Day Hike Essentials from the Unprepared Hippie

By Leia Ostermann

Among my friends, I am often regarded as “crunchy.” I like to hike, I wear Chacos with socks and I would rather walk to work than drive. Years of training with my Dad, old REI coworkers and my current-hippy-dippy-boyfriend have made me tough and experienced.

Yet I’m consistently the least prepared.

This past weekend I hiked up to Tinker Knob in Soda Springs. From the peak you can see down into Truckee, Lake Tahoe, Sugar Bowl and Squaw Valley. We were just short of 9,000 feet in elevation.

The entire trip took around 6 hours and the only thing I brought was a long sleeved shirt and one small platypus of water.

Leia Ostermann - hike

We started the hike at around 12:30 p.m. (mistake one), without eating lunch (mistake two), fully knowing there were no water sources after we crossed the river (mistake three). By 3 p.m. I was thirsty, starving and burnt. When we reached the peak we realized we would need to rush to the bottom so we didn’t get caught in the dark with no light, no water, no food and a mountain lion we knew was prowling the woods along the Pacific Crest Trail.

We lived. But we also called a safety meeting. The results of this safety meeting was the following check list. I present to you: Day-Hike Essentials by Leia:

  • Good Backpack – having something on your back that is comfortable can make a huge difference when you walk farther than a mile.
  • Water – bring more than you think you will need. Besides, it’s a load that keeps getting lighter.
  • Water filter every time you cross a stream you can fill your water containers without risking Giardia (Side note: it sucks and is a different story).

  • Snacks

    in the wilderness, you don’t eat because it’s lunch time or because it’s good food, you eat because you need energy. Bare necessities.

  • Light

    even if you start your hike in the early morning or it’s “only a few miles,” don’t risk going into the woods without a headlamp or flash light. What if you roll an ankle and have to limp four miles? It’s going to take a lot longer than two hours to get back to your car.

  • Light jacket/layers

    layers are easy to forget. They are bulky and in 90+ degree summer heat, you won’t think of how chilly the wind will be at the summit of your climb. In order to enjoy the view at the top for longer than five minutes, bring some layers.

  • Map – know where you are going.

  • Sunscreen – because I’m scared of the sun.

  • Hat – also because I’m scared of the sun.

  • First Aid Kit –

    I’ve always thought of this as an unnecessary piece of weight to carry. Until I cut my hand open on a rock and I needed it to be bandaged. Or until I broke in my new boots on a 15 mile trek and needed mole skin.

  • Pocket Knife –

    as boyscout as this sounds, my pocket knife has been used for everything from cutting food to freeing myself from entangled bushes, to being my one weapon against the feeling that a mountain lion was following me.

  • Whistle  – in case you get lost

  • Lighter –

    in case you get lost and have to make a camp and light a fire.

  • Space blanket – in case you get lost and have to make a camp and light a fire and sleep under the stars




Do as I say, not as I do.

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