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10 Essential Items in Your Backpack
  1. Flashlight and extra batteries. Whether you plan to be out in the dark or not, a flashlight can be a lifesaver in getting you back to your car.
  2. Whistle. The sound pierces through the forest better than a human voice. Three loud blasts are the universal signal that you're lost or need help.
  3. Water-purification tablets (iodine if possible).
  4. Lighter. Better than matches if conditions get wet.
  5. Pocketknife. It doesn't have to be large, but a can opener, scissors, and screwdriver often can be useful.
  6. Compass and map. Make sure you've learned how to use a compass properly and have a detailed map of the area you're hiking. Store your map in a plastic baggie to make sure it stays dry.
  7. First-aid kit, including aspirin, acetaminophen, Band-Aids, disinfectant, small and large Ace bandages, athletic tape and safety pins.
  8. Food. Make sure you have a full lunch, plus high-energy food like energy bars or candy for emergencies.
  9. Water. Bring enough for your hike, plus another bottle just in case.
  10. Adverse-conditions gear depending on the season. In summer, keep a hat, sunscreen and insect repellant. In spring and fall, bring a rain jacket and extra layers for colder weather than you expect.