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Rucksack Essentials For Hikers

Most lists of suggested contents for walkers' rucksacks for days out focus on safety but walking is about having fun in the outdoors whether in gentle countryside or rugged hills. Whatever you decide to take, the first step is to have a rucksack that is big enough to swallow all you want to take without having to jam everything inside and have difficulty finding and retrieving it. Happily, there's no shortage of options to suit all shapes, sizes and pockets. Base your own list of essentials on the suggestions below. Plastic survival bag - you may carry one for years and years and only ever use it as a picnic mat but that's the nature of insurance. First aid kit - adapt the contents to suit your experience and needs; check it every now and then to make sure everything is in order. It's useful to bear in mind that you may come across other people needing help when you decide what to leave out. Keep it handy and clearly labelled. It's also a good place to keep details such as your name, address and who to contact in case of an accident. Map and compass - not really meant to be kept in your rucksack, of course, but ready to hand. These can add immeasurably to the pleasure gained from a walk quite apart from route finding. As well as knowing how to use a compass and read a map, you'll need to keep it dry in a waterproof case if it's not proofed or laminated. Food and drink - as well as lunch or whatever, pack a little extra in case you're delayed. Stow enough water to see you comfortably through the day and drink from it regularly. A flask of hot drink is usually welcome whatever the weather. Whistle - useful to summon help (six short blasts in a minute) and letting other needing help that you've heard them (three toots back). Torch - a head torch leaves your hands free; signal for help as per the whistle. Bootlaces - you may carry spares for years and never need them; when you do, they're invaluable. Knife - there are umpteen uses for a small folding pocket knife. Walking poles - a pair will take a lot of the strain off your knees but even a single pole helps with balance. Waterproofs - if not worn, keep them handy and pack a warm hat and gloves as well. As fleece tops are so light, it does no harm to pack a spare. In winter, packing extra warm clothing is important. Mobile phone - useful for summoning help but only in a true emergency. Camera - whatever you take, keep it handy and protect it from knocks. Binoculars - are useful for route finding as well as spotting wildlife. Of course, they're also just fun to use. Notebook and pencil - you never know when a stunning insight should be recorded! Sun cream and insect repellent - it's easy to burn when out for several hours and biting insects can ruin a day's fun.

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