Why bring the 10 essentials on every hike? Consider the following:
* A Palmdale woman goes hiking with two friends in the Angeles National Forest. They separate. It begins to snow. The woman's friends become concerned when she fails to return to the car.
* Four hikers attempt to summit Mt. San Gorgonio, but they can't find the trail they're looking for. It's a nice day, but night comes and the temperature drops. They're stranded at 10,000 feet.
* Two hikers in the Cleveland National Forest get lost when they follow the wrong trail. They haven't told anyone where they are hiking. It gets dark and cold. They hunker down in a ravine and desperately wait for sunrise.
All three of these scenarios happened in the past six months. Luckily, the latter two had happy endings--the hikers had cellular phones and were able to call rescuers. The first story did not. The body of the woman was found two days later. She sat down under a tree and died of hypothermia.
"The lack of preparation and the lack of knowledge is the real killer," says Bob Bradshaw, former navigation chairperson for the the Sierra Club's Angeles Chapter. "The mountains up here are dangerous. They're crumbly, they create their own weather--when it's dry down here in the city, it might be snowing up there."
These 10 essentials may not prevent an accident. But they will help to survive one.
1. Map. Put it in a sandwich bag to keep it dry.
2. Compass. Learn how to use it.
3. Flashlight. A small headlamp will do. Don't forget an extra bulb and batteries.
4. Extra food and water. Throw a couple of energy bars into your backpack.
5. Rainsuit, hat and extra clothes. Make sure the rainsuit is waterproof--not water resistant. Have an extra pair of synthetic long johns. Remember, when cotton gets wet, it stays wet.
7. First-aid kit. Small kits are available at most sporting goods stores.
8. Pocket knife.
9. Matches in waterproof container.
10. Tube of fire starter and/or candle.
11. Toilet paper.