Hiking and Backpacking Emergency Kit

The trails of the Ozarks are very rugged, fairly remote and access for any rescue party will be difficult. Our worst case scenario is that one of us will suffer a fall and become incapacitated.

If the worst happens we assume that there will be no cell phone service, and that any rescue attempt will likely take a day or more. So even on a short day hike our emergency kit is designed to enable us to survive overnight in the wilderness.

Photograph of the contents of a hiking emergency kit

Hiking Emergency Kit

Our day hiking emergency kit is kept in a small 7″x5½” pouch. It contains two space blankets, two very cheap plastic rain ponchos, a whistle and two small Altoids tins. One tin holds our first aid supplies, the other emergency supplies. We also carry our headlamps and a compass.

Backpacking, we omit the rain ponchos and space blankets, as we are already carrying sleeping bags, tents and rain gear. The two Altoids tins are kept in the top cover/pocket of Gary’s backpack along with waterproofs, his headlamp and some spare clothes. If for any reason we need to drop our packs and run, the cover can be removed from his backpack and be worn as a fanny pack.

Hiking & Backpacking Emergency Kit contents

  • Small Bic Lighter. We own, but don’t feel the need to carry a fire steel. The Bic lighters have proved very reliable. People have reported problems using them in the cold. And that’s correct. However, if you hold the lighter in your hand or under your armpits to warm it up, it’ll work perfectly.
  • Fire starter (cotton balls soaked in Vaseline). These are kept wrapped in aluminum foil to keep them fresh. We carry and use the same fire starters for backpacking so we’re well practiced at using them to start a fire.
  • Pencil stub and waterproof paper. These are useful for leaving notes to a rescue party or each other should one of us need to relocate for some reason.
  • Duct tape. We couldn’t be out in the Ozarks without it! It’s useful for all sorts of emergency repairs from a ripped tent to a damaged hiking pole.
  • 2″ nail. We keep the duct tape wrapped around the nail. If nothing else the nail can be used to pin a note to a tree.
  • 1 gallon heat proof bag. A container for drinking water.
  • Small knife. Just in case we lose our personal knives. I keep my own knife on a lanyard attached to my pants so I can’t accidentally drop or lose it, but you never know when you might need a spare.
  • Razor blade. Useful as a general cutting tool.
  • Fishing line. We debated the wisdom of having fishing line and hooks. Given my ineptitude at fishing, we didn’t think it was a practical item to carry. However, the line can be used for tying things together, repairing gear, and in an extreme emergency it can be used as for sutures.
  • Needles. These are kept in a short length of heat sealed plastic drinking straw.
  • Water purification tablets. If your are using the emergency kit, you’re probably already feeling miserable. You won’t want to feel even worse because you’ve drunk some dodgy water.

Hiking & Backpacking First Aid Kit

Gary is formally trained in providing First Aid. When we analysed what we needed we were surprised at how little was really required. Our bandannas or spare clothes can double as additional bandages. Clean water is best for washing out wounds. A lot of first aid equipment is really superfluous.

  • Band-aids. A small selection of all sizes.
  • Bandage and gauze.
  • Pain killers. Standard ibuprofen stored in short lengths of heat sealed plastic drinking straws.
  • Anti-Diarrheal tablets.
  • Benadryl Tablets. Gary has had a systemic reaction to insect bites in the past. Benadryl seems to keep it under control.

Both tins are kept sealed shut by pieces of bicycle inner tube, which can double as tourniquets or bindings. We should have (but currently haven’t) a schedule for rotating any perishable content in our emergency kits. I’d hate to need to use something just to find it was useless.

One thing you’ll note. We don’t carry a snake bite kit. The research we’ve performed suggests that they are of little or no value. The best protection is to not get bitten in the first place. If someone is bitten, you should know how to treat and evacuate the victim. This article from Backpacker Magazine is typical of many you can find on the Internet.

If all the above seems excessive, just think what you’d do, if late in the afternoon on a day hike, you fell and broke your leg. If you are lucky and have a hiking companion, you’ll have to wait while they go and get help. If you are alone you’ve got to wait for someone else to come along the trail, or until you are missed and someone raises the alarm. It’ll soon be dark and it’s getting cold. Are you prepared?

2 thoughts on “Hiking and Backpacking Emergency Kit

    1. Gary Post author

      It’s a good thing to have. So far we’ve not had to use anything from the emergency tins except band aids. But you never know.


What do you think?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.