Hiker at a campsite beside tent
Basics,  Safety

The 10 Essentials for Queer Outdoor Travel

When you’re on a remote trail, your chances of running into other hikers who can help you in an emergency are low. Your phone probably won’t get much signal, so you can’t call for help either. The ten essentials for hiking will help you minimize your discomfort and be prepared for emergencies that could come up. 

LGBTQ hikers will want to carry the basic ten essentials, the same as any other hiker. But there are a few extra considerations for queer hikers to know! As you pack your day pack for the trail, here’s what to keep in mind about the ten hiking essentials from an LGBTQ perspective. 

Why do hikers pack and bring along the ten essentials?

Historically, the outdoors haven’t been welcoming to queer people. Rural areas tend to be more politically conservative. The recent resurgence in anti-trans legislation leaves all LGBTQ people questioning whether we’ll be welcomed. If something goes wrong, queer hikers can be nervous about outing themselves while in a vulnerable position. 

In a blog post on being gay in the wilderness, Kyle Groetzinger, a staff member at the National Parks Conservation Association, writes about the worries that arose when he stopped for gas in a rural areas. Nervous that tight pants, a high voice, and his outward appearance would give him away as gay, Groetzinger masked his true voice. 

Raised in the south, Groetzinger knew that prevailing stereotypes about rural areas and homophobia are often untrue. But he still felt the need to mask his true self to pass as straight. 

My experience is similar: I encountered more frequent homophobia living in a big northeastern city than I have since moving upstate. But I still experience fears when heading out on the trail. 

Women hikers report frequent harassment from men, which trans and queer women should keep in mind. When Outside surveyed over 2000 active women, over half of the women reported being catcalled, followed, and outright attacked on the trail. Sensationalist headlines when women are assaulted while hiking reinforce the need for caution. 

Depending on where you’re hiking, you may worry about the LGBTQ friendliness of rescue personnel or local authorities. Knowing that you can get yourself out of many unpleasant situations just by carrying these supplies can reduce your discomfort on an adventure. 

TLDR: In case of an emergency, it’s wise to be prepared.

The ten essentials will help you stay warm and hydrated, fix simple gear and first aid problems, and avoid other problems that could pop up. In backcountry areas, it takes time to assemble a rescue team. One more tip: If you’re worried about the cost of all these items, shop used to save on hiking gear.

What are the ten essentials used in hiking?

1. Navigation: map and compass

A smartphone is fine for a walk or day hike. Once you get out into the backcountry, you’ll need more reliable navigation means. Cell service or GPS units are less reliable in the backcountry, where cell signal varies. Then there’s the issue of battery life: you don’t want to be reliant on something that could quit working mid-hike. 

As a backup, take a paper map and compass packed in a plastic bag for waterproofing. 

Before your hike, practice orienteering before you hit the trails so you know how to use these if you need to. Read over the map to familiarize yourself with the mileage, election gain, trail junctions, potential hazards on the trail, and other need-to-know information. 

2. Water and water filtration system

Pack 1/2 a liter of water per hour as a general guideline. Have a system for treating water on the trail, such as a filter bottle, filtration system, or iodine tablets. 

Even if you don’t think you need it, take it. You never know when you’ll spill a bottle or run into another hiker who wasn’t prepared and needs your help! 

3. Food

“More than you think you need” is a good rule of thumb with snacks and food. You will burn more energy than you think hiking. If the hike gets longer than planned, you’ll want extra supplies on hand. 

The Appalachian Mountain Club recommends you pack a mix of carbs, fats and proteins. Fats and proteins recharge your energy for the long term while carbs are great for that quick burst of energy needed to power through. Take a mix of foods that meet your diet and don’t need to be cooked. 

My favorite snacks for hiking include Lara bars, peanut butter crackers, nuts, dried fruit, and fresh fruit or sandwich wraps for day hikes. 

4. Layers 

Weather can change quickly while you’re hiking. It could be nice at the trailhead only to become extremely windy or rainy once you gain elevation. If you become injured, you could spend a night on the trail. For these reasons, you’ll want to bring extra layers, including rain gear. 

Dress in layers: a lighter base layer, a warmer mid layer, an insulating layer like a fleece, and a shell or jacket depending on the season. Take along a rain jacket or poncho, a hat and gloves in winter, a sun hat and sunglasses in summer. 

Cotton stays wet when it gets wet, which makes you cold. Avoid cotton and choose synthetic fabrics or wool. These wick sweat away from your body, which helps you stay warm and comfortable. 

5. Shelter

In case of emergency, you’ll want a shelter. Space blankets are a popular choice because they are lightweight and will keep you warm. A divvy sack or a trap will also work. 

If you’re day hiking on a popular trail, you can get away with leaving the shelter behind. If it’s a more remote trail where you might not see other hikers, it’s better to be safe and tuck this in your day pack. 

6. First aid supplies

First aid supplies will help you address injuries as they arise, before symptoms worsen. An off-the-counter emergency kit will cover many ailments. 

Of course, first aid supplies are only useful when you know symptoms of illnesses and injuries and how to treat them. A wilderness first aid class will increase your comfort level with treating common trail injuries. 

7. Headlamp

You never know when you’ll be stuck on a trail after dark. A headlamp is recommended since it is hands free, but a flashlight will also work. Take along extra batteries since you never know when yours will wear out. 

8. Safety basics

Pack fire starting basics and a safety whistle. A fire will keep you warm and help you signal for rescue in case you need it. A whistle may help you get the attention of other hikers. Sound travels in the woods, so they’ll hear you even if they can’t see you. 

9. Sunscreen and sun protection

Regardless of the weather, take sunscreen, sunglasses, and sun-protective layers. The higher you go, the greater the exposure to UV rays. 

10. Gear repair kit

When you pack a gear repair kit, you can tackle simple problems on your own. 

For hiking and backpacking, gear repair essentials include: 

  • Duct tape 
  • Repair items for your gear, like patches for your mattress pad 
  • Paracord
  • Carabiners
  • Zip ties 
  • Extra batteries 
  • Needle and thread

It’s been my experience that most of the people you meet outdoors are friendly and helpful. They would never cause harm. But your comfort level may vary and you always need to trust your instincts. Never go into the backcountry without a plan. Having the ten essentials, an understanding of local laws and LGBTQ+ friendliness, and an understanding of the risks queer hikers face is essential.

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