The Best Backpacking Survival Gear

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If you are thinking of backpacking in the wilderness without any survival gear then think again! While the vast majority of backpacking trips are completed successfully without any problems, you do not want to be one of the few backpackers who are caught unprepared. You don’t want to be in inclement weather or cannot get themselves back to civilization after suffering an accident on the trail. Whether you are heading out on a day hike in your nearest national park or are planning a multi-day epic through the wilderness, you should always bring a first-aid kit. 

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Here’s the best survival gear from emergency supplies to first aid kits. This is to make sure you have the safest and most rewarding backpacking experience possible.

Emergency Food Supplies

Although it may seem simple, emergency food supplies are the most important item to have in your backpacking survival kit. It’s always best to take some extra food along with you. Even if you are just planning on going on a day hike close to home. This is just in case you are forced to spend an extra night outdoors due to an injury or poor weather.

Of course, you do not want your survival food supplies weighing down your backpack so it’s best to stick to high-calorie and high-protein lightweight foods. These will sustain you in an emergency. The best of these are protein or energy bars and trail mix; both of which can be bought at any outdoors store. Moreover, if you are willing to spend more money on your survival kit, you can add re-hydratable meals to your pack. These are lightweight, compact, and filling. Also, they are nutritious with just a dash of purified stream water.

Stove for your Survival Gear
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Compact First Aid Kit

Another item that should be found in every survival kit is a compact first aid kit. Whether you are suffering from something as minor as a bad headache or as serious as a broken bone, having a first aid kit with you will increase your chances of making it to civilization and getting professional help.

On the market, there are first aid kits that weigh as little as 500 grams. They also contain upwards of 100 different items; all of which will come in handy in emergency situations. When choosing a first aid kit, make sure that it is waterproof. There is no point in having one if all your medicines, bandages, and plasters become unusable because of inclement weather.

First Aid Kit For Survival Gear
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Insect Repellent

While it might not seem obvious, one of the essential items that should be found in any survival kit is a bottle of insect repellent. Bug bites can be irritating, sore and, in the worst case, dangerous. Indeed, if you are backpacking in tropical areas bug bites can transmit a variety of dangerous ailments. This includes malaria, Zika virus, Dengue, and West Nile virus. In less life-threatening situations, insect repellent can also come in handy. More so if you are forced to stay an unplanned night in the wilderness and do not have a bug screen.


If your day hike ends up taking longer than expected and you are forced to pitch camp in the wilderness for the night, an invaluable piece of gear is a headlight. Having an instant source of light will allow you to set up a campsite easily in lowlight conditions. While flashlights are more common, they tend to have a shorter battery lifespan. Also, they are much heavier and leave you with just one hand free. This then can be a real drawback in emergency situations; especially when you need to work as fast as possible to set up camp.

Light For Survival Gear
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Pocket Knife

One of the most basic pieces of equipment that should be found in any backpacking survival kit is also one of the most essential. A pocket knife. You can choose a multi-purpose pocket knife tool or stick with a traditional single blade model. These can be used to help you shave kindling to start a fire, fashion an emergency shelter out from tree branches, prepare food, or cut lengths of rope to suspend your supplies above ground level. 

One of the most important things to remember is that a blunt pocket knife is as good as no pocket knife. So, make sure to sharpen it before your backpacking excursion.

Pocket Knife - Survival Gear
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Fire-Making Tools

A vital part of your survival kit should be fire-making tools. These can range from a simple lighter to pieces of flint or windproof matches. In short, use what is easiest for you. Moreover, it is always best to carry a small stash of firelighters with you. This can speed up the process if you have to set up camp in a hurry.

Being able to start a fire is invaluable if you are caught out in the wilderness unexpectedly. It will keep you warm during cold nights and can be used for cooking emergency food supplies if you lack a stove. Make sure to keep your fire-making tools in waterproof zip-lock bags. This is because they can become damp and will work less effectively.

Navigation Tools

The chances are that if you are stuck out in an emergency situation for more than a couple days, your GPS will run out of battery. So, you should always carry a compass and a topographic map of the area you are backpacking in. It’ll be a great part of your survival kit. This can make the difference between finding the nearest forest rangers’ station and staying lost.

Map & Compass - Survival Gear
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What’s more is it’s always useful to carry a Personal Location Beacon (PLB) in your survival kit. These life-saving devices send a satellite message to the nearest emergency personnel, alerting them of your location. While these should be used sparingly, they are always worth carrying. They can mean the difference between life and death if you are in real trouble.

Emergency Shelter

While most backpackers will carry a tent around with them most of the time, it is always worthwhile keeping an emergency shelter in your survival kit. This is in case your tent gets damaged, or you simply do not have it with you.

The best forms of emergency shelter range from a basic ultra-light tarpaulin to bivy sacks and emergency space blankets. All of these are very lightweight and compact. This means they will not weigh your backpack down but will be able to provide some shelter from the elements.

Water Purification Tablets

If you are only going for a day hike, it is unlikely you will carry a bulky water purification system with you. However, in the event of being forced to stay out in the wilderness unexpectedly, it is always a good idea to carry water purification tablets. Also, another purification choice would be a liquid chlorine dioxide solution in your survival kit.

While these chemical treatments certainly do not make the water taste fresh, they do remove harmful bacteria that could have serious health implications. Moreover, unlike purification systems, they are lightweight, very affordable, and are compact enough to slip easily into your survival kit.

Man Hiking
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Extra Clothes

Since weather conditions can change rapidly, especially at high altitudes, injuries can lead to backpackers spending unplanned nights outdoors. It is always advisable to carry a small number of emergency items of clothes in your survival kit.

When choosing what clothes to pack, think about what you would need to comfortably spend a few days in the wilderness. Also, take into consideration the variable weather conditions. Most backpackers opt to take extra base layers, a lightweight and space-saving rain jacket, and extra socks. If you are backpacking in the summertime, it may also be wise to take an extra sunhat with you. Excessive exposure to UV rays can lead to sunburn, dehydration, and brain fog.

Duct Tape

If an essential piece of backpacking gear breaks, the chances are that duct tape can provide a temporary fix. This will then allow you to get back to civilization safely. Indeed, it is not uncommon for backpackers to mend broken trekking boots, torn tents, and ripped waterproof jackets with a strip of high-quality duct tape.

Rolls of duct tape can be bulky. One of the best ways to store this item in a compact way is by wrapping the tape around the handle or pole of a trekking stick. Anyway, this is something you will likely have in your gear.

Man Camping
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Emergency Whistle

If you are injured on the trail, one of the best ways to attract attention is by blowing an emergency whistle. These come in all different shapes and sizes. However, it is always best to choose whichever model produces the loudest noise. This is because it will be more likely to attract attention from other backpackers or park rangers.

Although emergency whistles will not be used often, when you need to attract attention, you will thank yourself for including one in your survival kit.


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