Hiking or backpacking through the great outdoors is an incredibly liberating and exciting activity, but every wise outdoorsman acknowledges the risks of trekking far from civilization. Accidents can happen, weather can change quickly and even dangerous encounters with wild animals are never out of the question. You don’t have to be particularly far from the trail head to get into some real trouble, so you should always carry some survival gear with you just in case.
The most important things to consider if you find yourself in a survival scenario while backpacking in the wilderness is staying warm enough, staying hydrated and of course having a general idea of which direction to travel towards if you don’t think help is on the way to you.
We’ve included some lightweight and highly packable items for your backpack that will assist you with fire making, heat retention, shelter building, water filtration and landscape orientation in the event of a back country emergency. There’s also items here for administering basic first aid, staying tuned into weather alerts and keeping your electronic devices charged. You may not have a real need for all of these items depending on where and when you hike, but they are ALL worth considering no matter the backpacking occasion.
Stay smart and make sure you’re prepared for whatever the wilderness throws your way. Even experienced outdoorsmen get into potentially life threatening jams. You can also never rule out the possibility of encountering a fellow hiker on the trail who needs emergency assistance. It’s backpacker code to look out for each other, so even if you’re confident in your own abilities it’s still wise to have a few of our essential survival items on hand just in case.
Bottom line, always respect Mother Nature and be as prepared as possible with a “just in case” mentality and set of survival items.
1. DeftGet 163 Piece Waterproof Portable First Aid Kit
Of course you’re going to need a first aid kit for your wilderness excursions! Basic first aid is essential in the event of a burn, cut, serious splinter, allergic reaction or even animal bite! You never know what might happen out there, so carrying some medical equipment is a MUST no matter how big or small your hike is.
This 163 piece kit by DeftGet essentially speaks for itself — it has just about everything you need to patch yourself or your buddies up in the event of a minor accident, or to get you to real medical care in the case of a more serious injury.
There’s a TON of great first-aid items here from tweezers and scissors to sting relief ointment, an emergency whistle and safety pins. There’s everything you might need and more with this kit so you can go through it and pick and choose what’s right for your backpacking needs.
The included nylon case is durable and lightweight and is an impressively compact 21 by 13 by 5 centimeters. It’s the perfect size for backpacking use without leaving out any critical first aid items. There’s even an included flashlight and metal saber card with all sorts of applications. You’ll be impressed with the assortment of first aid equipment here aside from the standard bandages and ointments typical of most kits. Definitely an excellent value for under $20 that will make a great backpacking kit or addition to your existing first aid items.
2. Esky Multi-Pupose Emergency Solar Hand Crank AM/ FM/ NOAA Weather Radio with 3W Flashlight
If you’re a wilderness enthusiast who enjoys hiking and backpacking off the beaten path, you ought to have an emergency radio included in your essential gear. You once again don’t have to be days away from civilization in order to get caught in a dangerous situation.
Hopefully you’ve checked the forecast before departing, but a sudden, violent storm is absolutely possible depending on where you’re trekking. If you’re out there without the proper equipment and don’t know a storm is coming things could get ugly. If you spend time in the great outdoors hiking it’s a smart move to own a reliable, portable radio that you can tune into weather alerts with and send out SOS messages — it could save your life.
Nobody wants to carry anything that they likely won’t need, but fortunately this unit packs even smaller than a compact mess kit. It’s only 2.6 by 6 inches and 7.6 ounces, so it’s well worth it weight. It’s a power bank, a flashlight and an emergency weather radio all in one — pretty cool! For a piece of survival gear this advanced the price tag is quite reasonable, definitely consider a unit like this if you don’t already own one.
The 2000mAH rechargeable battery can be powered by AAA batteries, USB connection, solar panel or the incorporated hand crank. You’re never without power with this unit! The flashlight (3W) is a great survival item in itself and is essentially infinite if you use the hand crank.
The battery is good for up to 10 hours of light or eight hours of radio time on one charge! This unit if taken care of should provide you with unlimited energy for all of your USB compatible devices.
This radio can tune into AM, FM and NOAA radio channels — but it can also send out an SOS alarm as an emergency signal if you need to broadcast that you’re in danger. This feature could truly save your life in a survival scenario and is likely the most important aspect of this radio.
For a list of the best emergency, hand crank and solar powered radios make sure to check out our top 5 list — there’s some alternative options there absolutely worth looking into.
If radio communication is a necessity for your wilderness outings, then consider a long range two-way radio unit like this 50 channel option from Midland.
Price: $25.99 & Free Shipping
Buy the Esky Multi-Pupose Emergency Solar Hand Crank AM/ FM/ NOAA Weather Radio with 3W Flashlight here.
3. WakaWaka Power+ Solar Charger with Flashlight
Here’s a both a neat and effective approach to keeping your electronic devices charged in the field. If you rely on a GPS device (or even your smart phone) to get you back home, then you should never be without a backup power supply. This solar charger from WakaWaka is an innovative design that gives you a lot of energenic bang for your buck.
It’s purpose is totally comparable to the emergency radio previously listed, but the 3,000mAh LiPo battery has a bit more capacity and the solar panel is more efficient. This is also a versatile item you’ll no doubt end up using for hiking, camping and outdoor purposes in general which makes it a great buy for any backpacker. It’s nice owning survival gear that’s not just for the sake of a potential emergency situation — this is a piece of equipment you’ll actually end up regularly using!
The solar panel has 22% efficiency which allows the battery to fully charge in the sun in as little as just 12 hours. It secures nicely to a backpack from its integrated carry hook and also has a regular stand built into the design so there’s no reason to not keep the Power+ juiced up as long as the sun is shining.
The built in LED flashlight has brightness settings ranging from 5 to 70 lumens and can last up to 200 hours on one full charge. There’s also an SOS beacon feature for drawing attention to your location in the dark. It’s a simple in concept device that’s in reality quite an advanced piece of equipment. A great value buy from WakaWaka for both survival and regular hiking purposes.
Price: $59.00 & Free Shipping (16 percent off MSRP)
4. LifeStraw Personal Water Filter
Here’s an absolutely pivotal survival item EVERY backpacker should own. There is nothing more important than clean water in each and every survival scenario you can think up. You can go on without food for far longer than fresh water — carrying a device into the field that ensures you stay hydrated is a must for any serious trekker.
Falling ill from unclean water will furthermore likely be the morbid end of any survival scenario and is easily avoided with a unit like this. I think we can all be impressed by the performance of this device created by LifeStraw. This is in my opinion the most practical and important piece of survival gear on this list.
A seriously awesome recent innovation in safe water filtration, the LifeStraw has changed the game for both packing and drinking water while hiking or enduring situations where clean water is scarce. For around $20 you can stride through the wilderness knowing you can safely drink from fresh water sources.
Some landscapes are particularly great for carrying a LifeStraw. Wherever there is relatively abundant water that’s suitable for filtration, leave the water bottles behind and save some serious pack weight with this device.
This device removes a minimum 99.9999% of waterborne bacteria (>LOG 6 reduction) and remarkably surpasses even EPA standards for water filters. Without using any means of chlorine, iodine or any other chemicals, the LifeStraw can filter up to 1000 liters of contaminated water throughout its lifespan.
I have furthermore read some customer reviews that claim the lifespan of their LifeStraw was more than doubled by attaching a regular coffee filter to the end of the filter with a rubber band — smart idea!
For a very reasonable cost you can purchase a LifeStraw for your backpacking equipment, home survival kit or regular camp gear. For such a low price it’s in my opinion absolutely worth owning several of these filters in case of a disaster scenario where clean water is or becomes difficult to find.
This bad boy can filter some nasty looking water, so wherever there’s wetness you’re likely good to go. There’s free shipping on this product on orders over $25, so save by purchasing a LifeStraw for your backpacking buddies too!
Price: $18.48 & Free Shipping (26 percent off MSRP)
5. Gerber Prodigy Survival Knife
Every serious and amateur outdoorsmen needs a trusty survival knife. It’s not smart to venture into the wilderness without an edged tool in case a survival scenario arises. Your knife is your go to piece of equipment in the back country.
It is what you rely on more than anything whether you’re just preparing meals, shelters and fires, or trying to pull through a serious survival scenario. Due to the regular use that your knife endures while hiking, it’s crucial to own a blade that works ideal for you and won’t let you down if and when you actually need it.
This survival knife by Gerber is a crowd favorite. Simple is better with a knife of this style, it’s a simple drop-point blade that gets the job done. It’s a fixed blade knife with a bit of serrate at the base of the blade for sawing. In my opinion, the simplicity of this knife is awesome and the added serrate makes it fully functional as a survival knife.
Yes it’s a bit Rambo looking in appearance, but a fixed blade knife like this has endless practical applications. Another alternative that may be more practical for your back country needs could be a versatile multi tool like this unit from Leatherman — it’s all about personal preference. Multi tools are no doubt an excellent choice for use backpacking, but I personally like to have a full tang knife that can be really beat on and effectively resharpened as opposed to a fold out pocket knife.
The blade on this knife is stainless steel with black oxide finish and is 4.75 inches in length. It is the ideal size for portability without sacrificing the robustness you want in a solid survival knife. The ergonomic molded hand grip is reviewed by many outdoorsmen for having a great feel to it — paring nicely with its weight (eight ounces).
This knife comes included with a leg strap as well as two attachment straps, so there’s multiple options for mounting this bad boy exactly where you want it. The sheath is even equipped with a friction release thumb lock for some added safety. In conclusion, this is a great all around knife to bring into the back country that you will no doubt find all sorts of uses for and can rely on in the case of an emergency.
For some other great knife options for the back country, make sure to check out our post on the Top 10 Best Survival Knives for Hiking.
Price: $42.00 & Free Shipping
6. Craftster’s Mini Sewing Kit with Sewing Survival Ebook
A sewing kit might seem like a strange surivival item to have included on this list, but it’s a piece of gear that could come in handy for a lot of reasons in the wilderness. If you need to make a repair on your clothing, sleeping bag, backpack, boots, or even give yourself or your backpacking buddy some emergency stitches in the event of a bad cut, a needle and thread will get the job done. It’s an underrated set of outdoor equipment for all sorts of applications that you should totally consider carrying with you in the back country. If you don’t know how to sew, now is as good a time as any to learn!
A sewing kit like this packs light and has the potential to restore the thermal abilities of your most important gear in the event of a tear. If your sleeping bag is for some reason cut open and the down interior becomes exposed, it could become wet or even worse begin to fall out. If a shoulder strap on your backpack becomes torn and begins to become totally severed you’re going to need to resolve the issue ASAP in order to avoid expending unnecessary energy carrying your backpack the wrong way.
There’s a ton of reasons to learn how to sew and carry a compact kit while hiking, but the most important reason to include this top survival pick is the one you can’t think of — better safe than sorry!
This compact sewing kit is only about one by four by five inches and weighs around one ounce. It will barely take up any space or add any real weight to your pack. This kit includes stainless steel scissors, measuring tape, 30 gold tail needles, two threaders, a thimble and 12 spools of different colored thread. There’s also six shirt buttons included and even an Ebook that walks you through some emergency techniques. For around $10 this is a seriously awesome value. It gives you everything you need to both effectively sew and also to learn if you’re a beginner!
There’s customer complaints that the quality of the thread is sub par, so consider replacing some spools with a better strength alternative. Better yet, replace the various spools of assorted colors with some different strength fishing line.
Chances are you won’t be concerned with thread color if you’re in a survival scenario, and fishing line is a much better alternative to regular thread if you’re trying to suture a torn backpack strap or sleeping bag. Furthermore, fishing line makes a great make shift alternative to medical thread if you need to administer some emergency stitches on an open wound.
Consider some fishing line around the 6 to 10 pound test strength for medical purposes and line around 20 or 30 pound test for making gear repairs. Here’s a link to some monofilament line from Berkley that comes in various strengths.
All things considered, a sewing kit like this costs next to nothing, packs super light and compact and has some real potential to resolve all sorts of issues on the trail — definitely a solid addition to any outdoor emergency kit.
7. ANMEILU Emergency Mylar Thermal Blankets (six pack)
A Mylar thermal blanket or space blanket is absolutely worth including in your hiking backpack. It’s a quite honestly incredible innovation that can retain up to 90% of your body heat. If your sleeping bag is wet or damaged to the point of being compromised, a space blanket could get you through the night without perishing from hypothermia. Alternatively, a Mylar blanket can also reflect heat away from you in the event of dangerously intense sun — it’s quite a versatile item for its simplicity.
It’s a great item to have on hand not only for yourself, but in case you encounter a fellow backpacker in danger while on the trail — warming someone up who’s struggling to regulate their body temperature is perhaps the best thing you can do for a hiker in distress. It packs super lightweight and compact and has a TON of potential uses aside from its deigned purpose of heat retention and reflection.
Apart from its thermal qualities, the survival applications of a space blanket are nearly endless. You can use a Mylar blanket as a rain poncho, backpack cover or tent footprint due to its inherent water repelling nature, or as a sleeping bag liner when temperatures drop unexpectedly low.
A space blanket could be made into a makeshift bag or sack, used for shade or even full on shelter building if you have more than one on hand. The reflective material is great for use as a trail marker, emergency signal to aircraft or even for using as a fishing lure! Collecting water, fashioning a wind shield or an arm sling or maybe even utilizing the material as a solar oven are all possible — the applications are endless!
The best kind of survival item is one that has a wide array of potential uses, this is most definitely one of those items. For the laughably low cost and lack of weight and space it occupies, bringing along a Mylar blanket (or two) is without a doubt a wise choice for any kind of outdoor adventure.
8. Core Survival Paracord Survival Bracelet
Packing extra gear of any kind is of course a burden — particularly when it’s survival gear that you likely won’t end up using. This survival bracelet by Core Survival won’t add a single ounce to your backpack yet it’s a fairly capable survival gadget. Just clip it on your wrist and you’ve got a solid array of tools in the event a survival scenario arises. It looks tough and might just have what you need to survive depending on the situation.
Constructed from approximately 10 feet of 550 pound paracord, the material of this bracelet alone could really be a life saver for shelter building, trail marking, gear repair and countless other survival tasks. Strong cordage is one of the best things you can have if you need to persist in and evacuate from the back country — this bracelet provides you with just that, and that’s only the start.
It also comes equipped with a decent compass so orienting your way back towards civilization remains possible with this bracelet if you find yourself truly lost. The compass is good, not great so maybe consider bringing along a higher quality trekking compass if where you’re backpacking is particularly challenging to tell north from south (for example dense forest).
A magnesium flint and striker are also incorporated within this bracelet for emergency fire making purposes. A built in whistle is in my opinion the best feature here aside from the paracord cordage — signaling for help is often your best bet of escaping a wilderness survival scenario — especially if your’re injured or in poor health.
If you find this unit to be too bulky for your wrist just clip the bracelet to your backpack and rest assured that it’s there if you need it. It’s an essentially weightless length of cordage that also includes a compass, flint and emergency whistle.
Survival scenarios aside, this bracelet is a cool piece of gear to own — it can be fun to practice making primitive fire with the flint and to explore its other features regardless of how advanced your survival skills are. For under $20, this bracelet is in my opinion an awesome gadget to own that gives you some serious bang for your buck.
9. UCO Stormproof Match Kit with Waterproof Case
Everyone knows the absolute importance of fire. If temps are truly cold in the back country and you find yourself in trouble, you’ll need to get a fire going to get through the night. Alternatively, making a signal fire and sending large amounts of smoke above the tree line might be your best chance of being discovered by a search party.
Nothing reveals your location better than a smoke plume if there’s been rescue personal dispatched to find you. The biggest challenge when starting a fire in the wilderness is of course wetness which is why we’ve included these waterproof matches on our survival list.
This kit includes a waterproof case, 25 wind and waterproof matches, and three match strikers for the exterior of the case. These are some heavy duty matches that will relight after being submerged and burn up to 15 seconds. When conditions are really soggy and you just can’t seem to get a fire going, survival matches like this just might save your life!
The entire kit is just 1.7 ounces and fits in the palm of your hand so it won’t add much weight to your pack at all. It’s another super easy to pack and potentially life saving item that you really ought to consider owning!
Price: $7.20 & Free Shipping
10. SkyGenuis 8×21 Compact Binoculars
Binoculars might seem like a bit of a stretch as a backpacking survival item, but when you really consider their potential it makes a lot of sense to include a pair in your backpack. If you need to trek out of the remote wilderness and you’re running out of food and water then you won’t have any time to lose.
In a scenario where you’re uncertain of which direction to head towards getting to some high ground with a pair of binoculars might be a complete game changer. Some magnification while viewing the landscape could reveal a fresh water source, change in the treeline, or maybe even a man made structure like power lines that you may not have been able to see otherwise. Take home message here — having an enhanced lay of the land is ALWAYS a good thing when trying to make your way back to safety.
Survival scenario aside, a pair of binoculars is a great item to take along backpacking for pleasure as well. Wildlife viewing and looking out over the landscape is made even more fascinating with a good pair of nocs! This pair from SkyGenius is both highly affordable and very well reviewed by outdoorsmen.
It’s Amazon’s Choice with more than 85% of its reviews being either four or five stars. This is not a particularly advanced or top notch pair of binoculars, but it’s a good quality product at a great price, definitely an excellent value buy.
These binoculars are 8×21 meaning objects appear 8 times closer than they are. The second number (21) refers to the diameter in millimeters of the objective lenses (the front of the binoculars). The wider the front lenses, the more light gathering ability the binoculars have and therefore it correlates to a brighter and clearer image.
Remember that the size of the binoculars does not necessarily have anything to do with magnification, so you don’t have to buy a large pair for intense magnification. The light gathering ability however depends on the size of the binoculars objective lenses. The higher the magnification, the less stability the binoculars have when viewing. You really need a steady hand (or a mount of some sort) to effectively use a super high powered pair. We included this 8×21 pair because they provide some good magnification and pack small.
There’s two options through the same link for binoculars by SkyGenius that have greater light capturing abilities, but they definitely pack a bit larger and heavier and also have a significantly higher price tag. The pictured pair is only 4.14 by 3.62 by 2.35 inches and 6.17 ounces — perfect for compact storage in your hiking backpack.
Price: $9.99 (57 percent off MSRP)