7 Emergency Survival Items You Should Never Go Hiking Without

When we go out for a day, a week, or a month, we know the basics. Bring food, bring water, a knife, and shelter. That should do it, right? Maybe, but not likely.

Even those of us with years of experience can get turned around on a new trail or in unfamiliar territory. If it never happens to you, then that’s great, but it’s still best to be on the safe side. After all, when does everything go according to plan?

The following are items, other than the usual essentials, that you may not think of when loading your backpack. Thankfully, many of them can fit in a small waterproof bag or an Altoids tin!

1. Firestarter – You may think this is an obvious choice, but you’d be surprised. The flint and steel stick is iconic and available anywhere. It takes some skill to use but can light dry tinder quickly if used properly. Spark wheels are my favorite variation on flint and steel.

A small bag of tinder or fire-starters also helps. My favorite is cotton balls saturated with some petroleum jelly. They catch quickly, burn forever, and you can carry a few dozen in a very small plastic zipper bag.

2. Mirror – Many stores sell signal mirrors which allow you to use the reflection from the sun to signal low flying aircraft. For this purpose, they have a small hole cut in the middle so you can aim the reflection at your intended target, but any small mirror or reflective object will do.

Make sure if you are signaling the aircraft, repeatedly tilt the mirror up and down to create a “flashing” effect. You don’t want to hold it in place and blind the pilot. They will still rescue you, but chances are they won’t be happy with you when they do.

3. Chain Saw – No, not that kind. I do not recommend carrying power tools and a half gallon of gasoline. Chain saws are portable hand tools with a string of teeth and a handle or ring on each end to cut larger pieces of wood without the weight or inaccuracy of a hatchet.

These saws are invaluable if you need to make a sturdy shelter, or if you want to cut some branches for your fire without wasting too much wood.

4. Fishing Line/Hooks – Fish is a great source of nutrition and fat in a survival situation. You don’t, however, need a rod. Just the line and a few hooks. I recommend, if you have only a bit of line, tying multiple hooks at regular intervals along one line is the best way to boost your chances of a catch.

Leave your line in a stream for a few hours tied off to a sturdy branch or log. Look for branches that have fallen to extend out over the water. Do not put yourself at risk trying to do this, but the closer to the middle of the stream you can get, the more likely you’ll catch something by the end of the day. Bait the hooks with what you can find.

5. Parachute Cord – 550 Cord (as it’s known in the military) is strong, versatile, and has countless uses. A small pack of 50 to 100 feet of parachute cord can get you through anything. Use it to make your shelter, suspend your food/trash from trees, or set traps for food.

If you find yourself running low on cord, remove the “guts” of the cord to give yourself some smaller, but very strong, strings for other practical uses. They can also be used to supplement your fishing line from earlier if you run out.

6. Tea Lights – Really, dude? Tea lights? Yes. They may seem like cheap little accents for novelty candle holders, but they can be a lifesaver. They’re useful if you’re having trouble starting a fire, or keeping your hands warm if your situation doesn’t allow for a fire. Cooking small pieces of meat over a tea light isn’t quick, but it works.

Tea lights are also useful for rescue. If you have a couple, you can place them in formations to signal your need of rescue at night. These include a V to signal your need of assistance, or an X to signal you need assistance and medical attention.

7. Survival Guide – This may seem obvious, but in times of stress, your knowledge can give way to panic or instinct and you will do something that causes more harm than good. That handy survival article you read last week has been brain-dumped or altered.

A portable reference guide can give you just the baseline you need to get yourself back on track and keep you from making wrong choices from the get-go. This little book can help with the most basic and fundamental survival tip one can offer; don’t panic.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Bryan Bintliff

Bryan is an Army veteran, Masters Student at NYU, and a freelance writer dabbling in travel advice and survival tips... sometimes both at once. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and is enjoying his new weekend warrior status.
Bryan Bintliff

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