Imagine this. You're an outdoor enthusiast and you've spent the day out hiking a new trail. You make it to the peak and feel on top of the world. But on the way back down, you accidentally find yourself off the trail. You get turned around, disorientated and you know you'll start losing daylight soon. This situation would cause a level of panic in most everyone, but it will be far worse if you aren't prepared with an emergency survival kit.
Even experienced hikers and backpackers can have something go wrong while they're out on the trail. It might be getting lost. It might be falling or getting hurt. It might be a sudden storm that affects visibility. Any of those circumstances combined with being away from civilization, and most likely not having signal on your phone, can turn into a frightening and even dangerous situation very quickly.
That's why it's incredibly important to have an emergency survival kit with you every time you hit the trails. Most necessary survival items are small and made to fit in your backpack, so there really is no reason not to bring your kit along each and every time. There are some variations on exactly what to put in your kit, but after combining research with our own experiences, we have gathered our top 11 must haves for your outdoor emergency survival kit.
1 Fire Starter
Whether it's magnesium fire starter, flint, or windproof and waterproof matches, you need a way to be able to start a fire quickly. A fire can keep you warm, give you light, bring you comfort, cook food and boil water. If you are outside for an extended period of time, especially overnight or in cool temperatures, a fire can literally save your life. Fire starter is an essential part of your emergency survival kit, but it's not enough to just have it with you. Make sure you know how to use your fire starter to actually start a fire. It's a good idea to practice with whichever starter you choose.
2 LED Flashlight
A flashlight is a small portable way to provide you with a considerable amount of light instantly. LED flashlights are a better option than a regular flashlight because they are brighter while actually using less power. This means they last longer than regular flashlights and you don't need to worry about bringing a bunch of extra batteries with you. We would recommend bringing a small handheld LED flashlight as well as an LED headlamp.
3 Compass and Area Map
While most of us have GPS on our mobile devices, the large majority of the time if you're in need of an emergency survival kit you've probably been outside long enough that your device battery has died or you're somewhere without cell service or an internet signal. Learning how to use a compass takes a bit of a learning curve, but is such an essential skill to have. It's also important to grab a trail map or local area map before heading into the woods. Using these together can help you find your way out of the woods much quicker than you would be able to otherwise.
If you're an outdoor enthusiast or avid hiker, then you're probably well aware of the importance of having water with you. Even though you probably bring a water bottle or two along for every hike, that simply won't be enough in the event of an emergency. Consider carrying a hydration pack and water purification tablets with you from now on.
Human beings can survive much longer without food than we can without water, so you don't need to over do the food. Water has to be the emphasis and we know you're trying to keep your pack light. So choose items that are quick, easy, and don't require much preparation. Things like nuts, jerky, dried fruit and peanut butter crackers are great choices. If you're going for a longer hike or are planning an overnight, then of course canned goods, a can opener and a pot will be very help.
6 First Aid Kit
You can buy a first aid kit ready made at the store or you can make your own. If you're making your own, it doesn't have to be fancy. Just include items like: a variety pack of band aids, an ace bandage, gauze, antibacterial ointment, antiseptic wipes, tweezers, a pain reliever and allergy medicine.
A knife is such a basic survival kit essential that you may already have one you carry with you. If not, we highly recommend getting one. A knife can be used for a variety of reasons, especially if you're lost in the woods. You can use it to mark a trail, prepare food, hunt, in self dense, whittling wood, even to carve or shape a tool. It's definitely a must have!
8 Thermal Blanket
Having a thermal or emergency blanket with you is always a good idea, but especially if you aren't carrying a tent. Emergency blankets are designed to provide a maximum amount of warmth in a small and lightweight package. Carrying one with you will not add much weight at all to your pack and can absolutely save your life.
9 Extra Clothing
Extra clothing can take up some space, but choose items wisely. Choose items that are thin and lightweight but you can wear in layers. Not only will the extra clothing provide warmth, they can also be used to change out of wet gear. Being cold and wet, especially outside and overnight can lower your internal body temperature dangerously. Being able to staying dry and warm can be an essential part of your survival.
10 Rope or Utility Cord
Having a rope or utility cord (like a paracord) with you is really helpful. Similarly to the knife, it can be used for a variety of things. You can use rope in various backpacking situations, to make or hang a shelter, and even to help you carry heavy objects.
11 Emergency Whistle
This is such a small item to add to your emergency survival kit that can produce big results in the event you get lost in the woods or separated from your hiking partner. Carrying a high quality emergency whistle with you can allow you to signal for help, catch the attention of a rescuer and lead them right to your location.