Why You Need a Journal in Your Hiking Gear List


I always have a small paper journal on my hiking and backpacking gear lists, especially if it’s a thru hike. Most of the time I use this for journaling my hike and taking notes on my adventures which makes planning your next thru-hike so much easier. But every so often, a journal or a notebook can become a life-saving piece of gear in the mountains. In this video, I explain why you need a journal in your Hiking Gear list!

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25 comments

  • Thanks for sharing your note taking – lots of great information, including the tips on safety. I journal almost everyday, but it is just basic life stuff. Planning a week at Yosemite in late September 2021 and you've inspired me to pack a small field notes journal in my backpack to record the memories. Thank you.

  • Hi Chase, I did the HRP over 9 weeks back in 2003 and I just love looking back at the journals I kept at that time; it was such a life affirming experience and those journals are so precious to me! Last week I did the Cleveland Way in the UK – my first sizable through-hike since having a hip replacement operation last November. Once again I kept a journal and I know that I will enjoy looking back at that in the future. This is a great video Chase – an unusual subject but a valuable recommendation. Well done!

  • I have been using a journal since the late 90s! But mostly to keep track of the climb's itinerary, supplies and expenses. The life saving segment is honestly something new for my journal. Very helpful addition! Brilliant share. Thank you and safe trails!

  • Amazing advice. I’ve been carrying a small journal on all my trips for years, super helpful. Also, I love your channel, I just found it and subscribed!

  • The more I watch the more impressive you become Chase! For this one, personally, I'm a phone/video guy, it can act as a journal and video dictation with the pics. . digital notes are great for cut and pasting a "day's" format fo the next day. . . to each his own, yours is safer without the battery dependence. . . .Brother, maybe it's just a long life of experience doing extreme sports, I roll way more casually, that said I do my homework for technical routes but generally only do 1-3 day trips and get to keep my focus on the now, beauty, sights, sounds, sky and my inner self, cheese but true . . AND variables affecting my safety for the day down to the moment. There is a lot I'd like to share with you, especially realizing you have a rock climbing background. . . while strength training is huge, quality and efficiency of movement, balance. . .is paramount as well and very gratifying to implement. Gliding over rough terrain is SWEET! I'd love to guide you on some video techniques as well.
    You are doing a great job and a true renaissance man, your knowledge of   is amazing, your humility is inspiring. I'd love to help you if I can, would be very cool to host you here in Colorado and produce some intense stuff revealing the true nature of the things we do. I did this non technical route last week, https://youtu.be/A-4PyHDamCU My planning really shows through, LOL I'm hoping to do some epic scrambling/soloing in New Zealand next winter as well. . . your fan, Karl

  • As someone new to backpacking, I bought a lightweight journal to keep track of thoughts about technical aspects of my day (gear, setup, navigation, etc.), but these are some other great thoughts. Never hurts to find ways to be even more meditative in the outdoors.

  • I hand wrote a journal on the PCT for the first half and switched to a phone app for the second half. I prefer the phone app. I wrote much more on my phone as it was quicker for me to type on my phone than hand writing and I didn’t have to carry a notebook and pen around anymore.

  • Yes! I take my tiny notebook and fountain pen on our backpacking trips. I write a bit each night.

    I also take some small pieces of watercolor paper, a handful of watercolor pencils, and a waterbrush. I find that taking a few minutes to sketch something I see sharpens my observation skills in general. I can take photographs, too, but I see and remember much more when I capture it with pencils. After each trip, I use washi tape to affix the sketches in the journal on the appropriate days.

    (I am not an artist. I learned the benefits of sketching from my nature study science class. It is not about creating a work of art but about the discipline of observing carefully. The sketches naturally improve over time.)

  • I've just started using tarpaulins more, which means I need to know some good reliable knots which I am not very familiar with. But fortunately they are clearly demonstrated in my notebook. 🙂 I'm not much of a writer, just a bit of a poet and information recorder, so I'll never be filling up all those pages – which means I'll always have emergency fire starting fuel available. 😉

  • I always keep a small notebook in my first aid kit, along with a pencil. On the first page I write my name, blood-type, meds, and emergency contacts in case someone finds me and I'm unconscious or can't speak for some reason.

  • I was on a trip where someone was killed. He fell into a moulin. After 2 weeks of searching, his body was never found. One of the things in the rescue effort that was done was a person became the scribe. This person's job was to observe and record everything they could. What actions people did and what people said. They had someone help them with observing and recording the events so they could keep up with what's going on. They didn't help with any of the rescue efforts. This became their job in the rescue. This was done not to get anybody in trouble but to make sure that everything that is done is recorded because so much is going on at that time and people are under severe stress. Stuff will be forgotten. So the scribes job is to get it down the best they can. I always carry some paper and a couple of pens.

  • Thanks for this video. I sometimes consider that taking a journal when hikking is adding weight to my bag, but it's also a way to enrich the hike.

  • Another great video, thanks! If I could add one suggestion to the FA portion when treating someone: add a column to measure capillary refill time. Press on the end of the finger for about 5 seconds and then count how long it takes for the blood to come back – or for the capillaries to refill. (you'll see the nail go from white to pink again). Do it every minute. If the amount of time to refill steadily increases and the time takes longer than 3 seconds, that's considered abnormal and a potential sign of shock. You can't diagnose shock off that test alone (or at all if you're neither trained nor certified) but the rescuing EMTs should be happy to see that you've measured and recorded it.

  • I love this. One of the biggest tricks I play on myself everyday is to think "Oh, I'll remember that, no sweat."

    A lot of time in everyday life I use an app on my phone, but I completely agree: when I'm out on a trail the last thing I want to do is to take out my phone. This is the same for my preference for paper maps too. I keep a small notepad, usually in my pack's waist pocket. I hadn't considered the usefulness of journaling in a medical situation, so I really appreciate you talking about it in your vid.

    Thank you for all the great content.

  • Thanks for the video Chase. I’ve been journaling on and off for a couple of years and treated myself to a new notebook and pen for my recent Overland Track adventure. I find that the tactile aspect of putting pen to paper every day really helps cement the experience. As well as recording my day to day travels I also kept note of what gear worked for me and what didn’t – both to help myself and potentially to help others. 5 weeks on I’m still trying to find time and motivation to transfer it into a blog. Will check out the app as I’m always looking to improve on my journaling habits.

  • A great video again
    Hope you're doing well

  • Great idea! I will add it to my pack.

  • Another safety tip – write your emergency contacts details on the inside cover of your journal, and any important health details (existing conditions, daily medications, etc), and tell your hiking buddies where they are!

  • Great idea. Where did you get the actual journal. It looks cool and I'd love to buy some.

  • Great video Chase. A notebook and a pen or pencil are essential for any hike.

  • There’s a great little journal called Thrunotes from Trailhunter! We use it and love it 😍

  • I got my hiking journal always with me. And it's great to go back to old notes to bring back memories

  • Journals are so important for so many reasons. Safety is definitely one of them. Thanks for sharing!

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