Tell someone where you are going!
Tell someone exactly where you are going and when you are to be expected back. Leave them a map with your route on it if they are not familiar with the area. Also tell them when to call the authorities if you do not return. If you do not know anyone at all, stop at a ranger station and tell them you will check back with them on the way out, kind of like a flight plan for airplanes. If you are leaving your car somewhere while you hike alone give them your license number, make and model and so forth. I like to leave a map of where I am going in my car also in case the worst happens and someone is searching my car for clues. These days if you are into GPS systems you can leave exact co-ordinates for your location also. This is probably the best insurance you have when you are hiking alone and the most often overlooked. You may go all of your life without having to use any of this information but the one time you need to you will be glad you told someone.
- Stay with the Plan
If you leave a plan with a friend or authority and then you decide to go somewhere else, all of your efforts to prevent disaster have come to nothing. Do not vary your route no matter how tempting it may be. If you decide to change anything or come out early, let those waiting for you know so they are not wasting time looking for you. This sounds so simple but you would be surprised how many people decided to change the route at the last minute and regretted it later. Don't do it. Hiking alone is risky enough without adding more danger of not being found.
- Take Water
You cannot survive very long without water. If you are going for a day or a few, take more than you think you need and take water purification iodine or filters because you can survive quite a while with water but not very long without. Enough said.
4 Take Food
Well you say I am only going for the afternoon but what if you fall and break an ankle and now it is night and you have your water but you are hungry! If you go very long you will be very glad you brought at least a few energy bars or some gorp or gu, something. I eat a lot so I take more than most but take more than you think you need. Hiking alone is miserable if you are stuck, lost and hungry!
- Take Sleeping gear
Now I don't say take a sleeping bag necessarily, but take a space blanket which takes no room or ads no weight and take an ensulite pad. If you ever have to spend the night directly on the ground you will be glad you took a pad. I like to use it to take breaks on and rest my bum on instead of that sharp rock you are sitting on. It really does not weigh very much and will keep your body temperature up if you have to sleep outside. Ditto for the space blanket. They both go together and will keep you relatively warm and toasty without freezing to death.
Also take more clothes than you will think you need because if you are stuck outside or even it turns cold you will be prepared, I think these three items go together, bag, pad and clothes.
- Take a Flashlight