New research in the USA has revealed some startling information about the hiking equipment essentials American outdoor enthusiasts take with them, or not as the case may be. Every year, numerous hikers and walkers are helped by the search and rescue services, but little quantitative research existed on how and why they end up in trouble within the study area.

The State of New Hampshire’s ‘Hike Safe Program’ has come up with a recommended list of 10 essentials that everyone should have when they go hiking. The ten essential items are: map, compass, extra clothes, waterproofs, fire starter kit, flashlight, extra food and water, knife, first aid kit, whistle.

The study aimed to find out what the gaps were, in what people had with them as well as what was missing, whether it was equipment or knowledge. A series of 22 questions were asked to almost 200 hikers across the White Mountain Nation Forest, which was the defined study area. Questions revolved around what kit they had packed, whether they had told others of their planned hiking route, had they checked the weather, and why they packed or omitted what they did.

The researchers deemed that to be prepared you had to have a minimum of eight items from the list in your kit, and found that 60% of those questioned had seven or fewer. The study found that hikers were most unprepared on short hikes, although even short trips are become dangerous. In addition it was found that the more mature (ok older) persons interviewed were better prepared. Other findings included: the most commonly omitted items from the list were whistle, compass and fire starter kit. The vast majority had checked the weather and had also informed others of their intended route. The most common reason for leaving out something was that it was only considered a short trip or that they had forgot. It was only a very small percentage who admitted that they simply didn’t own the item in question.

While this study only covered a small area, and items on the list would vary it has helped the services provide extra education to those planning trips to the area which should help reduce the number of unfortunate injuries and keep the costly search and rescue missions to a minimum.

Before us Brits get all smug I had a quick look at The Mountain Rescue Service and the information that give on the number and type of injuries they are called out to. The details is tremendous, and we shouldn’t rest on our laurels as even though the numbers are coming down on the number of rescues they are called out to, we still have to be prepared when we venture out into the hills. They have a great section which I have reproduced below, but for more information check out their website.

Stay safe this summer!

Well, the sun has arrived! It's tempting to journey into the hills with a lighter pack but please remember: weather can change suddenly in the mountains. Showers, chilling clouds and even thunderstorms can quickly appear. We recommend you always pack a lightweight waterproof, a spare insulating layer, even a hat (it can still be ear-bashingly windy up top!). Don't forget the sun cream (and hat) and, of course, plenty of water to keep you hydrated.

Plan your route carefully and, if you're new to the hills, take care not to overstretch yourself – stay in your comfort zone.

Check the weather forecast before setting off.

Take sufficient food and drink to sustain you for your planned trip.

And, even if it IS summer now, we can't say it often enough: map, compass, torch (and spare batteries)!!

So whatever your plans make sure you have all the hiking equipment and stay safe while enjoying the great outdoors, wherever you find yourselves.