– A List of Basic Hiking Survival Gear to Enjoy the Wilds of Nature –
The wilderness isn’t just beautiful – it is also a merciless and dangerous place. It should be treated with respect, and good preparation is essential if you are to not just survive, but to enjoy the experience.
Nature doesn’t care who you are or where you come from, and being prepared with the right equipment is fundamental for your own safety and survival. I’m not stressing this to scare you off. Far from it. In fact, I would encourage anyone to go out and explore.
The wilderness is a place of raw beauty, full of gems and treasures of nature’s pure splendor. It just needs to be treated differently than when heading out along well-trodden routes, and the key to that is preparation.
Now, I will go into more depth for each one, but the final judgment of what I pack and wear is very much dependent on the weather conditions and the environment. However, there are a couple of key survival items which I will always take with me no matter what. Let me start off by listing what you need to go hiking.
First Aid Kit – Try to find a flashy colored one with a hard case (stands out when you drop it and will give more protection to what’s inside). Most first aid kits come equipped with pretty much the same standard items: a couple of bandages and plasters, tape, scissors, an instruction manual (keep it!)…
But I highly recommend you equip it with a couple more items: an unbreakable mirror (not just to remind yourself how good looking you are, but in emergencies, this can be used as a signal); a whistle (whistle 3 times when you are in danger); multivitamin pills, and a tick remover.
1L Metal Bottle x 2 – I don’t recommend camel bags for the simple reason that they are made out of plastic. Sure there are strong types of plastic, but they can all break. Metal, on the other hand – well, good luck with breaking that.
It is always best to take two of them with you just in case you happen to lose one.
Cooking Pot/Noodles + Muesli Bars – I always work on two packages of noodles for one day. Muesli bars, I like to go with three bars for a day – they are easy to store, lightweight, quick to eat and great morale boosters. (Snickers are awesome!)
Nuts are also a great extra to take with you. But other than that, I recommend you stick with those food items for several reasons: noodles/muesli bars/nuts are compact, and they don’t leave you with much trash, whereas a can of tuna, for example, will.
It also doesn’t go bad after one day, whereas natural food such as vegetables and fruits will. Also noodles, muesli bars and nuts contain a lot of protein, which is an essential fuel for the body in intensive activities.
Toilet Paper – Yes, you will thank me. And not just for what you have in mind, it comes in very handy in case you need to make a fire. Or sneeze…
Survival Kit – Always have a small pouch with a couple of survival tools in, including:
Swiss army knife – There are many varieties and you can go pretty crazy with it if you want to, but a normal standard one will do just fine.
Head Torch – Be sure to also take extra batteries with you!
Ropes/Para cord – Handy for many situations, including building a shelter.
Metal Spoon – To eat your noodles with, but, and this might sound funny, it can also be used as a weapon or a tool. You never know!
Tinder (no, not the dating app…) – Wool/Rubber – Be sure to keep it dry in an extra plastic bag and, dip it in Vaseline. Why’s that? Vaseline holds fire about 10 times longer, giving you a better chance of succeeding when making a fire.
Two Lighters/Flint – Pack two lighters and also a small flint in case your lighters don’t work or are empty. A flint will work anytime even when it gets wet. With the back of your knife or any metal tool, you can create sparks that can be used to light a fire.
A Phone – NEVER,EVER go without a fully charged phone. And sure, I get it, you want to be surrounded just by nature, sure thing. Just turn your phone off and leave it in your bag.
But ALWAYS – ALWAYS take a fully charged phone with you – bottom line. If something does happen, rescue is just a phone call away.
Map/GPS – Buy a geographical map (and know how to read it) of the area or buy a walking GPS. It is a lifesaver that will help you to understand your surroundings, allow you to locate water and help you find your way back if you get lost.
It’s always important to have backup plans, especially when talking about survival and your own life. If you are lost and your phone is out of charge or broken, you have something else to work with.
A Good Backpack – Repeat, a good backpack. What do I mean by a good backpack? Not one you find in some random shop for 30 euros. Get one from a trusted brand.
It will be, without a shadow of a doubt, of better quality and made out of better materials that can withstand rougher and tougher scenarios. They might be more expensive, but this is going to be your number one partner, carrying all your essentials, your basic hiking survival gear, so it is paramount you find one that is reliable and well suited for the job.
Very Important: Unless you are a hunter and want to be camouflaged, buy colorful equipment! There is a great reason why many backpacks, tents, outdoor clothing, and equipment come in flashy colors – they stand out.
If you were to drop your first aid kit somewhere, a flashy red color in nature is far easier to spot than a dark green one. If you find yourself stuck on a mountain, a bright blue backpack is easier to spot for the rescue team than a black one. This goes the same for clothing – buy colorful ones.
You don’t have to dress like a clown or have every piece of clothing a bright color, but at least have a few colorful items, so that you do stand out. Another plus point with wearing colors is that mosquitoes are attracted to dark colors, light colors repel them!
Now let’s go into a little more detail on what you need to take to survive in certain conditions. When all the above essentials are packed, based on the weather conditions and environment, I will decide on more specific equipment such as sleeping gear and clothing.
For cold environments, what you want to do in terms of clothing is create layers in the following setup.
Inner layer: The inner layer should be thin and made either out of polyester, polyethylene, microfiber, wool or silk, and should cover your whole upper body.
Middle layer: This layer is to create additional insulation. Wool and fleece work best.
Outer layer: The last layer serves as a shell to protect you against water and wind, and keeps everything dry.
Gore-Tex and nylon are highly recommended for this job. For sleeping equipment, a four-season tent is best. However, a good three-season tent will do as well (though I wouldn’t recommend one for extreme cold and high winds). Next is a good sleeping bag designed for low temperatures and a sleeping mat.
An extra item I often take with me is an ice axe – a very handy tool, not just for climbing steeper, icy parts of mountains, but also as a digging tool.
Two great pieces of advice before I get into the equipment – if you are hiking in extreme heat: Stay out of the mid-day sun!
Between 11am and 3pm is not the time to set out; set off after this time. Also, be absolutely certain that you have fully filled water bottles. Hydration is everything when it comes to survival during hot days.
OK, moving on. Basic hiking survival gear is less of a hassle here. For clothing, I would go with a shirt made out of Polartec Power Dry fabric—it’s just beautiful. It’s designed to keep your skin dry when you sweat. I don’t recommend wearing shorts; wear long hiking trousers instead. They will protect you against cuts and insects.
Also, always take a rain jacket with you. Weather can turn around much faster than you think. Regarding sleeping gear, depending on how comfortable you are on doing this, you don’t need a tent with you per se.
Many times, when the weather looks good for the next few days, I only take my sleeping bag and mat with me. Another great alterative is a hammock, which is very useful and can be fixed in many locations.