Going hiking offers a multitude of benefits. It’s great for getting into nature, which helps revitalize your mental state of mind. It’s also an excellent way to get some exercise! With the variety of trails out there, anyone can get started hiking regardless of their background or fitness level.
With all of the benefits of hiking come some risks. Dehydration, changing weather, and injury can turn a positive experience negative quickly if you don’t go out prepared. So how do you prepare yourself to meet all of the challenges you can encounter on the trail? Go prepared!
By the end of this guide, you’ll know the 15 essential pieces of must have survival gear you need to bring along with you to ensure you thoroughly enjoy your hiking trips and make it home to talk about it!
The Must Have Survival Gear For Hikers
The absolute most important piece of survival gear that you can bring along with you whenever you go hiking is a knife. Knives can be used to create kindling to start emergency fires, cut sticks to help create a figure 4 deadfall trap for catching food, and shaping branches to create emergency shelters like lean-tos and A-frames.
A survival knife is a very personal item, so be sure to spend some time shopping around to find the perfect knife for you!
Bringing along enough water is essential for anyone that goes hiking. The general rule of thumb to follow here is to bring along at least 1 liter of water for every hour that you plan to be on trail.
Dehydration presents a very real risk to hikers due to the strenuous nature of hiking. When you don’t drink enough water, you risk getting a pretty terrible headache at best and death at worst! So be sure that you bring along an appropriate amount of water for your hike.
The container that you choose to bring your water in matters as well. Be sure to bring something that is comfortable to carry over the distance you plan on hiking and that will encourage you to drink often. If you’re only going a short distance, bringing along a small water bottle should be appropriate. If you’re hiking several miles, consider bringing a hydration pack since the easy access to your water will encourage you to drink regularly.
3. Water Filtration System
As mentioned above, water is essential to safely enjoying your hike. But what do you do if you run out of water on trail? Is the water that you encounter in the wilderness safe to drink? On its own and without being treated, no. Water sources in the wilderness can carry parasites and bacteria that can make you seriously sick! So be sure to bring along a water filtration system to refill on the trail and keep yourself safe from getting sick.
There are tons of water filters on the market. One of the most popular and easy to use water filters are squeeze filters. Sawyer makes a couple of sizes of squeeze filters, so choose the size that best suits you. Be careful not to drop or freeze your water filter, as doing so can damage the inside of your filter. If your filter is damaged, DON’T USE IT. Replace it as soon as possible.
If you’re in an emergency and you’re faced with the choice of drinking from a water source without a filtration system, drink the water. The sickness that you will experience will set in much later than the effects of dehydration. The human body can only go 3 days without water, while water bourn illnesses can set in after 2 weeks. If you’re lost, drink the water you have available to you.
Hiking is a strenuous activity, which requires that you replenish the calories you burn while you’re on trail. Bring along high calorie items to help you stay fueled up to crush your hike! Some great ideas for hiking food are:
· Trail Mix
· Protein Bars
· Fruit Snacks
Each of these items are great to bring along because they are light weight and full of the calories and nutrients that your body needs to stay fueled during your hike.
A pro tip here is to also bring along an emergency food source. Choose something that is high in calories, but also isn’t something that you like to eat. Wrap it in duct tape and always bring it along with you. The reason you want to bring something that you don’t usually want to eat wrapped in duct tape is that you’ll be less likely to eat your emergency food when it’s not an emergency. Plus, the duct tape can help you build a shelter in case you are spending an unplanned overnight in the wilderness!
5. Fire Starter
If you end up getting into trouble and you need to spend the night outside, you’ll want to be sure you can make a fire. Have a few ways to build a fire with you so that if one way fails, you’ll have a backup. Some hiking gear to take with you in a baggie to keep it dry is:
· A lighter
· Waterproof Matches
Carrying multiple ways to start a fire can help you start a fire, no matter what. Fires can offer several benefits such as warmth, boiling water to purify it, and a visible signal to show rescuers where you are.
One of the best things to happen to hiking in the last 20 years is the wide availability of GPS devices. GPS stands for global positioning system. They connect to the satellites that orbit Earth so that no matter where you are, you’ll be able to see your location. What’s better is that some GPS units come with emergency signal beacons, which will give rescuers your exact location in the event you need rescuing. If GPS units appear rudimentary, try looking out for a modern gps watch!
7. Map and Compass
Like fire starters, you’ll want to make sure to bring along a backup for your GPS. GPS devices are electronics that depend on staying dry and staying charged to work. If something happened where you accidentally dropped your GPS in water or the batteries died unexpectedly, you’ll want to be sure that you have the ability to find where you’re going. If the conditions are expected to be extreme to read, its always a good idea to pack a magnifying glass
Maps and compasses have been used for hundreds of years to help people navigate – long before the gadgets existed. They do require that you know how to properly read a map and use a compass. Before you go hiking, be sure that you feel confident in reading a topographic map and using a compass to navigate.
Whistles are one of the most effective ways at signaling for help. They are much louder than the human voice, which will help rescuers hear you from a much further distance away. Plus, they don’t take a lot of effort to use compared to yelling. All you need to do is blow loud, short blasts to get someone’s attention.
9. First-aid Kit
First aid kits are a must bring item for any hiker. You can bring as much or as little gear in your first-aid kit as you feel comfortable bringing. Regardless of the size of first aid kit, be sure that you have the following at a minimum:
- 4×4 sterile gauze pads
- Anti-septic ointment
- Anti-itch cream
- Nail clippers
- Tenacious tape
- A Triangular Bandage
- Blister Management System (Moleskin)
- Anti-reflector Goggles to prevent snow blindness
- Cotton Balls
Cuts and scrapes are likely to happen along the trail, so be sure that you have a way to stop the bleeding, clean up the wound, and apply a bandage to keep the wound clean.
Triangle bandages are extremely versatile and should be a part of any first-aid kit. You can use them as a tourniquet to stop major bleeding, as a sling to immobilize an injured arm, or as a way to create a splint to immobilize a broken bone.
You’ll also want to be sure that you bring along ant-itch cream to address any bug bites or stings you get while on trail.
Tweezers are helpful for removing splinters, which can get infected if they aren’t removed properly.
Blister care is extremely important while hiking. If you develop a blister, you’ll want to protect it by dressing it with Moleskin, which will protect your blister from tearing open. Nail clippers will help trim up any hanging skin that might be present if you accidentally tear open a blister. Be sure to dress torn blisters with anti-septic ointment before bandaging it and covering it up with Moleskin.
10. Extra Layers
Whether you’re going for a short 2-mile hike or a long 20-mile hike, be sure that you have extra layers to change into should the weather take a turn for the worst. Hypothermia can begin to set in once temperatures sink below 50°F, so it’s important to go prepared.
One of the easiest ways to brink an extra warm layer is to bring a lightweight base layer. Merino wool and synthetic base layers are the best materials that you can find for base layers, as they are light and work well even when wet!
11. Emergency Space Blanket
If you end up spending the night out on the trail unintendedly, you’ll want to be sure to give yourself all of the help you can get to stay warm. Space blankets are great to carry on any hiking trip as they are light and offer a ton of warmth for how small they are. There is a reason most hikers sway towards them for emergency shelter.
Aside from covering up to keep you warm outdoors, space blankets can be used to create a lean-to shelter. If you build a small fire near your space blanket lean-to, you can create a nice and toasty shelter for the night as the heat coming from the fire will reflect back into you as it bounces off of your space blanket. With how cheap and light space blankets are, it’s silly not to bring one along and use it! Alternatively, Opt out for a emergency bivvy or a sleeping bag that offers you wind protection. Most specialist hikers will have at least two forms of emergency shelters as a vital part of their survival tools!
It’s also a good idea to have foldable emergency blankets at your disposal for extreme weather conditions. The rule of thumb is to keep you warm enough until search and rescue teams or care services people find you. Your bivy sack could also do the job as long as you ensure you warm yourself up slowly when hypothermia sets in
12. Signaling Mirror
One of the most effective ways to get the attention of airplanes and helicopters flying overhead is to use a signaling device like a mirror. All you need to do is manipulate it to shine sunlight into the air to get a pilot to notice you!
These are small and easy to pack along with you. In fact, there are compasses that also have signaling mirrors built into them! Combining a compass and a mirror will increase the chances of you bringing this life saving piece of survival gear along with you, so consider buying a combo compass and mirror to bring with you on your next hike.
Paracord is one of those essentials that has a variety of uses and is so easy to carry that it’s silly not to bring it! In fact, there are bracelets that you can buy that allows you to carry 12’ of paracord around your wrist, making it super simple to bring this awesome tool with you no matter what!
Paracord can be used to create a shelter by tying it between a couple of trees to create a base to make a lean-to. You can also use it to make a snare to trap food, which can be lifesaving if you’ve been lost for several days. In the event that you’re near a place to catch fish, you can cut the paracord open to expose the smaller fibers inside the paracord to create a small fishing line to catch fish! The uses of paracord are really limited by the imagination, so it’s supremely important to bring along paracord on any hike you go on.
14. Sun Protection
The sun can absolutely mess you up if you don’t have the proper sun protection. Be sure to always bring sunscreen at a minimum to protect your skin from the sun. It’s recommended that if you’re going to spend more than 15 minutes outside that you apply sunscreen. The best sunscreen you can bring along is going to be waterproof, because it’ll stay on your skin regardless of how much you sweat.
Outside of sunscreen, the best thing you can bring to protect yourself from the sun is a hat. Whether it’s a baseball style hat or a full brim hat, the shade cast by a hat will help keep the sun’s rays from baking you while you huff and puff up a steep section!
A backpack is like a good friend. They are supportive, they hold your stuff when your hands are full, and they carry snacks! And like a good friend, you’ll want to be sure to be picky about what backpack you decide to bring along with you.
Go to an outdoor essentials gear store and try on a few backpacks. Don’t be shy in asking out what the season’s favourites are! Ideally, bring along some of the gear that you intend to take with you on your hike so that you can feel how each pack you try on will feel when you have it weighed down. If your pack is uncomfortable in the store, it’ll likely be uncomfortable on the trail!
Also, consider how long you’ll be hiking when choosing your pack size. Backpacks are sized by the number of liters of volume are inside the backpack. In general, backpacks that are suitable for a day hike range from 20 to 35 liters. If you are going on a longer hike or spending the night outside, you’ll want to bring a backpack that is larger than 35 liters. Just know that the higher the number of liters, the larger the volume of the pack, and the more gear you can stuff inside! Bring the appropriately sized backpack for your hike.
Hiking is such an awesome way to spend time outside. It’s a great way to get in shape while also getting to see some beautiful scenery. You’ll be sure to comfortably enjoy your hike trip and come home safely if you make sure that you practice your survival skills in known conditions before slowly upgrading yourself slowly to more challenging treks and don’t forget to bring the 15 essential pieces of survival gear with you each time you go hiking!