Along with your favorite pair of sunglasses and sugary snack, make sure these essentials are also packed away in your backpack. Whether you find yourself in an emergency or just having too much fun on your adventure, it's a good idea to always be prepared.
Navigation- Having a topographical map and compass or a GPS device is crucial. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced hiker, it is always smart to keep one of these on hand while out on the trails.
Food- Extra food and water is a must while out for a day, a week or a month. Always make sure to pack according to the length of your trip and make sure you bring a kit to boil water. Treatment drops or pills will work as well, but are not as effective at killing giardia. Make sure you take water from a running stream and never from a standing pool.
Light- Pack a flashlight and extra batteries in your backpack. Make sure to check and see if all are working before departing on your trip.
Fire- Waterproof matches or a lighter and some fire starter are important. In case you find yourself in an emergency or are planning on being out overnight, a fire can be a lifesaver in many ways and can provide much-needed warmth.
Sun Protection- Sunglasses and sunscreen should always be in your pack, regardless of whether you're going on a short day trip or a week long backpacking trip through the High Sierras.
First Aid- Keep a fully stocked first aid kit, including any medications you may need. Make sure to keep the kit stocked before departing for every trip.
Knife- You would be surprised at how many situations you might find yourself in where a knife will come in handy while out hiking. Make sure to keep a folding pocket knife with you during your adventures.
Signal- One item of clothing (whether a jacket, t shirt, bandana, etc.) should be a bright color. This will help search and rescue workers find you in an emergency. You should also bring with you a whistle and a small mirror.
Emergency Shelter- Bivouac sacks are a big plus to have with you in case you find yourself in a storm or an emergency situation where you need shelter. They are light, easy to pack and fairly inexpensive and will come in handy in an emergency situation.