Trails for everyone, forever

Home News Blog What Do I Need for a Close-to-Home Hike?

What Do I Need for a Close-to-Home Hike?

Posted by Erika Haugen-Goodman at Mar 17, 2020 03:37 PM |

For a walk in your local greenspace, packing along the Ten Essentials may feel like overkill — but then where does that lead us?

Note to readers: We want to acknowledge that, as you're reading this, we are in the midst of a public health crisis. And while we know the immense value of getting outdoors, we want you to stay safe. So in addition for some advice on what to bring on any close-in hike, we're also offering tips on staying safe right now. As is always the case when you go hiking, you are responsible for your own safety. Your good judgment is the most important thing you bring with you.

What do I need for a close to home hike? WTA staff are asked this question often, and it’s a hard one to answer. There isn’t a definitive answer. Saying that you need to bring the Ten Essentials for a hike in a local park may be overkill. But we don’t want you to head out unprepared.

Backpack. Photo by Dale Blair..jpg
While not essential, a fun patterned pack can add extra joy. Photo by Dale Blair.

So where does that leave us? The honest answer is that it leaves us somewhere in the middle of recommending bringing certain things on every hike and letting you, the hiker, decide what your comfort level is. If the park is in the middle of a city and has cell service, water fountains and lots of people around, it’s extremely unlikely you’re going to need much to enjoy your time outside and feel safe.

Managing and mitigating risk is part of outdoor recreation and hiking. Deciding what your comfort level is with certain situations and locations will help you determine what you need to bring with you on your next hike. For parks and trails next to your house in the city, that might mean putting on a pair of good shoes and bringing some water. For a hike outside the city, it might mean carrying the Ten Essentials. These decisions will vary based on the location, season and weather, among other things.

To manage risk appropriately and decide what you need to bring with you on your next hike, try to picture a scenario where you might be caught outside for an extended period of time. Your distance from facilities and help (should the need arise) will aid you in determining what to carry with you. That might mean you need to bring an extra layer or jacket, or maybe it means bringing more food and making sure your phone is charged. It’s always better to be overprepared than underprepared, so we recommend taking a look at the list of the Ten Essentials to see where you might have any gaps in your equipment based on the hikes you’re planning to do.


  • Navigation (such as map, compass, GPS)
  • Hydration • Nutrition
  • Rain gear and insulation
  • Firestarter
  • First-aid kit
  • Tools (such as knife, duct tape)
  • Illumination (such as flashlight, headlamp)
  • Sun protection
  • Emergency shelter
This article originally appeared in the Spring 2020 issue of Washington Trails magazine. Support trails as a member WTA to get your one-year subscription to the magazine.


Wanda Fooka on What Do I Need for a Close-to-Home Hike?

I'd love to see more discussion of preparedness & the 10 Essentials as adapted specifically to urban hiking. Things like where & how to park to avoid tickets or vandalism, how to navigate potential conflicts with trailside homeowners and residents, & how best to handle any meetings with people whose only housing is a tent near the trail. The potential for 2-legged nuisances & harassment or crime seem higher with urban trails, so it'd be good to have info on things like cell phone coverage for each trail. And, of course, where best to get one's favorite post-hike treat; be that ice cream, beer, coffee, etc.

Posted by:

Wanda Fooka on Apr 20, 2021 08:19 PM