Wilderness preparedness: What should I carry on a day hike?


MARQUETTE, Mich. (WJMN) — If you’re eager to explore some of Michigan’s great outdoors this summer, you should also make sure you’re taking the right steps to protect yourself, search and rescue experts say.

Michigan Backcountry Search and Rescue President Michael Neiger said no one plans to get lost or injured on a trail, so preparedness is essential.

“I see a lot of people out carrying nothing. They’re either out for an hour, sometimes they’re out for a half a day and maybe they just have a water bottle and granola bar, so I would say no one plans on getting lost,” he said. “If we know we’re going to get lost, we would certainly be carrying a ton of stuff.”

Marquette-based MibSAR is a civilian, all-volunteer special operations group that works on unsolved long-term missing person cases and cold-case murder investigations that other work on has been suspended by the agency of jurisdiction. Neiger has multiple certifications from the National Association for Search and Rescue including SAR Tech I and crew leader certifications.

If it’s late in the day or you’re not on a populated trail, carrying the 10 essentials listed by the National Park Service can come in handy in case of an emergency.

The 10 essentials include fire-starting devices, a knife, a compass and map, emergency shelter, signaling device, personal insulation like a hat and jacket, flashlight, first aid supplies, some food, water and sun protection.

“These should be on your person whether they’re possibly in your pocket which would be good in case you got separated from your pack but otherwise they should be in your pack,” Neiger said. “A common item is a shelter, an emergency blanket is good if it’s reflective on one side for signaling and reflecting your heat back to you and it’s also good if the other side is really bright like a bright orange, both of those work really good for conserving your heat and also allowing search and rescues to spot you easily.”

In the video above, Michael Neiger talks about signal mirrors.

“One of the most important things to have is a map of the area you’re going to visit so that you can reduce the chances you’re going to get disoriented,” Neiger said. “…You can get a hard copy of it you can also go online and print off a copy, and you can basically do that for about anywhere you’re going to hike.”

Neiger sad that for more serious exploring, a topographical map is good to have for helping relate surroundings to where you are. Keeping hard copies is ideal even if you have the map on your phone in case your phone dies. Hard copies should be kept in a zip-top bag or another waterproof container.

Above, Michael Neiger talks about some tools for starting a fire.

Another measure for ensuring safety on an adventure is leaving a trip plan with a trusted individual in the event that search and rescue operations need to be deployed.

“I have developed a form for people — it’s free, you can contact me for it — … it prompts you with everything you should leave behind in terms of what you’re doing and whatnot. It has a place where you can put your route on it, what kind of equipment you’re using, color of your clothing, whether you have a cellphone, who your emergency contacts are, who your doctor is, things like that,” Neiger said. “…And that’s one of the most important things people can do is leave this type of information behind with a reliable person who knows when you should be considered overdue and when they can call the authorities in to look for you or double-check on you.”

Watch the video above to learn about what uses knives have in the woods.

You can get some basic survival training for free online or in a book, or look for classes in your area.

“Classes are good especially if they’re taught by someone who’s really knowledgeable in the field. I highly recommend that. But you can do a lot of self-study,” Neiger said. “One thing you can do is go to the library … and you can pick up a hard copy book on wilderness survival.”

Neiger will be doing some free backpacking and wilderness classes in Marquette coming up soon.

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