Prepping 101: Emergency Preparedness on the Trail

Prepping 101: Emergency Preparedness on the Trail

Every hiker, no matter their experience, will tell you that the most important thing while out on the trail is safety. It is vital to prepare beforehand in case the unfortunate event of an accident occurs.

Incidents on the trail vary greatly depending on the terrain, so it is very important you first do your research on the area you will be hiking. 

Emergency Kit Basics

When it comes to the basics one of the most important elements is ease of access to your emergency kit. During packing make sure to place all your emergency items into one container and store it in an easy to reach location. 

What you pack in your emergency kit is up to you based on your level of comfort and experience. A hiker with a lot of experience and knowledge may not pack as much as a beginner or less confident hiker. 

Basic Items:

1. Headlamp

The last thing a hiker wants is to be stuck in an emergency and be unable to see clearly to assess the situation. Even if you plan a short daytime hike, always carry a headlamp in case you get lost or stay out past the planned return time. If hiking alone, carry a small secondary headlamp for any case.

2. Pocket Knife

This little tool can get you out of a lot of tricky situations. Even the most experienced hikers will not go out on the trail without a good quality knife. The number of excess gadgets your knife contains depends on preference just make sure it has a sharp, sturdy blade. 

3. Duct Tape

Duct tape may seem a bit odd in your emergency kit, but it can patch almost anything from broken gear to even acting as a bandage.

4. Fire Making Tools

Fire the essential to all things survival. What you use does not matter as much as having confidence in how to start a fire. Flint and steel, lighters, wind and waterproof matches, and rubbing two sticks together are all popular fire making mechanisms.  

Make sure you are 100% confident by practicing your fire making well in advance before setting out on an adventure. Having secondary knowledge of making your own fire starters in case your tools do not work is also extremely important. 
5. Compass and Map

With today’s technology, it may seem like carrying a compass and map is old school, but once you are lost in the middle of nowhere, you will be happy to have brought them along. There is so much that can go wrong with relying solely on an electronic device for navigation. A map and compass will never let you down. 

6. First Aid Supplies

First Aid Supplies include your typical band-aids, pain relievers, tweezers, scissors, splint and wrap, moleskin, and burn pads. Before over packing on splints and band-aids also remember that other items in your pack can second as first aid supplies.

Educating yourself on basic first aid needs can be a lifesaver, literally. Take a wilderness first aid course for the trail regularly to ensure that your education is ready to handle any medical situation.

7. Water Treatment Tablets

Water is more vital than food in an emergency. Depending on the environment you are hiking in, the speed at which dehydration takes hold can vary. 

Know your environment and where hidden sources of water may be. Once that source is located, treating water with water treatment tablets will prevent you from another emergency medical situation. Untreated water leads to bacterial infection which will dehydrate you even more seriously lessening your chances of long-term survival in the wilderness.

8. Garbage Bag

Garbage bags have a surprising amount of uses out on the trail. They can act as a makeshift shelter, be used to gather water, and so much more.

9. Emergency Whistle

No hiker should be caught out on the trail without their emergency whistle. The chances of having to use it are extremely rare, but the first time you come across a bear, you will be happy you packed it.

10. Space Blanket

Besides the obvious use of creating warmth, the shiny fabric of a space blanket can also second as a tool to signal for help.


Some terrains require more wildlife preparedness than others. Animal attacks are extremely rare. Remember most of them want nothing to do with humans, so if you leave a wild animal alone, it will give you the same courtesy.

If you are in a woodsy area where the primary threat is a bear or wolf basic knowledge of what to do in the case of an interaction is needed. Your emergency whistle and making lots of noise on the trail, like whistling, should prevent an attack.

If you are hiking an area that is filled with poisonous creatures a proper pair of hiking shoes is even more necessary than normal. Make sure to wear high rise boots and long pants to protect your ankles from potential bites. In the very unlikely chance you are bitten, call or start making your way to help immediately. Do not attempt to suck the venom out. 

Medical Training

Always take a basic first aid course before embarking on any wilderness adventures. If an accident does occur remember to stay calm, apply the primary treatment, and call or find help immediately.

Educate yourself on the signs and symptoms of dehydration, heat stroke, and hypothermia. Catching these ailments early on will save you from these conditions worsening and potentially becoming life-threatening. 

In the unfortunate case of an open wound, first, sterilize to prevent infection then properly cover the wound. Depending on its depth you may need to tie a piece of clothing tightly above the wound to reduce blood flow.

Use Common Sense

With the number of things that can go wrong while out in the wilderness, learning to be creative with your survival skills is key. No matter how many lifesaving supplies you have in your pack something unexpected can always happen. Being innovative in an emergency situation is the difference between survival and death. 

When you are not on the trail keep your brain engaged by educating yourself on different survival skills. Take as many medical and trail survival classes as possible. A well-educated hiker has the confidence they need to deal with any situation that may arise. 

Confidence is essential. If you second guess your instincts during an emergency, you lose valuable time necessary to save a life.

Author Bio:

Ross Burgess is the operations manager for When he’s not working, you can find him outdoors hunting, hiking the trails, or researching the latest in tips and trends for survival.

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