What to Carry

I frequently get what I consider strange comments from casual walkers when I hike with my hip pack, even through I think it's a bare-bones pack appropriate for a few hours of any kind of exercise. At Indian Valley Open Space Preserve in Marin County a man greeted me on the trail with the comment, "you look like a real hiker."  I'm not sure what the appropriate snappy comeback should have been, but, yes, I guess I am a real hiker. When I started out hiking I used a big green Samsonite pack that was more luggage than backpack, but I didn't have any money, and the pack worked fine, although I got a lot of unwanted feedback from people I encountered while I was hiking. I just decided early on that I would hike how I wanted to and I've never let anyone else's vision of appropriate apparel change my behavior.
        I now use a Mountainsmith day pack (hip pack). For the first six months or so I could not get the hang of this pack. I wore it too far up on my waist and it was very uncomfortable. Suddenly one day I put it on, and finally "got" where it went. Now I'm completely comfortable with it, and the adjustments required to keep it in the correct position. I keep it stocked so it is always ready to go, and I always take it, even on short hikes of two hours or so. This works well if like me, you are cursed with a poor memory. I am miserable when I reach into my pack for sunscreen or my hat and find them missing, and so keeping the pack intact is key to safe, happy dayhikes.

 Here's my inventory:
 * all purpose road map (i.e. a map that covers the whole bay area and is easy to read at a glance).  I like the AAA San Francisco Bay Region map. It includes most of the parks described in bahiker.com, and shows lots of secondary roads. In addition AAA publishes quite a few "local" maps that you may find helpful, such as "San Ramon Valley," "Oakland and Vicinity," and "Palo Alto," etc. If you are a AAA member, you can order these maps (and more) for free through the AAA website.
 * extra pair of socks (in case of rips, wetness, or to equalize fit when one shoe is too loose)
 * sunhat (mine is cotton so it can be scrunched up, also later washed)
 * anorak in compression sack
 * tissues or wipes
 * snacks (generally salty trail mixes and one or two Luna bars)
 * plastic ziplock bag with sunblock and a small shatterproof bottle of Doctor Bronner's soap
 * mesh drawstring bag with:
      leatherman
      emergency drinking water germicidal tablets
      compass/gps
      emergency space blanket
      matches in waterproof canister
      illumistick
      submersible flashlight
      mirror for signaling
      whistle
      firestarters
      pencil (a pen does dry out)
      small notebook
 * trail map (or two)
 * drawstring bag with:
      car keys
      wallet
      sunglasses
      cell phone (yes, I have used it)
 * polarfleece jacket or pullover
 * gloves or mittens
 * 2-32 ounce bottles of water

        I don't see any of these items as negotiable. The emergency sack may seem overkill for dayhiking, but you never know what could happen out there. I hike by myself so frequently that I plan to be self-reliant no matter what. I've been on an exposed ridge when a storm blew in, and I was only 2 miles of so from my car, but the fog made it very tough to stay on the trail. An hour later I was safe at the car, but cold and wet, and I could have prevented that by carrying more gear. If I had wandered off the trail and gotten lost, or fallen and broken my leg, with the equipment I carry with me now, I would be able to signal for help with a flashlight, whistle, or illumistick, light a fire if necessary, stay warm, and hydrated.
 

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