Wilderness Essentials

Every time you head out for an adventure in the wilderness, whether here in Hawaii or anywhere else in the world, you should AT A MINIMUM have these items in your bag! This list is recognized by many organizations around the globe and is a baseline standard to carry with you. In addition to the common list, we have added two additional items that are important to hiking specifically in Hawaii.



A topographic map, coupled with a compass and the knowledge of how to use it can ensure that you can find your way along your journey. A GPS (whether a standalone unit or via an app on your phone) is a very helpful tool but is limited by it’s battery life and satellite reception, something not always guaranteed under the thick forest canopy in Hawaii.  
 The sun in Hawaii can be incredibly brutal if you aren’t prepared for it. Keeping skin covered, either by clothing or sunscreen (choose a reef friendly kind!), is critical when out adventuring. Don’t forget to reapply regularly.

Sunglasses are also important as the glare from the sun, especially when reflected on water can do long term damage to shielded eyes.



 The weather in Hawaii can change in minutes. A hot, cloudless day can quickly turn into a cold and windy downpour, leaving the unprepared hiker wet and shivering, despite being on a tropical island. Pack clothes for any condition to have an enjoyable time. 
 Even if you aren’t planning to be out after sunset (or exploring any caves), packing a source of illumination will ensure that you have a source of light if you get stuck out after dark.

The flashlight vs. headlamp debate comes down to personal preference, but think about the benefits of being hands free with your light. 

Check the batteries regularly or pack spares as well. 



 A well stocked first aid kit, and the knowledge of how to use it, is important for places beyond the trail as well as when hiking. Consider the things you are likely to encounter or come across.
 A fire can be the difference between life and death, even here in the relative warmth of Hawaii. Have at least two methods of starting a flame (matches, lighter, flint etc) and carry a source of kindling (steel wool, fireballs etc).

NOTE: whenever you start a fire be very careful with containment.



 You never know what will break. A good multi tool will assist you in fixing what you need to fix and getting back on the trail. 
 Carry an extra meal or two beyond what you are planning to need. Food equals calories and calories equals warmth or energy to keep moving. 



 An second water container (beyond your primary one) ensures you have a second source in case the first one fails or leaks. Additionally, carrying more water than you think you will need is especially important if you aren’t familiar with how your body reacts to the sun and heat of Hawaii.

A water filtration or purification system will allow you to refill your water containers, as in general, stream water is NOT safe to drink in Hawaii.

 A shelter can be as basic as a rain poncho and as complex as a full on tent. In case of an unplanned overnight, something between you and the elements will keep you warm(er) and dry(er)!


Recommended items specific to Hawaii:


 Hawaii has many amazing sights and views, but many of them are up or down muddy slopes or up rock-filled stream beds. A pair of microspikes that slip over your hiking shoes or boots will enable you to get better traction in slick terrain. 
If you need to attract attention, a whistle is a better option than your voice, which will give our from yelling over time. Additionally, a signaling mirror will allow you to be visible from long distances away and get the notice of aircraft overhead.



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