With perfect weather, hiking season in the Valley of the Sun is in full swing. But there is something that search-and-rescue crews are recommending that you take along with you to potentially help save your life.

A trash bag. Yes, a trash bag is something you should never hit the trails without, but why?

“During the day, the temperatures can be exceedingly hot. So if you are planning to hike during the day you can end up out in shorts and a tank top, but then if you end up having to continue out in the field overnight because you have lost your way, the temperatures are going to drop as soon as the sun goes down,” said Niccole Cerveny, a certified instructor for National Association of Search and Rescue.

As a result, if you get lost, you will likely not have a jacket to help keep you warm as search and rescue crews come to find you.

However, if you packed your trash bag, it can help keep you warm. “What you can do is, since your first line of defense is the clothing you are actually wearing, and you have probably sweated in them so they are a little bit wet and you didn’t bring a jacket… it’s really easy to have packed in your pocket a trash bag. This simple trash bag can work as a shelter, keep you warm, keep you out of the rain,” said Cerveny.

Obviously, you need to make a hole for your head to stick out of the bag and the method for creating the hole is important. “If you tear a hole in the trash bag you have sort of a rough edge surface, so it is likely to stay that small. But if you cut it with scissors all that you end up having to do is stretch your arms out, and the cut will split the bag right open, and that could be a problem if you are trying to keep yourself warm,” said Cerveny.

Cerveny also warns that kids should be taught that the trash bag is not a toy, but a potentially lifesaving tool.

Besides the trash bag, you should also carry a small 24-hour survival kit. Cerveny recommends including, “that garbage bag, an emergency poncho, a glow stick, a signal mirror, five to ten feet of duct tape, and a whistle.”

If you include a glow stick, choosing the right color is crucial. “If you get a glow stick, make sure you have a color other than green, since green is what the night visions goggles show up in,” said Cerveny.

And last but not least, make sure you always tell people where you are going and pack enough water. “You are going to need more like three to four liters a day and need to have pre-prepared the day before by drinking a lot of water,” said Cerveny.

Be safe and happy trails!