I can drink from the UL Kool Aid on light tents, packs, sleeping gear and clothing systems on the most part, but that last sip that causes some to eliminate the classic hiking essentials doesn't taste good to me. Of course everyone can hike their own hike, but I think touting going a hike minus rain gear, shelter, map and compass or any of the other core essentials is irresponsible and just plain bad advice. As I've said before, that doesn't mean loading up with a lot of junk or an excuse to carry something like a huge knife or a shovel. We can cover the bases while still following the UL principles. The spreadsheet isn't going to keep you warm and dry, nor is an arbitrary weight goal. There will be some items that will go unused, and in the long run that is a very good thing!
Here's my typical basic day hiking essentials kit:
Synthetic insulated vest, fleece beanie and light gloves
Water container and water purification tablets
Insect head net
First aid kit
Compass and map
Sewing kit and duct tape
I forgot the spare line-- always something
DEET in dropper vial
Match case with button compass
Pocket kit on a mini carabiner:
Swiss Army knife
Waterproof capsule with tinder
Space blanket bivy sack
This isn't an enormous amount of stuff and much of it would be considered everyday hiking items, like water, warm clothing and rain gear. With this small assortment of gear I could survive in most three season conditions in North America. Very little of it would actually go unused on an ordinary trip and I'm perfectly happy to accept the extra weight and bulk of those items that aren't regularly used. Most of that is in signalling, first aid items, repair items and redundant fire starting options. We're talking about a few ounces.
As far as training, I think everyone who travels the backcountry should make an effort to gain the following skills. They are good to have if you have kids or experience a natural disaster too.
First aid and thermoregulation: hypothermia and hyperthermia issues, clothing layering systems
Compass and map navigation
Hydration and water purification
Camp site selection and emergency shelter making
Or join the Boy Scouts :)
The one thing that will help save your life that is weightless and free is to always let a trusted person know where you are going and when you will be back or a contact time. If you change plans, you let that person know. If you can't contact them, you don't go.
We must remember that this is about recreation. The goal is to have an enjoyable time in the wilderness and survive to do it again. There is nothing associated with backpacking that is worth a major injury or dieing over. If things aren't right, turn around and go home. Wisdom and discretion are not defeat.
[I did move this from another thread to make it more appropriate]