Survival Kit For Hiking

A well-stocked survival kit while hiking can be the difference between life and death.

If you are planning a light day hike, there are certain essentials you should carry with you. The trick is to bring what you need without being overburdened. For starters, you'll need a day pack or large fanny pack; good, broken-in hiking boots or trail shoes; and socks that don't chafe (thin synthetic socks or liners under hiking socks are a good choice). You'll want to wear comfortable clothes, such as long pants with removable "legs" that can be transformed into shorts. Leave the cotton at home; it stays wet from sweat and rain, which can contribute to hypothermia.

Here is a list of other items you'll need in your survival kit:

A compass - this may seem unnecessary for a light day hike, but this small, lightweight item can help if you become lost or disoriented.

First aid kit - fill a small zippered, waterproof pouch, bag, or daypack pocket with band-aids, moleskin, first-aid tape and ointment, an ace bandage, mosquito repellent, a snake bite kit, and aspirin.

Flashlight or headlamp and extra bulbs/batteries - you may get caught on the trail after dark or need to signal for help.

Food - for an all day hike, you'll need a lunch, plus several snacks. Energy bars and gels are lightweight and keep you going. Other options that don't weigh a lot or take up a lot of room in your pack are tortillas or pita bread, dry salami or jerky, string cheese, fruit leather, small bags of baby carrots, and small boxes of raisins or other dried fruit.

A map - even if you know the trail, a map is a lightweight item that can help you locate water sources, and an exit route or place to camp in case of an emergency.

Rain gear and extra clothing - the weather can change rapidly, particularly at high elevations. Lightweight rain gear can be stuffed in a pack (the best folds up into itself to make a compact "package"). Long underwear (capilene or another high-tech, fast drying, sweat-wicking fabric) is lightweight but adds warmth. A fleece or other lightweight hat keeps body heat from escaping through your head.

Sunscreen, sunglasses, and a sun hat - again, the weather can change. Plus, you can get sunburned on a cloudy day - especially at high elevations and where there is snow. Sunglasses are especially important in snowy areas to prevent snowblindedness. A well-ventilated, lightweight sun hat with a brim can provide enough shade to keep you from overheating and provide further protection against sunburn.

A swiss army knife or multi-purpose tool - the best ones have scissors, tweezers, small screwdriver, can opener, and knives in various sizes.

Waterproof/windproof matches in a sealed container or ziploc bag - in an emergency, a fire can prevent hypothermia and can be used to signal for help.

Water/water filter - hiking guides recommend a minimum of one liter per person per day of hiking. However, the minimum is increased to up to one gallon per person in hot, dry areas and during the summer months. Carrying a gallon of water in heavy water bottles is cumbersome; options include a hydration system that you wear like a backpack with a tube that you drink from while walking, or you can carry a water filter if there are water sources on your route and purify drinking water along the way. Never drink untreated water even if it looks clean.

These other items are optional, but can be useful if you have room in your pack and/or don't mind the extra weight:


Camera/video camera.

Extra socks - a fresh pair of socks can energize you for the return trip.

Field guides - bird books, wild edible plant guides, tree guides, etc.

Gaiters - these can be useful if your hike takes you through snow, especially on a warm day when you are wearing shorts.

Gloves - a pair of lightweight, capilene or wool gloves can come in handy if the weather turns cold.

Mosquito netting - a piece of netting to wear over your head and cover your face can mean the difference between a miserable day and a tolerable one.

Notebook and pen or pencil.

A tarp - this can be used to sit on if the ground is wet, to build a shelter to sleep under, and as additional protection from bad weather.

Trekking poles - these provide added stability and balance. Telescoping poles are fairly lightweight and can be stored in your pack when not needed.

Ziploc bags - a couple of these thrown into your pack always come in handy for packing out trash, storing leftover food, and a number of other uses.

© High Speed Ventures 2011