When I was a kid, I remember spending a lot of time outdoors and going on hikes. Looking at myself now, I probably seem over-prepared and paranoid with the amount of outdoor gear I carry now versus when I was younger.
That’s because back then I didn’t really carry anything.
Okay, that’s not entirely true. I did carry a few items, such as a pocketknife, a water bottle, a snack, and maybe some bug repellent. A far cry from what would be considered a hiking survival kit or any survival kit.
A hiking survival kit is going to look a lot like other kits but the survival gear for hiking is going to need to be tailored for the region you will be climbing through and concentrated on outdoor survival skills as well as signaling and rescue.
In the following article I will be covering
- Why you need a hiking survival kit
- Building a hiking survival kit or buying one?
- Building your own survival kit
- A first aid kit
- The wrap up
Why You Need A Hiking Survival Kit
Unless you are going on an extended hike in a remote area, you might think you don’t need a survival kit. This is a common misconception when it comes to whether or not a person should have a survival kit because it’s easy to think that help is just a phone call away.
Unfortunately, no matter how close you are or think you are to help, bad things can happen and they can happen quickly. Proximity to someone who can help is not a guarantee of safety, and everyone should have the mindset of, ” I am my own first responder.”
You may think you are just going for a quick day hike…until something happens and you are going to wish you had the right tools in your backpack to help out, especially if you are in the wilderness
Building A Hiking Survival Kit Or Buying One?
Personally, I am not a fan of purchasing a premade survival kit, and there are several reasons why.
First, and generally speaking, most premade survival kits are overpriced junk. I don’t know about you but when my life is on the line I want my survival gear to work and work well.
The second reason is that when a survival kit like this is purchased, my gut tells me that most people won’t actually go through the kit and pour over the contents. When it arrives, the kit is packed into a backpack with everything else and it probably never gets a second thought.
A survival kit is meant to aid you in a worst-case scenario so that you can make it out of a bad situation alive. This means that the contents of your survival kit should have quality survival gear and you should intimately know every item that is in the kit.
When it comes to a survival kit, the best course of action is for you to build it, pack it, and more importantly, train with it.
Building Your Own Survival Kit
When building your hiking survival kit, the container that you use for the kit is just as important as everything else. Throwing the items loosely into a backpack is better than nothing but it is not good enough.
At some point, your life may depend on the survival kits you make, after all, that is the point of them. But they won’t do much good if they haven’t been properly packaged. There are many different types of containers and methods for packing survival kits and the one you choose is up to you.
However, at a minimum, everything should be placed into a dry bag. This will keep the contents dry and in working order. By having an emergency kit in your pack and protected, you will be much better prepared when on the trail.
Here is a list of essential items that should be in a basic hiking survival kit.
If you get stranded in the dark while hiking, you are going to need lightsource. Not only can a flashlight be used to see in the dark and avoid dangers, but it can also be used to signal for help.
While it’s a personal choice, I would recommend a headlamp because they provide hands free operation.
From staying warm, cooking food, boiling water, and signaling for help, the ability to make fire is one of the most fundamental and crucial outdoor survival skills. Always carry a lighter, waterproof matches, and a ferrocerium rod as your primary fire starter tools.
Knife and Multitool
A knife is one of the most basic and important tools to have in a survival kit. Pair a knife with a multitool and you will have the tools to complete almost any task.
As the old saying goes, if you can’t fix it with duct tape then it can’t be fixed. This tape has a million uses such as a fire-starting aid to repairing a hole in your bag, and you never know when it will save the day. Easily carry a few feet of it by wrapping some around a lighter or the handles of some of your tools.
With a small tarp, you can set up an array of different shelters that will help to keep you dry and out of the wind. Like duct tape, a tarp also has a lot of different uses. A brightly colored tarp can also be used as a signaling device to get the attention of anyone nearby.
Like duct tape, garbage bags have a ton of different uses. They can be used as shelter-making material, a poncho, a dry bag, a pillow, etc. Contractor-grade garbage bags are several mils thick which drastically increases their durability. Bags that are colored in contrast to the environment will stand out and serve as a signaling device.
Food can be heavy and bulky and while you don’t need to carry months’ worth of supplies, you should always aim to carry more than what you think will need. If you are going to carry one granola bar, why not carry a few?
Other good options include freeze-dried backpacking meals, trail mixes, and energy bars. If you have the extra space and abilities, consider carrying tools that will help you to obtain food such as a fishing kit, trapping supplies, or hunting supplies.
These types of whistles are lightweight, compact, and can be heard over extremely long distances. When you can’t be seen or your voice won’t carry, these whistles will ensure you will be heard by anyone in the area.
Map and Compass
A GPS device is great to have but no hiker should be without a physical map, compass and the knowledge of how to use them. It’s also a good idea to get in the practice of becoming familiar with the topography of the area you are hiking in before you set out on the trail.
Small Fishing Kit
A small pocket-sized fishing kit is lightweight and takes up almost no space yet gives you the ability to catch food should you find yourself in a survival situation. The most abundant items in a survival fishing kit should be plenty of fishing line and hooks.
Extra Clothes and Proper Footwear
Clothing is a hiker’s first defense against the elements. Never leave for a hike without first checking the short and long-term forecast. Wearing extra layers will help to keep body heat in and they can be peeled off as needed.
Proper footwear should always be worn as well. Flip flops and crocs are not appropriate hiking footwear, sorry.
An emergency blanket or space blanket is an extremely compact, lightweight blanket made from mylar. These thin blankets do a great job of reflecting not only body heat but the heat from a fire, which will help to keep you warm. These survival blankets are so light and small that you can stuff them into almost any pocket.
If you opt out of carrying a tarp or shelter, then it’s a good idea to carry several of these as they can be used for shelter and as a signaling device.
Water is absolutely essential to our survival and well-being. Before starting out on a hike make sure you are well-hydrated so that you can stay ahead of the game. Carry a minimum of one water bottle that is filled with clean water and a spare bottle that can be empty.
By carrying a metal bottle you will have the option of boiling over a fire. Other than water bottles, a water filter (like a Sawyer Mini, cotton bandanna) and purifying means (boiling, water purification tablets) should be carried.
First Aid Supplies
Most kits, like some adventure medical kits, are composed of common first aid supplies that may include things like :
- Sting relief wipes
- A mini roll of gauze
- safety pins
- Pain relief meds
- disposable thermometers
- Small adhesive bandages
- Alcohol or antiseptic wipes
Items like these are helpful to have, but kits like these are what most now call “boo boo” kits. They are meant only for minor issues or boo-boos. Please read on in the next section for a better option when it comes to common adventure medical kits and first aid.
First Aid Kit
A proper first aid kit in any survival or emergency kit is a critical item. It’s especially important in a hiking survival kit. So much so that I wanted to drive the point home by giving it its own section.
Hiking is considered as long walks generally done in rural or remote areas. Even if you are able to get a call out to emergency services you don’t know how long it will take for help to arrive.
When seconds count, minutes are too long.
From a sprained ankle, to compound fractures, falls, lacerations and punctures, all sorts of serious injuries can happen when on a hike or any outdoor adventure, and they can happen quickly.
When serious injuries occur, you need to be able to render first aid not only fast but effectively. “Boo boo” kits with packets of single-serve pain meds and finger bandages are not going to cut it.
A more robust trauma kit that can handle life-threatening issues should be a part of every emergency kit. A trauma kit usually includes items such as:
- EMT shears
- Chest seals
- Trauma dressings
- Compressed gauze
The above are just a few items you will likely find in most trauma kits. Not only should every emergency kit have a more robust first aid kit, but everyone should have the knowledge and training to use it. One recommendation for trauma kits are those made by Refuge Medical. I have one of their Bleeding Control Kits and I think their products are fantastic.
What is the number one survival tool to have?
This has and is a hotly debated topic but it’s probably a toss-up between a good knife and a fire-starting tool. Personally, I lean towards a good outdoor knife.
How heavy should a hiking survival kit be?
How heavy an emergency kit should be depends on several factors that include your physical fitness, the environment you will be in, and the duration of your hike.
There are many different emergency kit configurations. Some are pocket size, some only weigh a pound or two and some weigh much more. As long as you can comfortably and safely carry the kit, I wouldn’t be concerned with the weight as much as making sure you have what you will need in a survival situation.
Is a hiking survival kit different than a standard survival kit?
Most survival kits are composed of many of the same basic elements, i.e, a way to start fire, a knife, shelter-building material, etc. However, hiking survival kits should be focused on addressing hiking-related injuries, signaling and rescue, and outdoor survival skills in the region you plan on hiking.
How many layers of clothing should I wear when I go hiking?
This completely depends on the climate of the region you plan on hiking in. Always wear more layers than you think you will need because garments can be taken off as needed. But, one should plan on having a base layer, a middle layer, and an outer layer of clothing. Always have some waterproof garments as well.
What is the universal signal for help when using an emergency whistle?
The universal single for help when using a whistle is three consecutive chirps.
Can a hiking survival kit be used for other situations?
Of course! As stated above, most survival kits have a lot of the same basic items and equipment in them so they can be used for a variety of situations like natural disasters, on a road trip, or while camping.
At The End Of The Trail
At the end of the day when the sun sets, your survival is up to you. Ensure that you have a safe and enjoyable hiking trip by having the right equipment and gear in your bag. And if you want to be very prepared, train with your equipment.
Thanks for reading and stay prepared.