Enjoying an outdoor adventure is as much about your advance preparation, as it is the experience itself. Indeed your preparation can often determine the quality of your experience. Many of us have entered the outback with specified plans that seem to go awry in strange ways.
Recently I was enjoying a slot canyon rappelling adventure with a larger group. Several things cropped up that slowed our progress, and we ended up exiting the canyon in the dark, many hours after our intended completion.
Without some advance preparation on the part of our guides we may have been in the canyon overnight. We had little water left, there was not ample wood for a fire, we were out of food, but we had radios to contact a home base if things got more challenging. Many of us used our cell phones for lights, we did have extra layers of clothing and most also had gloves to keep hands warm.
Even when you're planning on a day excursion, there are standard items that you and/or your traveling companions should have available. Much of this gear is small and very light.
Top Ten Essentials for Hiking and Outdoor Adventure
1- Water (plenty + a small & light portable water filter)
2- Layers of clothing (+ head/hands gear if the location or season dictates + plastic poncho + light foil blanket)
3- Extra nutrition (energy bars or other)
4- Fire starter (matches, flint, lighter, other)
5- First aid kit
6- Rope (webbing, paracord, other)
7- Maps / Navigation (compass)
8- Tools + Wire/tape (something that can be used to repair or strengthen)
9- Illumination (flashlight, headlamp, etc.)
10- Sun Protection
Most of these supplies are very light and compact. I suggest you bring some tin foil for additional heat reflection or even to heat up water or food.
What could go wrong?
- Wrong Trail
- Delays (storm, slow participants, etc.)
The list could go on.
A couple of years ago we were doing a day hike with a group and came across a man from another country, walking on his own. He had taken a wrong trail and attempted to ascend a steep cliff-face that he thought was the correct way out of a canyon. He had placed his weight on a loose rock which subsequently rolled and slice his right calf open from knee to ankle, and it was deep - going approximately two inches into the flesh. Luckily we were carrying enough gear to bandage him up adequately, and the injury was such that he was not fully incapacitated. Surprisingly he was able to walk out of that situation with our help, albeit very slowly. He would have spent a night alone in that canyon, had we not come along.
Another recent adventure proved a need for correct information and maps, along with the ability to filter water when needed. (link)
No matter what method of transportation you use to venture into the out-back, the bottom line is that most excursions require something more than is anticipated, and a little advance preparation can make the difference in being ready to adjust, or letting the great outdoors dictate a tougher than needed experience.