Having a hiking backpack filled with goodies is all well and good until you actually are face-to-face with a life and death situation. Having the proper equipment in your backpack on your hike can literally save your life, but what is considered “right”? Whatever puts the odds in your favour is a huge advantage for you, so think in terms of maintaining body temperature, replenishing lost fluids, and shelter.

All experts will tell you that it is essential to assemble an emergency kit with the following items that will be with you whenever you’re out in the wild:

  • Protection – Getting out of the elements. Bring along things like an emergency blanket that can double up as a signalling device if it has a reflective side;
  • Illumination – Don’t wait for daylight. Make sure you have a light to see where you’re going and to signal anyone who may be within range;
  • Fire-starting materials – You shouldn’t have to depend on dry fuel either. Pack waterproof matches, for example;
  • Safe drinking water – The human body can go without food for a while, but you cannot survive without clean drinking water. 

Put emphasis on these four elements when choosing what to put in your backpack. Make sure these are accounted for before adding extras.

Minimalist Route

When you like to pack light, the idea of hauling around certain items might seem a bit excessive, especially those that come with a survival kit. So think in terms of multipurpose items that can be used for more than one job. Those items would be:

  • Duct tape
  • Compass
  • Personal locator beacon (PLB) or cell phone with GPS – these are extremely useful nowadays and have gotten much stronger signals. A PLB can transmit your location via GPS coordinates at the touch of a button to search-and-rescue centers throughout the region;Stainless steel wire
  • Fish hooks and sinkers
  • Magnifying lens
  • Paracord/Braided nylon
  • Altoids tin
  • Safety pins
  • Sewing needle
  • Thread
  • Aluminum foil
  • Tinder
  • Waterproof paper
  • Whistle
  • Water bottle with filter

All of these goods can be used to tie things together, create traps, bandage up injuries (duct tape), help you gain your bearings, and signal for help. The best part? You can squeeze them all into a Ziploc baggie (and stuff some things into the water bottle too) and tuck it into the front pocket of your hiking backpack.

SHTF Route

There are some situations when you need to be equipped to survive no matter the odds. You simply can’t wait for someone to come find you, because you have no idea if you’ll ever be found. As scary as it seems, having the appropriate survival kit can keep you going for much longer than someone who is panicked and unprepared.

Take responsibility for your health and safety by assembling the following for a SHTF scenario:

  • All goods on the minimalist list above
  • Hygienic goods (especially for female survivalists) in a waterproof case
  • Plastic bags or a tarp for creating a solar distiller
  • Signal mirror
  • First-aid Kit
  • Flashlight or headlamp
  • Space blanket or bivy sack
  • Gloves
  • Knife
  • Char cloth
  • Nylon braided line
  • Chlorine dioxide water-purification tablets

With this, you should have a decent survival kit that will get you through even the most trying of expeditions.

Other Survival Kit Advice

Remember that no survival kit is 100% complete. Your gear needs to be customized for every single trip, depending on how long your hike is and which hiking route your taking. Do some research beforehand to gauge what may or not be necessary. For example, if you are hiking in the summer through a region that typically stays hot throughout the day, you probably will need to bring extra water and UV protective gear rather than warm blankets.

Also keep in mind the route you are taking. Bring maps of the area to make sure you stay on track. If you do a lot of backcountry hiking and backpacking, keep an atlas with you at all times, a sleeping bag, a change of clothing, food, and a solar cell phone charger or battery pack.


Creating a survival kit is an indispensable part of preparing for a wilderness journey. Be sure to keep at least one kit in your car, one in your backpack, and some items on your person at all times, and you will overcome every wilderness challenge!​

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