Hiking and Backpacking Survival Guide

Keeping Safe when trekking

By Cynthia Taylor

Photo credit: Steven Vance / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

Photo credit: Steven Vance / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

Packing for survival is important, you don’t want to be caught out in the bundu to find that you have forgotten stuff that is important for your survival. Here is a list of things that was created by The Mountaineers, this has been a guide line for many years and used by organisations like the boy scouts, and backpacking and hiking groups.

If you are a regular backpacker or just starting out, it’s always good to know that when you set out you have everything that is essential for your survival in places where there are no shops to be able to go and buy what is forgotten.

The items on this list are common sense things that any person who follows the trail should have with them, however, a list should not just be a list but a part of your action when packing for your next trip.
TIP: Pre-pack these items and have them stored next to your equipment so that you never leave your front door without them.

  1. Maps for your trip: being list in a wilderness can be scary and very dangerous, the last thing you need is to find yourself in a remote area far from help without a map. It’s also important that you are able to read and understand your maps. When choosing maps make sure they have topographical details that show terrain, trails and elevations. With todays technology an addition of a GPS would be a good addition so make sure your maps also have GPS coordinates, another factor having a map with GPS coordinates means that should you be lost and need to give rescue personnel information of your whereabouts you can give the GPS coordinates and they will be able to find you.
  2. Compass : having a map without a compass makes it more difficult – a map together with a compass makes things safer. You could add the GPS but its not always a good idea to rely on a GPS, the batteries may malfunction or stop working. A compass and knowledge of how to use it could help save your life.
  3. Sunscreen and Sunglasses: if you are not prepared the sun can become your enemy, being ill prepared could mean dehydration, sunburns and even possible sunstroke, and sunglasses to protect your eyes. Choosing a sunscreen chose one that is at least a 30SPF and is sweat resistant, also choose one that is unscented to protect you from wildlife.
  4. Food: in everyday life without water and food no one can survive, out on the trail its even more essential, especially if the hike or trail is more than a day. Choose freeze dried or dehydrated food, plenty of high energy trail mix. It’s important to be aware that that it’s essential to have sufficient food and water to prevent low blood sugar which could cause the body to shutdown. Skimping on food is not a good idea and could risk your life.
  5. Water: if you have a long trip planned, you will need to have at least a minimum of 4 liters of water, and if you plan on using some of the water for cooking then 7 liters would be needed for each person. In your planning make sure you know where there are water sources (a detailed map can help). Also consider water purification methods, you can’t always rely on good clean water when on the trail.
  6. Extra Clothing: packing sufficient clothing is important, you never know what the weather will be like, what type of terrain you will be walking through. Wet clothing apart from being unpleasant to be wearing when walking it can also pose a health risk. Another item that should be part of your wearing apparel, is a rain suit, this could save your clothing from getting wet if it rains but also adding extra warmth in cold weather – it could prevent hypothermia.
  7. Flashlight and/or Headlamp: Nighttime fumbling in the dark can be dangerous at the best of time, out in the wilderness its even more dangerous.everyone at some time or another needs to use the toilet at night, or just to be able to see what’s inside the tent. A good choice is headlamp that is capable of switching from a normal beam to a red beam, the red beam is less bothersome for the human eye at nighttime.
  8. Photo credit: Earthworm / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

    Photo credit: Earthworm / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

    First Aid Kit: A good first aid kit is essential on any trip whether there are just two of you or a group. There should be a minimum of one kit or in a group two or more, plus each person should carry a small personal kit as well. Untreated injuries could become serious or even dangerous.

  9. Fire-starters/matches/lighters: starting a fire quickly could ensure warmth as well as boost morale. Especially if you make camp late in the afternoon or at night when there is no time for gathering kindling. Pack matches, lighters, fire sticks, candles or even homemade starters. Keep these essentials dry. Have backups such as Bic lighters, they are lightweight and each member of the crew easily carry one. Always have backup fire starting equipment spread among the group.
  10. Knife/Multi-tool:  You should always have a knife to be able to cut things like ropes or tapes, or for many other needs. A multi-tool could also be helpful, however consider the weight of some multi-tools compared to the usefulness of it.

One of the best tips anyone can give a hiker or backpacker is to be prepared. Pre-planning and preparedness will make your trip more pleasant, and also contribute to your safety.


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