Heading out on a hike and want to make sure you’re safe? In this post, learn about must-have survival gear for hikers and outdoor lovers.
Right now, you might be asking if you really need survival gear for just a short hike. The answer is a resounding yes! It is good to be prepared for an emergency situation in the backcountry, no matter what your initial intentions.
Remember: No one plans to get lost! However, you can plan to survive getting lost by investing in these 12 must-have survival gear items for hikers.
Table of Contents
Must Have Survival Gear for Every Hiker
Here are our choices for the must-have survival gear. Did I miss one? Let me know in the comments below.
Lets get started!
1. Gerber Gear Truss Multi-Tool
The Gerber Truss is my favorite multitool. I’ve had it for more than a year and I take it on hikes and when we’re filming. It’s equally good at opening cans as tightening camera mounts.
This tool has two distinct knives and functional pliers (which is uncommon on multitools). It also has the standard bottle opener and can openers, plus a very useful saw, awl, wire stripper, and scissors.
One of my pet peeves about multi-tools is that the tools don’t lock. I love that Gerber uses a locking system for all functions to protect our fingers. The stainless steel tools and handle feel great in the hand and has been durable.
Why You Need It: Some people think carrying a pocket knife is sufficient. However, I think it is always better to be over-prepared.
If your hike becomes a survival situation, you never know what you may need or why you may need it. You do not want to be 3 days in and wish you had more than a knife.
2. TITAN Paracord Survival Bracelet
There are many paracord survival bracelets on the market today. However, not all bracelets are created equal. One of the most important things to look for when deciding on a parachute cord is a 550 rating, because you want your rope to be strong.
Not only does the Titan Survival Bracelet meet this safety expectation, but actually exceeds it by using their patented SurvivorCord with Trilobite Weave to braid the rope.
This particular survival bracelet also includes fishing line, snare wire, and waxed jute, in case you find yourself needing to fish or create a fire.
Why You Need It: Parachute cord comes in handy for a wide range of survival situations. You can use it to hang food away from bears, make shelters, create a raft, fix a splint, fish, or trap.
These only scratch the surface of why you need a dependable cord, so get some before your next hike!
3. Sawyer Mini Water Filtration System
If there were one piece of gear I recommend you carry with you on all hikes, it would be the Sawyer Mini Filtration System.
This lightweight, 100,000-gallon water filter will protect you from 99.99999% of bacteria as well as 99.99999% of protozoa.
My favorite thing about this Sawyer Mini is the variety of ways you can use it. The company includes a 16-oz squeeze pouch for you to attach the Mini to, as well as a 7-inch drinking straw to go on the end. If you have a Camelbak, the Sawyer will fit right where the mouthpiece goes.
Why You Need It: Although you may think you are going on a quick jaunt, it can be easy to get turned around depending on the landscape. The very last thing you want is to be lost without any way to get safe water. In fact, drinking unfiltered water can lead to giardia at best and death at worst.
Learn more about purifying river water.
4. Fox 40 Sonik Blast Whistle
Although the Sonik Blast is a whistle, it is not just any whistle. Fox created their seamless product to be moisture-resistant, as well as loud. So loud, in fact, you can hear the 120 decibels for over a mile.
Do you have a lot of hot air? Don’t worry! The Sonik Blast cannot be overblown. If you want to be heard, I recommend adding the Fox 40 Sonik Blast to your list of must-have survival gear for hikers.
Why You Need It: It is important to bring the best whistle, so you can signal in case you get lost. The louder and the farther away you can hear it the better.
If you are lost, it is possible to be within a mile of civilization and never know. In fact, an Appalachian Trail hiker was recently found frozen less than a mile from the trail.
5. Eyeskey Multifunction Compass
Anytime you are going out on a hike, you should always bring a compass. I like the Eyeskey Multifunctional Compass, because it is both light and accurate, for an affordable price.
In addition, this compass is both waterproof and shake-proof so it can be used in almost any survival situation.
Why You Need It: Compasses are great if you know how to use them. I recommend purchasing and learning how to use a compass before you ever need one. If you have a map handy, the compass will be your saving grace.
Knowing what direction one is going can mean the difference between reaching civilization alive and never finding your way home. Here’s how to use a compass without a map.
6. Surviveware Small First Aid Kit
If you are looking for a small first aid kit to carry with you on your hike, look no further than this Surviveware kit. Weighing in at an impressively light 1 pound, this small first aid kit holds 100 items for many potential medical needs.
The carrying bag itself has a water-resistant outside and a waterproof inside, so if you drop your stuff at a river crossing you won’t have to worry about ruining everything inside.
Why You Need It: Whether you have a headache, you cut yourself bushwhacking, or you need to set a bone, you will feel much more confident about your chances with a first aid kit.
In addition, being able to take care of your body will increase your rate of coming back from your hike alive.
7. Überleben Zünden Bushcraft Fire Steel
Fire is one of the most important factors necessary for survival, so it is vital you purchase something dependable to start it. If you want a fire starter you can count on, try the Überleben Zünden Bushcraft Fire Steel.
The Bushcraft promises between 12,000 and 20,000 strikes, utilizes ferrocerium to work at all altitudes, and features waterproofing for wet starts. Although the name might be hard to pronounce, you will not have a hard time with this product.
Why You Need It: Right now you may be wondering why you would bring fire steel when you could simply carry a lighter, or waterproof matches.
Unfortunately, lighters will not work when they are wet, and there are only so many waterproof matches in a pack. However, if you learn to use this dependable product, it can save your life time and again.
8. VITCHELO Headlamp
Even if you are planning on only a day hike, you should always bring along a headlamp just in case.
However, do not go out and purchase just any headlamp. I recommend the VITCHELO Headlamp. This light source provides a max of 168 lumens for up to 120 hours straight.
In addition, the VITCHELO has 3 different levels of lighting including the color red. The red light does not attract bugs, and is great for stargazing and nighttime hunting.
Why You Need It: Do you usually pack a flashlight on your hiking trips? If so, you should switch to a headlamp before your next adventure.
I don’t have anything against flashlights, but they are typically heavy and leave you with only one free hand. In a survival situation, you might need all the hands you have! In addition, always bring extra batteries.
9. TACT Bivvy Emergency Sleeping Bag
When I see most people’s list of must have survival gear for hikers, I see an emergency blanket on the list. I am going to take it a step further and suggest you purchase a lightweight sleeping bag such as the TACT Bivvy Emergency Sleeping Bag.
This survival bag weighs 4.8 ounces and features taped seams, tear-resistance, wind-proofing, and waterproofing.
Not only that, TACT created their bivvy out of HeatEcho, a material that reflects back 90% of your own body heat. In addition, the bright orange color helps draw the attention of rescuers.
Why You Need It: In many climates, even the warm ones, it can get extremely cold at night. If your body is not at a comfortable temperature, it can be difficult to get the good night’s rest you need for survival.
If it is extremely cold you could suffer from frostbite and hypothermia, even death. Shelter is a necessity, and an emergency bivvy can help get you through many sketchy cold weather wilderness situations.
10. Duduma Polarized Sports Sunglasses
Eye protection is always a must-have gear item, even if you are not hiking! The sun can be damaging to your eyes in any situation, and you need to purchase sunglasses that offer superior protection. That is why I recommend the Duduma Polarized Sports Sunglasses.
These lightweight, polarized shades offer protection for UVA and UVB rays as well as blowing dust and debris. As an added bonus, Duduma offers an unbeatable lifetime satisfaction warranty, including lens and frame breakage.
Why You Need It: If you are lost in the backcountry, you need to keep your eyes healthy for overland travel.
From snow blindness to intense high altitude skies, there are a variety of ways hiking without sunglasses can be harmful to your health. Even if you don’t notice any eye discomfort, UV rays are always present in the light of day.
11. Sawyer Products Premium Insect Repellent
When I think of insect repellent, I think of those tall spray cans with DEET written in big letters across the front. I also think about the bad smell and stinging lungs. With Sawyer Products Premium Insect Repellent, you will not have to deal with any of the aforementioned consequences of protection.
Check the current price on Amazon.
This product repels Yellow Fever mosquitoes, Powassan and Lyme ticks, chiggers, gnats, and biting flies (better than DEET). This product will keep away mosquitoes and ticks for 14 hours, and the rest of the critters up to 8 hours.
In fact, the primary ingredient Icaridin was named repellent of choice by Canada’s Public Health Agency in charge of tropical travel and medicine.
Why You Need It: Not only are bug bites unpleasant, they can also be the source of some nasty diseases such as Zika, Rocky Mountain Fever, Lime Disease, and West Nile Virus. Unless you are hiking in the dead of winter, you are at risk for some type of unpleasant, bug-borne illness. Protection is no joke, so protect yourself with what I think is one of the best products on the market.
12. Kestrel 3500 Weather Station
One of the more expensive must have gear items for hikers is the Kestrel 3500 Weather Station. However, you are definitely getting what you pay for. This Kestrel comes drop-tested as well as waterproof.
Check the current price on Amazon.
Not only that, but the 3500 features accurate NIST-Traceable Measurements. You can purchase this product with or without a back light, but I prefer to have the Night-Vision Preserving feature. If you are looking for a model that will detect water speed and store data, check out Kestrel’s 4000 models.
Why You Need It: Quality weather stations include an altimeter for measuring altitude, a barometer for measuring atmospheric pressure, an anemometer for measuring wind speed, and a hygrometer for measuring humidity.
When all 4 measurements are viewed together, you can figure out if a storm is approaching and how much time you have. In addition, the altimeter can actually help you find your location if you also have a map and a compass!
Read more: 13 Thru-Hiking Tips for Beginners
Having the right gear is especially important for long trails – like the impressive Appalachian Trail. Check out our guide to thru-hiking food for the AT.
Keep reading: Guide to Camping and Hiking Gear
I Will Survive
Although no one plans to get lost on a hike, it happens. If you are prepared, you have a significant advantage in managing the elements.
What gear do you travel with on your outdoor adventures? I would love to hear your favorites below!
- About the Author
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Dena Haines is a co-founder and blogger on GudGear – and is working to make it the best resource for outdoor gear and guides.
She loves being outside and has hiked the Galapagos, explored the Andes Mountains, and camped and explored her province’s backyard.
She also blogs about travel at Storyteller.Travel and photography at Storyteller Tech. Dena is a partner at Storyteller Media, a publishing company she started with her husband, Bryan.