I love my Snugpak Jungle blanket for cooler weather.
  4. Jetboil … yep … again, if it’s a winter hike, I want the ability to make a hot drink, fast, with as little thinking as is possible.
  5. Tarp, again, if it’s a winter hike, I want protection from the elements and the combination of snow, tarp and the ability to make fire could give me a solid overnight shelter.
  6. My inReach … I don’t leave home without it. The two-way communication and ability to call for help are invaluable.
  7. Cordage … combined with the poncho or tarp, blanket, fire making. I can spend the night unexpectedly just about anywhere.
  8. Knowledge. Learn how to use all your gear. Play with it at home, don’t make yourself learn how to start a fire under high stress situations. Set yourself up to succeed.


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