Weather conditions in the Columbia River Gorge are notoriously harsh and ever-changing. Conditions at the start of the hike may differ dramatically from those hours later, or at river level versus the summit of Larch Mountain. Below is a list of the most basic equipment that should be carried on every hike, whether it's planned for a few hours, or multiple days.


Plan your route, and an alternative. Know the various exits that you may need to employ. Research maps, and recent trip reports if at all possible to learn current trail conditions. With recent reconstruction and restoration efforts as a result of the wildfires in the gorge, many trails are still closed, rerouted, and look dramatically different from what you may be familiar with. Please respect trail closures in place to protect hikers from overly hazardous conditions, and wildlife restoration. 

Share your plan with a trusted person. Make sure they know what route you intend to take, and the times you expect to be in and out of the field. Give a clear and precise time that they should call for help if you have not returned or contacted them.


Light Source

Running out of daylight is one of the most common scenarios for overdue hikers in the gorge. Once the sun sets, chances of getting lost or injured increase immensely. Always carry a flashlight and/or headlamp and extra batteries.

Extra Clothing

Hypothermia is one of the most common hazards, and biggest killer in the Oregon wilderness. It's easy to misjudge weather, or underestimate hypothermia risks, even in the summer. Always pack extra layers for protection in wind and rain.

Food & Water

If your hike goes longer than expected, extra food and water can be the difference between an inconvenient delay, and an outright survival situation. Dehydration compromises several functions of your body, and is generally more critical than food.

Navigation & Communication

You should always carry a map and compass, but it is also important to know how to use them. A GPS receiver or cell phone are also extremely helpful, but don't rely on them. Many areas in the gorge have limited or no cell service. Cellphones are not an appropriate substitute for a flashlight.

First Aid Kit

Carry a basic first aid kit, and again, know how to use it. If you have critical need of medication, carry an additional supply. Self reliance in a wilderness setting is important when help may be hours, or days away.

Pocket Knife

A knife is an invaluable tool with countless uses in emergency or survival situations. Collecting fire wood or shelter material, making field equipment repairs, cutting cordage or bandages are all things that can be difficult when needed if you don't have a sharp knife.

Fire Making Kit

A basic fire starting kit should include a heat source (lighter, ferro rod, waterproof matches), and tinder or fire starter material. A simple fire when done safely can keep you warm, provide light and morale in hard situations, dry equipment, and signal rescuers.

Emergency Shelter

Large, heavy-duty garbage bags, or tarps can quickly be used to make expedient emergency shelters, as well as protect your gear (like extra clothing) from getting wet while in your pack. Shelter in our typical rainy, windy, and cold conditions limits exposure and increases your survivability.

Signaling Device

A whistle, or light source can dramatically increase your chances of being heard or seen. Whistle sounds carry further in the wilderness, and require much less energy than yelling. Even small light sources have the chance to be seen from incredible distances.

Sun Protection

Often overlooked, sun exposure in the pacific northwest summers can lead to hyperthermia (overheating), dehydration, or mild to severe sunburns. In winter months and snow conditions reflected sunlight can lead to snow blindness. Carry sunglasses and sunscreen with you, even when it seems unlikely you'll need it.