Top 10 Backpacking Survival Essentials

What should be in your backpack when you go on a hike?

The “Top Ten List” contains all of the essentials for wilderness survival, which everyone should always have with them when they go hiking in the wilderness, even just for a day trip.  For overnight expeditions, you should have a variety of additional supplies (for example, a sleeping bag), but this is a list of the minimum supplies needed.

Here is the list, with some examples you can research further.  Of course, if you’re hiking in the desert or the rain forest, you’ll have different needs, but this is a good starting point for most hikers:

  • Emergency Shelter:  A ‘bivvy-bag’, plastic tube tent, ‘sil-tarp’, poncho, large garbage bag, or mylar blanket (‘space blanket’)
  • Jacket:  It should have a hood, and be warm and waterproof (consider Gore-tex)
  • Fire starter:  Waterproof matches, stormproof lighter, ferrocerium rod, magnesium block
  • Water:  At least one liter per person, with a way to filter and/or purify more.  Depending on your location, you may need to carry two liters or more, even for a day trip.
  • Food:  Snacks, Clif bars, MRE snacks
  • Map and compass:  A high-quality compass and topographical map
  • Knife:  A sturdy, fixed-blade knife, if that’s legal where you live.  Otherwise, a lock-blade, folding knife will work.
  • Multi-tool:  Made by a reputable manufacturer, like Leatherman, Gerber, or SOG
  • Whistle:  Many survival whistles can be heard from a great distance, and they weigh as little as a fraction of an ounce – there is no reason to not have one of these at all times.
  • Flashlight:  Use an LED flashlight – modern ones are very bright, and the ‘bulbs’ never burn out.  Don’t forget spare batteries.

What should you do with all of these items?  Obviously, you will need to know how to use them.  While I’ll cover many of these topics in upcoming articles, in the meantime, you need to do your own research.

But wait!  There’s more!  One last thing – the most important thing you must have with you – and thank goodness you already have it screwed onto your shoulders – your head!  If you don’t know what to do with any of the items listed above, you need to learn.  Your brain is the most important tool you have, and if you have the ability to think clearly and apply relevant experience to a dangerous and even life-threatening survival situation, you will be much better off. 

Have fun and stay safe!