Emergency Items
Things you should take on every hike

Remember that the woods are wild, and modern humans have lost many of the skills our forebears had in dealing with the elements and nature. Ask yourself before every hike--"What if I have to spend two or three days out here? Would I make it?"

Although it sounds like an improbability on a day hike, the possibility is very real of finding yourself in an emergency situation, especially if you are alone. Television shows like "Wild Survival" are reminders of how terribly things can go wrong. Personally, I have needed minor rescue twice, and spent one night in the hospital. The 'minor rescues' meant that I would have had to spend a night in the woods without somebody coming to pick me up where I wasn't planning on being.

The list below is what I consider to be essential items, and anything else you bring is up to you. 

Things to Bring

  • Space blanket
  • Hat with wide brim
  • Flashlight or cyalume light sticks
  • Waterproof Matches and lighter
  • 2 Quarts of water minimum
    Without water, your whole body starts to suffer
    Drink early and often, even in winter
  • Power Bar or other packaged, high-energy food source
  • Compass - know how to use it, even if you have a GPS
  • Camera - not really essential, but why not? 
    It's fun to look at the photos in the winter
  • Trail guide and maps
  • Cell phone
  • First aid kit - know how to use it
  • Duct tape or athletic tape
  • Benadryl - for bee stings and allergic reactions
  • Tell somebody where you are going and when you should be back - this could save your life

Remember the Rule of Threes

You can survive for:

  • 3 minutes without air

  • 3 hours without heat

  • 3 days without water

  • 3 weeks without food

Of course, surviving is not living well, so be careful out there!

Try not to be paranoid about these things--they are extremely rare. 
Just be smart, and be prepared! 
There is no substitute for common sense and experience.

Things you should not worry too much about are snakes, bears, poison ivy and ticks. In Pennsylvania, snakes are rare, and if you use trekking poles, they alone should make enough noise to keep them out of your way. If you are bitten, don't panic or use some 'witch doctor' first aid kit. Instead, walk slowly out of the woods and you'll be fine. If you do see a snake or hear a rattle, stop dead in you tracks, locate the snake slowly and carefully, and back away slowly.

Bears will try to stay away from you, and if you make noise, they'll find another way to where they are going. If you see a bear, don't run--this will trigger the bear's charging instinct. Instead, back away slowly and when you are at a safe distance, keep a steady pace instead of running. If you do find yourself in a fight with a bear, play dead. Black bears in Pennsylvania generally do not get too large, but they are very strong animals. Playing dead will get you out alive. If you are paranoid, there are pepper sprays available for use against bears, mostly for grizzlies. They are said to work effectively. Remember that bears are like really big dogs . . . they can smell just as well, and their bark is worse than their bite. For more information on bears, contact the DCNR representative in the area where you'll be hiking. 

Know that no Appalachian hiker has ever died from either snake bite or bear attack. That's a pretty impressive statistic.

If you are troubled by poison ivy, there is a product called Ivy Block that is very effective. If you do get hit with the itch, though, try heat as a remedy. A hair dryer will stimulate the skin to release all of its histamine, and once depleted (after a few seconds) you'll get hours of relief.

Ticks can be a problem, and they love areas with tall grass. Check yourself for ticks after each hike. The ticks that transmit lyme disease are about the size of the head of a pin. Larger tick, just hit them with something hot, like the end of a match that you've just blown out. They'll let go. If you try to rip them out, their 'teeth' with get stuck in you and cause a lot of irritation.

If you start to experience symptoms after a few days or weeks like dizziness, fatigue and others associated with lyme disease, seek medical attention. Lyme disease is treatable if caught early.




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