The Backcountry Survival Kit

Here’s the essential clothing and gear you need even for a day hike in the spring, summer, or fall. Remember also to always check the weather and prepare for the worst conditions; make plans with your group’s abilities in mind; and plan an alternate route in case of bad weather, injury, illness, or slower than expected travel time.

Be sure to wear or bring the following:

  • Wool sweater or synthetic pile jacket.
  • Hat.
  • Gloves or mittens.
  • Bandanna or handkerchief.
  • Long pants (avoid cotton).
  • Wind and rain gear (jacket and pants).
  • Extra socks (a welcome treat for the feet at mid-hike, or if you inadvertently step in a stream. They also double as mittens).
  • Sturdy boots (a must).
  • Polypropylene or wool underwear is recommended. Polypropylene acts as insulation and it keeps you dry by transporting moisture from perspiration away from your skin. Polypro and wool retain their ability to insulate even when wet.

Food and Gear

  • First-aid kit.
  • Waterproof matches.
  • Whistle.
  • Knife.
  • Guidebook, trail map, and compass.
  • High-energy snacks.
  • Two to four quarts (per person) of water.
  • Flashlight or headlamp with fresh batteries.
  • Sunscreen.
  • Insect repellent.

Some other things you may want to consider are that plastic trash bags serve many functions: Use them as pack liners to keep your gear dry, for carrying out trash, as a makeshift rain poncho, or to fashion an emergency bivouac sac (pull one on like pants; pull the other on like a shirt and cut a hole for your face so you can breathe).

You should also consider carrying a sleeping bag in case you are forced to sleep out overnight. If you’re traveling in a group, carry at least one sleeping bag. It is an emergency tool that can keep an injured hiker warm until help arrives. Hypothermia is more of a threat when you sit immobilized because of injury.

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