Outdoors hiking and exploring in the forest

Survival kits | Emergency kits | Hiking | Travel

Copyright 2006 - 2011 by Mario Vaden

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Most travelers should carry emergency survival kits, whether hiking or riding. A bag can provide storage for vehicle kits. There are reasons for keeping 2 kits.

emergengy kit pack
A few of my daypack items. Waterproof match container, whistle, AAA flashlight, steel cup for heating water. 2 micron water filter. Mini campstove and fuel. Space blanket..

1. Maybe you forgot to tell someone where you went and for how long. 2. Something could happen to the person who has your travel information. 3. If your vehicle crashes, it may not be visible from the road, maybe useless for shelter. 4. If you are in danger and can't drive away, it may be imperative to flee within seconds.

Many people who hike, have backpack emergency kits. The benefits of 2 kits, is one with the vehicle and the other ready for walking if the vehicle must be abandoned.

A good advice is to stay with your vehicle. That helps If you told somebody where you went. Odds are that rescuers will find your location within 24 hours. If you didn't tell where you went, you may be on your own. Some experts suggest not to always stay with a vehicle.

Consider having 2 travel kits. One in the car and another in a backpack or bag. If you need to leave your vehicle, how can you carry stuff if you don't have a pack? The emergency packcontents should not be scattered in the vehicle. You may not have time to pack. You can add lightweight luxury to your kit with a backpacker stove, freeze dried meals and water bottles.

Keep in mind that a wood hiking stick provides balance, is defensive weapon and can be made into ready-to-use fire kindling. The various hiking sticks I have like cedar or birch, can provide a week's worth of tinder and still be useful for walking with. See: Making Hiking Sticks

Consider the survival book from Peter Kummerfeldt. A survival expert who previously instructed for the US Air Force.

One handy item is a GPS device. Maybe you can't be found with a GPS, but you can prevent becoming lost, and return to an injured person.

Most critical is shelter, water and heat and whistle to communicate. A voice is feeble. Food is secondary. You can often compile a better emergency kit than you can buy. The backpack kit can complete the vehicle kit. Consider Gorilla Tape - compare with duct tape: bind wounds or repair leaks.

Giardia & Filters Update

It is much too long to go into detail here, but search online about Giardia Myths or new information for Giardia. From what I've read, the risk of Giardia that many people feared was blown out of proportion. For years. Extra research about hygiene like hand-washing, and about water testing, change this area of concern. Keep in mind that companies and people who draw wage or profit from filters have incentive to propagate myths and old policies. This is not an announcement to trash your old filters. But a little research may change your entire approach to water on the trail.


  • Flashlights - some bulbs like LEDs may offer more battery life
  • Batteries - rechargeable may not keep charge very long
  • First aid kit
  • Pocketknife
  • Blankets or sleeping bags
  • Mittens, socks and a wool cap
  • Waterproof covering like a tarp or poncho
  • Metal coffee can which can be used to heat water: can store part of vehicle kit too
  • Sack of sand or cat litter - in winter - for traction or adding weight
  • Small shovel: even a folding one
  • Bottled water
  • Battery cables
  • Energy bars or high-energy food like raisins or nuts: these store for months
  • Bright color scarf to attract attention
  • Matches and waterproof case - Metal match with striker
  • Candles
  • Tool kit with pliers, screwdriver, adjustable wrench, tape, string and wire
  • Paper towel or toilet tissue for designed use or fire starter
  • Wipes - moist
  • Rope, tow chain or a strap
  • Extra oil
  • Map of the area where you plan to travel: get a national forest map from a ranger station
  • Small hand-held CB radio and batteries: channel 9 is one of the important channels
  • Pen or pencil and paper
  • Whistle to signal: mirrors don't work at night
  • Signal devices like flares: music CDs can reflect


  • A hubcap or visor can be a shovel
  • Seat covers can be used as blankets
  • Floor mats can be used to shut out the wind
  • Engine oil burned in a hubcap provides a smoke signal visible for miles
  • A car horn can be heard up to almost 1 mile away. 3 blasts, 10 seconds apart is a distress signal
  • A rear-view mirror can serve as a signaling device
  • Tire iron can be used to gouge and dig in soil
  • The seat padding can be used to stuff clothes for insulation or tissue
  • In desparation, headliner fabric can be cut for head cover
  • If you need a windbreak, auto hoods often come off easy if you have a wrench


Mountaineers often call the first 10 items the essentials. Don't skip gloves. Gloves keep hands warm and protected.

  • Map
  • Compass
  • Flashlight or headlamp
  • Extra food optional
  • Extra clothes: gloves, hat, windbreaker or disposable rain jacket, trash bag
  • Sunglasses optional
  • First-Aid kit
  • Pocket knife - I also keep a razor sharp folding saw
  • Waterproof match container and matches. Ask about REI storm proof - a super match
  • Fire starter: cotton balls with petroleum jelly embedded, miniature kindling, fire starter sticks
  • Water
  • Water filter: some small with straws - or treatment tablets
  • Pen and paper
  • Small zip lock sandwich bags: as drinking cup, protect notes left
  • Whistle
  • Emergency blanket: Space blankets are waterproof but very fragile
  • Huge trash bag for shelter body cover
  • Toilet tissue in a waterproof bag
  • Insect repellent
  • A small fleece blanket can improvise asponcho, towel and blanket
  • Plastic sheet for shelter
  • Mirror
  • Sunburn protection

Stores may have heat reflective body bags similar to space blankets except that the bags enclose your entire body.

Within these kits, should be something for personal protection. And whatever pet you have keep emergency pet food if you travel in remote areas ... canned foods may freeze.

emergency kit fire starter
This fire was made using one firestick slightly bigger than a pencil. Winter. We started with green twigs, adding in increments. This photo was 10 minutes into our experiment..

If your daypack has room, freeze-dried meals and a tiny camp stove are nice additions. The fuel bottle is about the size of a mug. All you may need is a small stainless steel cup to heat snow or water. The mini - camp stove provides a way to drink warm water instead of cold snow or stream water.

The campfire to the right was an experiment using the fire starter sticks on one of our winter hikes. My son and I did not need a fire. But while we waited for our freeze-dried meal to soak in hot water, we wanted to see if we could make a campfire with our pack contents, because anything nearby in the open or under cover was wet from months of fog and rain and snow.

Since my daypack doubles as an emergency kit and regular hiking pack, it has a few items that are treats on the trail, which could be nice during an emergency. It has a few packets of tea and cocoa and mints occassionally. An added benefit of the mini campstove is the ability to make hot drinks.

Some of these tips were found on mountaineering websites. Some tips about car parts were from the Idaho State Department of Transportation site.