Two hikers in forest text overlay 10 Essential Survival Items for Hikers
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Essential Survival Items for Hikers

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10 Survival Items for Hikers You Should Always Carry

You never know what can happen on the trail, which is why you should always carry these important survival items for hikers. While you always hope you’ll never have to use them, you’ll be thankful you have them if you ever need them.

1. First Aid

A first aid kit is one of the most crucial survival items for hikers. You can choose to buy a pre-assembled first aid kit, which will take the guesswork out of what to include. You can also put together your own kit to suit your own needs.

No matter which option you decide on, make sure your kit includes the following items:

I also highly recommend including these blister bandages. I’ve found they’re one of the BEST ways to not only avoid getting blisters in the first place, but also protect and heal blisters that do pop up. If you’re on the trail and realize your boots are starting to give you a blister, you’ll be glad you have some in your first aid kit.

It’s also a good idea to include this compact first aid guide for dealing with medical emergencies. This way, you’ll know how to handle any issues that might happen when you’re on the trail.

Related: The Best Hiking Backpacks

2. Navigation

You’ll find all types of navigation aids that can help you find your way.

No matter what type of hike you’re doing, you should always have some type of map with you. Topographic maps are ideal because they show you terrain features that make it easier to navigate the trail.

In addition to a topographic map, you should also have a compass. Even though almost all smartphones and GPS devices come with electronic compasses, it’s still a good idea to carry a traditional compass. It weighs almost nothing and you never have to worry about needing batteries to operate it.

A GPS device lets you pinpoint your location on a digital map. The best GPS devices for hiking are weatherproof and rugged. Just keep in mind that GPS devices require batteries to operate, so you’ll either need to carefully monitor the power level or carry extra batteries.

If you’ll be doing backcountry hiking, you might want to consider carrying a personal locator beacon (PLB). If you need help from emergency personnel, you can activate the PLB and it will send your position using a satellite.

Since a PLB will work in remote areas where you might not always have a cell phone signal, it offers nice peace of mind to have one with you.

Related: The Best Trekking Poles for Every Hiker

3. Sun Protection

Having the right sun protection is an absolute must when you’re on the trail and key to helping you hike in the heat.

While most clothing will offer some amount of sun protection (and many synthetic pieces now come with integrated UPF protection) you’ll still have to protect your exposed skin with sunscreen. This is my favorite sunscreen for hiking because its natural, reef-safe, and offers SPF 50+ protection.

You should also consider packing a hiking hat for extra protection for your face and sunglasses that can protect your eyes from damaging radiation.

Related: Best Hiking Trails in Florida

4. Fire

In case of an emergency, you should always have the supplies you need to start a fire. A pocket lighter is a good option because it’s lightweight and durable.

If you decide to take matches, I recommend getting wilderness-use matches, which are stronger and more durable than the cheap ones you can pick up at the convenience store. Additionally, you definitely want to store your matches in a waterproof container so you know they’ll stay protected through all types of weather.

In addition to a lighter or matches, consider bringing a few squares of firestarter in a plastic bag to help you quickly jump-start a fire.

Related: Trail Etiquette and Basic Rules for Hikers

5. Multi-Tool

A multi-tool is one of the best handy survival items for hikers because you can use it for first aid, making kindling, gear repair, food preparation, and more.

Also, if you’ll be heading out on a multi-day hike away from civilization, you may want to consider carrying a gear repair kit that includes fabric repair tape, duct tape, extra paracord, zip ties, safety pins, and repair parts for your water filter.

Related: 50 Stunning Hikes in the U.S. (One in Every State!)

6. Headlamp

You might not plan on being on the trail after the sun goes down, but you never know what might happen. If you are hiking in the dark, you’ll appreciate having some source of light with you.

While a flashlight would do, a headlamp works much better. It keeps your hands free for holding trekking poles, setting up camp, making dinner, and more. Plus, with a headlamp, you’ll always have bright, clear light wherever you’re looking.

Also, don’t forget to throw in some extra batteries for your headlamp!

Related: Best Hikes Around Chattanooga, TN

7. Shelter

You should always carry some type of emergency shelter with you in case you get lost or stranded on the trail and need to protect yourself from the elements. This doesn’t have to be anything big or elaborate like a tent.

I prefer to pack this emergency thermal blanket in my backpack. It’s compact and weighs just a few ounces, which makes it easy to bring along.

Other options that can work as emergency shelter include a bivy sack, lightweight tarp, or even a large trash bag.

Related: How to Prevent Encounters With Dangerous Wildlife When Hiking

8. Extra Clothes

Weather conditions can change in an instant when you’re on the trail. That’s why extra clothes are important survival items for hikers.

Related: The Best Hiking Pants for Women

If you suddenly find yourself hiking in a thunderstorm or the wind picks up and the temperature drops, you’ll appreciate having some extra clothes with you.

When you’re trying to decide what to bring, think about the season you’re hiking in and what you’ll already be wearing.

In the summer, an extra pair of pants, socks, underwear, an extra shirt, and a lightweight jacket are usually good items to have. If you’re hiking in the winter, you’ll probably want to bring all of that plus an extra pair of gloves and an extra pair of thermal underwear.

Related: How to Quickly Break in Hiking Boots

9. Extra Water

If there’s one hiking mistake you definitely don’t want to make, it’s not bringing enough water. It’s absolutely crucial to bring enough drinking water AND a way to purify water when you’re on the trail.

When you’re packing bottles to drink while you’re hiking, you should bring 16 ounces of water for every hour you plan on being on the trail.

You have several options for purifying water while you’re hiking. I prefer to carry the Sawyer Mini water filter. It weighs just a few ounces and instantly filters 99.9% of all bacteria from water.

Your other option are these water purification tablets, which you simply drop in your water to make it safe to drink.

Related: The Best Water Filters for Backpacking

10. Extra Food

You should always pack an extra day’s worth of food to go along with your usual assortment of snacks. Try to pack foods that have a long shelf and don’t require any cooking. Good options include extra trail mix, energy bars, dried fruit, and jerky.

Related: The Best Vegetarian Backpacking Meals

Essential Survival Items for Hikers

Whether you’re going out on a short hike or a long trek, you need to carry the right gear. Even though you hope you never need to use them, these are the 10 essential survival items for hikers that you should always carry in your backpack in case you need them in an emergency.

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Now that you know more about the important survival items for hikers that you should pack for every hike, are you ready to discover even more great tips so you can start planning your next adventure? Then be sure to check out some of our other popular posts:

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