The Bitterroot Valley is an expansive, wild place, where in every direction there seems to be an endless possibility for adventure. And one of the most popular ways to appreciate the area is hiking the vast network of trails. Here is a checklist for what to bring on a hike; it’s extensive enough that to keep you prepared and safe in the wilderness, but also light enough that you can appreciate the day without feeling overburdened by the load.

A quality backpack is important for hikes of any distance beyond a short stroll. Packs come in all sizes, but for the average day-hiker a small day pack that has storage for water will work. If you plan to pack a heavier load with a lunch and water filtration, or if you intend to carry a large canister of bear pepper spray, you might want to wear a pack with a stout waist belt.

Clothing is important, even for a short hike, because weather in the mountains is unpredictable; travelling through the trees it can be impossible to spot an advancing thunderstorm until it’s directly overhead. Carry a light jacket and if there is a chance for cool or cold weather, consider packing an extra layer or two in case the temperatures unexpectedly drop.

No amenity is more important than water. Carry plenty of water. You can carry water in many ways, bladder-style carriers for storage and water bottles for travelling light. You can also treat the water on the trail, although this will require space in the pack. The next most important object is a first aid kit. The kit should cover the gamut of possible injury. Bandages and antiseptic, ibuprofen, etc., should be included, although the home-style kits found in stores are likely too big and bulky to take out on the trail, so building your own kit—the carrier for the supplies can be as simple as a gallon freezer bag—is usually the way to go. You may also want to carry a knife or multi-tool, and any navigation supplies you think could help on the trail.

The better prepared you are the more you’ll appreciate your time in the wilderness. Enjoy the Bitterroot Valley, and keep safe.