Ten Essentials for a Day Hike

Ten Essentials

Before you hit any trail, no matter how easy, no matter how short, no matter how close to home make sure your backpack is loaded with the ten essentials. When in the backcountry you are responsible for your own safety, and any one of these ten items may help to save your life. Carry each one and know how to use them.

In addition to these items, know your limits and be sure you leave an itinerary with friends or relatives.


Always carry a detailed map of the area that you are hiking in. The 15” Green Trails maps are great if you’re staying on trail. If you’re planning on leaving the trail it’s best to have 7.5′ USGS maps. Both kinds are available at most sporting goods stores. Keep your maps in a plastic bag to protect them from the rain and know how to use them.

Learning to use a map and a compass are basic steps in improving your navigational skills. Photo by Wade Trenbeath.

Compass (and know how to use it)

GPS units are great, but they are not substitutes for knowing how to use a map and compass. The GPS can point you in the right direction, but it’s the map that tells you if you can go that way. It doesn’t matter how fancy your compass is, but if it doesn’t have a compensation setting for true North, make sure you know how to convert magnetic to true North. In Western Washington magnetic North is 20-22° east of true North.

Water and a Way to Purify It

Filtering water from a creek in Horseshoe Basin. Photo by Loren Drummond

It is essential to drink a lot of water while hiking. Without water, your body doesn’t perform as well and you could grow more susceptible to heat stroke, hypothermia and altitude sickness. Any water source can harbor tiny organisms that would make your life unpleasant later, so purify all water with a water filter or purifier, chemical tablets or boiling before drinking.

Extra Food

Always bring extra food when hiking in case an unexpected situation delays your return. Carry at least one extra day’s worth. It should be something that stores for a long time, requires no preparation and is high in energy. Many people choose things they really dislike so they won’t be tempted to break into their emergency rations unless they really need them.

Rain Gear and Extra ClothingA hiker outfitted for wet weather poses next to a giant cedar on the Goat Lake Trail. Photo by Kim Brown.

Weather can change quickly in the mountains. A sunny, warm day can turn into a cold downpour in a very short period of time. Always tuck rain gear into your backpack and bring along layers of clothes. Avoid cotton clothing in favor of wool or poly blends that wick moisture away from your skin.

Firestarter and Matches

Always bring along waterproof matches in a water-tight container and have a dry or waterproof striker. You might also bring a cigarette lighter as a backup. And in the Northwest you can expect to have to deal with wet kindling. A candle, solid chemical fuels or balls of compressed wood chips work well.

First Aid Kit

Don’t just have a first aid kit, have a useful first aid kit. Make sure you have the supplies to deal with major injuries, and make sure you have the knowledge. You can purchase hiker first aid kits at outdoor stores or put together your own. Consider taking a first aid course from the Red Cross or the Mountaineers.

Knife or Multi-Purpose Tool

Knives are indispensible in the backcountry. They can help you prepare food, cut Moleskin (for blister treatment) or bandages, repair gear, and more.

Flashlight and extra batteries

It’s dark out there!  A light source is vital if you get caught in the woods after dark. Carry spare batteries and an extra bulb and make sure you test your light before each trip.

Sunscreen and/or sunglasses

Your eyes need protection, especially if you are on snow or above treeline. Sunglasses are a must.  And those rays are strong and damaging; sunscreen is important for people of all skin types.

A few other items to consider:

insect repellent, whistle, watch,  emergency blanket, mirror (for signaling), duct tape (great for repairing anything), gloves, extra socks, and an orange vest (during hunting season).

– this excerpt was taken fro  the Washington Trails Association


Class Act- Using Love to Shed Pounds and Boost Confidence in the Classroom

Congratulations to LAWTriate Amber Plummer for her success in making a positive impact in the lives of LA youth!

“PE teacher Amber Plummer of Eliot Arts Magnet in Altadena was shocked by the number of overweight female students in her classes, so she started a special program called Girls On The Go to empower her students to take their health into their own hands.” – Soul Pancake


June 2014 WLT

The June Wilderness Leadership Training was super fun, and there was a lot of learning to be had.

The pre-trip meeting was stellar, and we had a chance to meet all of the folks we would be backpacking with.

The WLT trip itself was bomb.  We backpacked for 4 days, plus one day to prepare and car camp.

We had participants from Redondo Beach, Echo Park, Pasadena, and Silverlake.

I am psyched for them to turn around and lead their kids outdoors!


DSCN0089 DSCN0120 DSCN0093 DSCN0137 DSCN0146 DSCN0217 DSCN0231

From LAWT grad Domenic Fusco

I work at a summer camp for kids whose parents are affected by cancer. This year we took our teens on an overnight backpacking trip, and thanks to LAWT our camping experience was an incredible success. We were able to borrow enough gear for over 40 campers to take part in this memorable life experience. To all it was a challenge, an adventure, and a chance to get away from the pressures of life back home. LAWT was instrumental to our trip, and it has been an absolute pleasure working with their friendly and compassionate staff!
-Dom Fusco, Counselor for Camp Kesem UCLA

FLT graduate taking her kids out

Soon after her FLT training, one of our trainees was inspired to take her kids out. They had an amazing experience. Here are some testimonials from their adventures.
“I really enjoyed the camping trip. The camping trip was really fun. We did lots of fun activities. We played games. We ate food. We went for a walk, etc. But what I really liked about the trip is having to spend time with people we don’t really spend time with. But next time I know to bring a blanket. In conclusion, I really liked this trip.
P.S. I would really love to do this again!”

“So camping was very  fun and I would love to do it again. It was fun because when we first got there we set up some big tents. Next we ate lunch then we walked like 3 miles to the lake. That was fun because we really got to bond with each other. After we left the lake me and my friend Julian ran back to the campground by choice. When we got back we had hamburgers and hot dogs waiting for us and it was really good. Next we waited for it to become dark and we made a fire and we ate smores. When we went to sleep in the tents, that was a lot of fun because I got to spend more time with my friends. The whole trip was really fun because I got to be with my friends. Thank You!”


FLT Testimonial

One of our FLT participants thought it would be beneficial for potential participants of our trainings to get more information on what to expect on the training. Here is her description.

Frontcountry Leadership Training (FLT) is more than a run-through of LAWT resources and camping skills; it immerses future camp leaders in the very experience they aim to create with youth and provides hands-on learning. Moreover, the small-group training fosters productive partnerships among youth workers. Teaching not only came from the LAWT instructors, but also from the participants themselves. I appreciated how instructors consistently invited us to contribute what we knew and did well. We swapped activity ideas, anecdotal solutions to problems, general outdoor knowledge, and even chilling fireside stories! LAWT provided a comprehensive learning experience  that was fun and down-to-earth…all without making our camping trip feel stilted or overwhelming.

During the training, you will: learn what is available for borrowing and how to properly set up, use, care for, and deconstruct items; share valuable team-building and closure activities; navigate with topographic maps and a compass; collaboratively build a fire and prepare meals; practice Leave-No-Trace principles; prepare for possible health and safety issues; and exercise your team leadership skills.
Overall, FLT was an eye-opener to the opportunities for community-building and personal growth camping creates for youth. I can’t wait to bring this experience back to the youth I work with!