As the world starts slowly spinning toward the sun, more people are emerging from their homes and venturing into the outdoors. People need to be aware, though, that Mother Nature might be fun, but she is also unforgiving. Just look at what happened to Gilligan, and that was supposed to be a three-hour tour.
Already, I've seen at least two news stories regarding hikers who got in over their heads because they were just unprepared. Fortunately, the stories I saw had a fairly happy ending; the hikers were rescued. But if you go hiking in the wilderness without shoes or a shirt (yes, this really happened), I have to wonder what people are thinking sometimes.
There is a reason we have 10 things that every scout everywhere has with him when he steps out the door, whether it is a seven-day backpacking trek or a day hike. These are the Ten Essentials. Notice I said essentials, not optionals, and not for beginners only.
1. A pocketknife: The more variety, the better. Whether it is an old school Swiss Army knife or a good multitool, it can be used for a lot more than whittling wood.
2. First aid kit: I can't begin to stress the importance of first aid. A well-stocked first aid kit (and not a rinky-dink plastic box with three band aids and an aspirin) can be the difference between life and death. Click here for full details.
As an addendum to this I, recommend knowing first aid for the following:
Simple cuts and scrapes
Blisters on the hand and foot
Minor (thermal/heat) burns or scalds (superficial, or first degree)
Bites or stings of insects and ticks
Frostbite and sunburn
3. Extra clothing: The rules here are layers, layers, layers. Remember, it gets cold at night out here in the desert, and night falls pretty quickly. Plus changing out of wet clothes can save you from hypothermia.
4. Rain gear: Goes hand in hand with above. Stay dry.
5. Flashlight: Do I really need to explain that one?
6. Trail food: An interesting tidbit is that our settler ancestors crossing the country in covered wagons consumed an average of 5,000 calories a day (compared to the 2,000 calories most people consume today). Navigating even mild terrain is harder than a walk in the park, and that coupled with the sun will make your strength fade fairly quickly.
7. Water: Again, people always underestimate the power of the sun. The rule is a half gallon of water per person per day MINIMUM. That's assuming you don't spill any or need to wash off a cut. "But Dave, it's just a three-hour tour." That's what the Skipper said, little buddy.
8. Matches/fire starters: Fires can be about more than songs and s'mores. They can keep the cold away, and signal rescuers.
9. Sun protection: There's our old friend the sun again. Sunblock, Chapstick, sunglasses and a hat. Remember the three "S's" Slip (on a pair of shades) Slap (on a hat) and Slop (on plenty of sunscreen/lip balm).
10. Trail maps and compass: Some modern day lists suggest a GPS as an acceptable alternative. Whatever it is, make sure you know how to use it. (No, a cell phone GPS is not the same thing. Cell phones rely on a data connection from a cell tower, which when hiking is pretty easy to lose.)
A few rules for when you are out on the trail:
1. Use the buddy system.
2. Stay on established trails if you can.
3. Make sure you have at least one "seasoned" member of the group.
4. Respect nature; leave no trace. Take only pictures, leave only footprints.
5. Make sure someone back home knows where you're going and when you're SUPPOSED to be back and if your group decides to change plans LET THAT PERSON KNOW.
6. Bring personal medicines like inhalers, EpiPens, insulin, etc.
Remember, these are simply the bare essentials. Anything you add to it is just going make you more prepared. And the more prepared you are, the more fun you'll be able to have.
Besides, a brand new 11-year-old Boy Scout is supposed learn all of this before his first campout. If an 11-year-old can do it, why shouldn't you?
David Baker, our Man About Menifee, writes about his adventures in and around town every Friday in this space. You may leave comments here for him or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.