Proper planning and preparation is essential whenever one ventures outdoors. This list of essentials helps hikers of all levels prepare for a safe outing. It is important to know that your hiking gear will vary according to the planned hike, weather, trail conditions and other aspects. To determine what you will need to bring along with you, ask yourself how long you will be out there, how remote the location is and what the conditions are. This will help guide you to the right direction on what to bring. Typically, the longer, more remote and rugged conditions require more essentials. Keep in mind that these are suggestions and not hinder your ability to hike and be outdoors, however, they will provide hikers with a safer and more pleasant outdoors experience.
- Backpack/ Daypack/Fanny pack
- Trekking poles
Clothing & Footwear
- Proper closed toed footwear: Ankle-high footwear prefered
- Comfortable pants/shorts: quick-dry preferred
- Long sleeve shirt
- Extra layers
- Extra clothes
Rain/Cold Weather Gear
- Rain gear (jacket/pants/pancho)
- Insulating layers of clothes (sweaters, jackets, pants, fleece)
- Extra socks
Food & Water
- water bottle or container (hydropacks)
- Navigation system
- Cellular device
- First aid kit
- Pepper spray
- Face mask (CDC recommended)
- Medication (i.e. prescriptions, inhalers, Epipen)
- Sun glasses
- Field guides
- journals /sketchbooks/pen
Outdoor Awareness & Etiquette
- Become Familiar with the environment and weather conditions: Before heading out, access and adjust activities around weather. Be sure to do your research and check for road conditions, closures and restrictions due to extreme weather.
- Getting lost: Be sure to review your route before heading out and with the group if you are not traveling alone. Consider staying together, forming a buddy system and staying put if lost. Do not rely on your phone since it could not work and if possible carry a physical map of the trail.
- Stay on trail and within designated areas: Stick to your intended route. Going off trail could damage or hurt plants and animals.
- Do not disturb wildlife: Be sure to maintain distance for mutual safety
- Pack out what you pack in
We take your health into serious consideration when visiting outdoor spaces and encourage everyone to follow CDC Guidelines when out on trail. The following steps are encouraged, however, note that some locations might have varying restrictions and policies that are important to know before you go. For more information, visit the parks’ website with park guidelines.
- Maintain social distancing from others that are not in your group
- Wash your hands frequently. Soap may not be available at site so bring your own. It is encouraged to bring hand sanitizer with you.
- Avoid touching your face
- Wear a mask where a 6-foot distance cannot be maintained or on busy trails
Check out #RecreateResponsibly to learn about ways to protect yourself, others and the outdoors!
Proper planning and preparation is essential whenever one ventures outdoors. This list of essentials helps hikers of all levels prepare for a safe outing. It is important to know that your hiking gear will vary according to the planned hike, weather, trail conditions and other aspects. To determine what you will need to bring along with you, ask yourself how long you will be out there, how remote the location is and what the conditions are. This will help guide you to the right direction on what to bring. Typically, the longer, more remote and rugged conditions require more essentials. Keep in mind that these are suggestions and should not hinder your ability to hike and be outdoors, however, they will provide hikers with a safer and more pleasant outdoors experience.
Watch your footing
Typically the roots of plants hold soil in place. Many shrubs will re-sprout and many trees will regenerate after a fire. However, the burned plants aboveground result in an input of dead roots below ground, which has the potential to influence decomposers as well. As these old roots decompose, they become less efficient in holding the soil in place which will allow the soil and rock to shift and move under foot. In addition, storm-triggered landslides and rockfall may make trails and roads impassable. In some cases the existing trail and trail markers may also be obliterated making route finding difficult. In addition, Intense burns could create detrimental effects on the soils’ physical properties by consuming organic matter, resulting in the loss of soil structure which leads to soil erosion. Stay on trail in burned areas and be cautious of where you are standing.
Flash floods & debris flows
Burned landscapes have fewer plants to intercept rain thus more reaches the ground with high impact. In addition there are fewer plants actively growing so evapotranspiration rates are also much lower, which means the soils become saturated much more quickly than they did before a fire. Vegetation loss and soil exposure creates a risk of flash floods and debris flows. Both create deep rumbling noises and ground vibration. Be very aware of the weather. Avoid travel in channels when rain is likely. If you get caught unaware, climb to high ground. Don’t enter flood waters as you may not have a solid substrate underneath and the flow may be stronger than you estimate. Look, listen, and react quickly! Debris flows can make trails and roads impassable. Post-fire debris flows are triggered typically by erosion caused by rainfall runoff and landsliding caused by rainfall seeping into the ground. If possible, avoid fire zones during or shortly after rain.
Watch for others
The Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) effort started before the August Complex was out and is scheduled to continue for the first year after the fire. The US Forest Service specialists assessed the burned area for watershed impacts, hazard trees, and other concerns. Treatments to minimize those impacts are then prescribed and implemented. Watch for personnel and equipment as the Forest Service ramps up its restoration efforts which include – to name a few – roadside hazard tree management, thinning, burning and planting. During implementation there may be heavy equipment and aircraft working in and around the burned area.
Be aware of hazard trees
Hazard trees will exist throughout the burned area. It is often hard to assess the long-term survival of scorched trees, some of which may subsequently die while others may recover. Assume that a dead or defected tree may fall and impact an area up to two times its height. Even isolated green trees that are surrounded by a heavily burned area are very prone to breakage and uprooting. Even if a tree looks robust, it could be at risk of falling due to altering soil properties and soil hydrology. Allow yourself some extra room and consider the potential fall zone when choosing a travel route. Be especially wary of hazardous trees after rain events or during high winds, or on very hot days.
Watch for wildlife
Fire dramatically alters wildlife habitat. Many animals are migratory and were out of the area at the time of the fire. These animals may experience a delayed response to the changes in their habitat when they return or they may simply choose not to return to that particular site. As many plants will respond favorably to fire, there may be a fresh flush of desired forage plants that will concentrate animals in new places. Be aware of your surroundings and know what wildlife you might encounter in the area.
Watch for sensitive plants
Be careful where you step, both for your own safety and to watch for young seedlings and fragile plants.
It’s critical that you check the open status of a site before embarking. On our burn sites page, we have included links to webpages that provide status updates for each particular site. We can not guarantee that a site is currently open or closed. Please check in with the appropriate park, agency or site if you have questions before heading out. Additionally, it’s important to understand what resources are available (or not available) at the site you’re intending to visit. We’ve included some important considerations below.
Have you checked if parking is available?
If you are driving to the site, parking is important to figure out beforehand. Parking could be far from the location, not accessible or only appropriate for 4-wheel drive.
Make sure you can travel without trespassing
Make sure that the routes you take and the destinations themselves are open to the public. If you’re unsure, check in with the appropriate agency that manages the burn area. This information is available on our Burn Area webpage.
Understand local restrictions
Especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, please follow all local and county restrictions. Maintain safe distances from other people, wear masks and follow other guidelines. Might change to a one-way trail, some trails may be closed, make sure you keep an eye out for signs and following directions.