Monday, March 11, 2024

The ABC's of Easy to Forget Hiking Essentials

When I find myself in the backcountry and I'm missing some essential item, it's not usually because I've forgotten it. I mean, sure, that happens. There was that notable time when I grabbed my backpack from the trunk and trudged off for a 3-day backpacking trip, only to realize shortly thereafter I'd never changed into the boots still in the car.

Typically, I remember the item but talk myself out of bringing it. Bug spray? There aren't any bugs at the trailhead, so we should be good. Sunscreen? We put it on at the car, so why would we need to re-apply? Trekking poles? The hike is so short, why bother?

Fast forward a few hours, and you'll find us being bombarded by bugs, scorched by the sun, and Shira hobbling because she rolled her ankle during a gnarly section of terrain. At this point, I'm kicking myself for intentionally leaving essentials behind.

The solution to both forgetting gear and being shortsighted is the same: a checklist. For the last year and a half, I've come to appreciate that not all checklists are equal. A written checklist or checklist on your phone is good. But even better is one that you can mentally tick off. This allows you to confirm your checklist when you're packing, have a moment of downtime as the trip approaches, as well as when you're about to step off for the adventure. It's also possible to make a quick written copy of the checklist for times when the stakes are especially high.

A mental checklist sounds like a recipe for disaster, especially for someone like myself who doesn't have a gift for memorization. And yet, I've found that if I structure the items around a series of alphabetically arranged words, I can remember the list with ease. Try it, you'll be amazed at your brain's ability.

Below is my list of easy to leave behind hiking items and the prompts I use to remember them. This list isn't exhaustive, for example, there's no mention of a map or navigation aids. Instead, it focuses on the items that I'm quick to forget or think I can do without.

This photo shows a minimal version of the checklist below*

Agua - Water.



Deet & Derm - Skin protection from bugs and the sun.



Gloves & Gripping - Gloves for me, Trekking polls for Shira.


InReach - Comms: Garmin inReach and if in a group, Rocky Talkies

Jacket - Extra layers.

Kleenex - Bathroom kit (TP, hand sanitizer and a ziplock bag for packing out used TP)

Light - Flashlight.

Mylar - SOL heatsheet and other surival essentials.

No-Blisters - KT Tape to treat blisters and hot spots.

*Wait, aren't items on the list missing from this photo? The camera is my cell phone, which is being used to capture the snapshot. The bathroom kit, flashlight, SOL heatsheet and KT tape are all part of my EDC. I include them in the list so that I can use this checklist for others.

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