Why do I need a survival kit?
Could you be one of the 41% of hikers who get lost in the backcountry every year?
This is an alarming statistic exacerbated by a thought process of thinking it will never happen to you. This dangerous thought process is the cause of the biggest mistake hikers make – Lack of preparation!
Once, my husband and I were hiking in a very remote area, totally unprepared. After all, we were just going for a two-hour walk, one hour there and one back. On the way to the river, we had to bash our way through one section of thorny bush, and the biggest mistake we made was not turning around to see what that part of the trail looked like from behind or marking it in some way.
If we shouted, no one would hear us except for the lone bush pig we had spied earlier, no one knew where we were, except for the barking baboons telling their mates to check us out, there was no cell phone coverage in the area and we had packed no provisions. No surprises when I say that we got lost. We knew where we had to be but just couldn’t get there – we were blocked by a thicket of thorny bush and were unable to see the path we had previously made from the other side. I was starting to panic! I know, we’re told not to panic, but for some, I think it's an unrealistic expectation. Panic … but have some life skills to come out of it.
My husband (aka thorn defender), after walking up and down for half an hour or so to look for an opening, decided that he would shelter me behind him and push through the thorny thicket, and in desperation, that is what we did. He was covered in gouges and scratches by the time we reached the other side, while I got through reasonably unscathed, what a hero!
There are frightening consequences to not being prepared. We don’t think about them, because we prefer to focus on the fun. Which is good … please focus on fun, but only after you have prepared well. Many get lost because of poor choices (like our comedy of errors). Knowing the terrain, planning a route, and telling people exactly where you’ll be is a great start.
A survival kit may seem an extreme choice to make for a hiker, but it already carries half of what you need to survive if you get lost in the backcountry.
Let’s look at the 10 essentials you need before embarking on a hike and I’ll highlight what is in the kit and what you need to add to the kit to be perfectly prepared for your next hike.
You cannot rely on your phone: batteries run flat unexpectedly and cell phone coverage may be sketchy.
Add to your kit: A map and a compass (it helps to know how to use both)
Pack extra food to sustain you and give you energy for climbing or foraging. If you have not packed extra food and you do end up getting lost, it is advised to rather fast and not to hunt or trap because you could be setting yourself up for injuries and exhaustion. Did you know that we have enough stored calories to survive without food for 30 days?
Rescued hikers have shared what they found to eat while lost for a few days –they found berries and fruit, plants (you gotta know which ones are safe), and insects. Some rationed their own food and others survived without food.
Add to your kit: Extra energy bars.
Our bodies cannot survive long without water. Always carry a bottle of water with you and invest in a way to filter water.
Our survival instinct is strong, and we will always find ways to keep ourselves alive, sometimes in the extreme. Lost hikers have reported that they hydrated themselves with snow, puddles, rain, and even their own urine. Others managed to find a source of water or rationed their own supply. They braved infection from a dodgy water source, rather than dehydration.
Add to your kit: A water filter like LifeStraw.
Often, day hikers misjudge how long a hike may take them to complete. Once the sun sets, you could be stuck in the dark with nothing to help you navigate the terrain or set up shelter.
Add to your kit: A headlamp with extra batteries!
Your Surviveware Survival Kit includes a small torch (buy batteries) and 2 Glow sticks for emergency light (and a way to be seen from far away)
5. SUN PROTECTION
Sunglasses will protect you from UV rays, a hat will shield your face, and sunscreen will guard all your exposed bits. Hike in layers, you can remove and add clothing as the temperatures change throughout the day.
Add to your kit: An emergency ration of sunscreen.
It is extremely important to stay warm and most especially, dry. Moisture-wicking clothing is best to wear while hiking. Wicking fabric is made from high-tech polyester which draws moisture away from your body.
Find other ways to keep warm like, piling on extra clothes, or jogging on the spot if you’re unable to start a fire.
Your Surviveware Survival Kit includes a Poncho and an Emergency Blanket7. FIRST AID SUPPLIES
You should never go anywhere without essential first aid supplies. Especially hiking in the backcountry.
Hygiene is an important part of first aid and it may seem like a luxury or far fetched idea to be able to stay clean if you’re lost in the woods. Shower wipes or wet wipes are a great multi-use item to keep in your emergency pack. At some point you’re going to need the toilet and I don't know about you, but I would prefer a soft biodegradable wipe to having to settle for a dusty leaf or stick.
Your Surviveware Survival Kit includes First Aid Supplies and a 15-piece pack of Biodegradable Wet Wipes.8. EMERGENCY SHELTER
As night falls, the decision will arise as to whether you keep walking or make a shelter. You can do a lot with a lightweight emergency blanket and some paracord. Building some kind of shelter will help to keep you dry if it rains, and shield you from the sun in hot weather.
Rescued hikers shared that they found shelter by discovering caves, others have sheltered inside fallen trees or under trees, in between rocks and others still were able to dig a deep hole to shelter from the elements.
Your Surviveware Survival Kit includes An Emergency Blanket, Paracord Bracelet, and a Wire Saw9. TOOLS
Four great tools for your survival pack are a knife, a multi-tool, some duct tape, and scissors.
Silly things, like a broken shoe, or eyeglasses can distress you further in an already stressful situation, so it’s a good idea to have something handy to fix broken gear.
A knife could help in creating kindling for a fire or stripping trees to navigate a way back, among other things.
Duct tape is excellent for kit and gear repairs, making makeshift emergency arm slings, cordage, and a vessel to drink water from.
You’ll need scissors to cut bandages, and sometimes clothes if you have sustained an injury and cannot remove your clothing to get to it.
Your Surviveware Survival Kit includes Scissors (bandage shears), A Multi-Tool, and a Knife.
Add to your kit: Outdoor Duct Tape
A fire means warmth, comfort, cooked food, sterilized drinking water and a way to be found. Packing your fire with green wood will make the fire smoke, smoke rises and can be seen by search and rescue from the air.
Part of your preparation routine could include petroleum jelly-soaked cotton balls - the Surviveware Storm-proof matches have an emergency supply of cotton in the lid of the container.
OTHER WAYS TO BE FOUND BY RESCUERS:
- Signaling mirror (also supplied in this kit). When a mirror catches the sun, it can be seen for miles. The international signal for distress is 3 flashes in quick succession. Random shiny things don’t get attention, but calculated and systematic signaling does.
- If you have no mirror, use the shiny side of your emergency blanket for signaling.
- Wear bright clothing - I have a friend who hikes in neon colored clothing from head to toe. We laugh, but she WILL be found if she gets lost. I'm sure her clothes even glow in the dark!
- Leave a trail of clues for rescuers – whatever they would find unusual, a pile of perfectly placed rocks, a knife-stripped tree – if you have more than one emergency blanket, cut it into strips and tie the strips to trees.
- Blow a whistle as much as you can (whistle also included in the kit).
ALWAYS BE PREPARED:
- Practice making fires.
- Invest in a personal locator beacon.
- Print and study your maps.
- Practice making a shelter.
- Pack your 10 essential items.
Above all, enjoy your time in the backcountry. Prepare for potential pitfalls, but don’t dwell on them, unless you absolutely have to. Get out, walk, run, exercise and breathe in fresh air - the ultimate aromatherapy.