There are essential wilderness survival items you should always carry when when hiking, biking or camping, but most of us never do. It seems like we often hear on the news of someone making a solid attempt to enjoy the outdoors and connect with mother nature, but end up in an unexpected situation without being prepared. The last thing on anyone's mind when planning a hike, snowshoeing, or a camping trip is that they might injure themselves and become unable to get back home on their own without the essential survival items, but it happens more than you would think.
At the end of last summer, wilderness survival was not on the mind of a woman in her mid-50's who went hiking with her dog on a moderate-level trail she knew well. Her knowledge of the path was no match to prevent an accidental injury. Ashland Lake Trail in Snohomish County is not known to be an overly challenging hike until forced to spend the night unexpectedly. Being caught in a lousy situation didn't seem like a possibility, given her experience on a familiar path. She left home that morning with four bottles of water and a few slim jims to venture out on a trek that would typically take about 2 hours but lasted for two days.
They happily strolled along the trail with her dog kicking up little clouds of dust with each step he took. There was rain in the forecast and evidence that it had rained during the night when she slipped on a moss-covered log, heard a snap, and fell into a ravine. The “snap” proved to be a broken leg.
"I Slipped. And it snapped. And I don’t know how it happened. It just happened so fast. I was afraid, but I just didn’t want that to be the focus of what I was doing there,"
For two long days, she tried to focus on the natural beauty surrounding her as she wondered how she would survive. The water she brought along had been carried by her dog in a backpack, worn often on hikes. She used her dog's pack, shoelaces, and some sticks to create a splint for her broken leg while sticking close to her fluffy companion during the night for warmth and protection.
"It poured down rain, and I just thought, do you want to just die up here? Or are you going to do something? Nobody is coming up here to get you. They don’t know you’re here.'"
On the second day, she tried to inch herself closer to the trail with her dog barking to motivate and guide her back to the path. The barking dog prompted a chance encounter with a young runner who had been passing by and heard a call for help.
"I hear a person's voice. And I'm like, 'Are you a person! You're a person. Thank God.' And I started yelling, and he goes, 'Are you okay?' And I'm like, 'No, I'm not okay.'
The man ran 2 miles back to get her some water and clothes before heading back to the ranger station for help.
Although the injured hiker faced a long and slow recovery, she was thankful for the outcome and very lucky to have a wilderness survival story.
It's safe to assume when preparing for a day in the backcountry; it takes more than a pack of slim jims, water, and a dog's backpack to ensure that you are ready to tackle the outdoors with confidence.
Telling someone where you are going is rule number one.
Additionally, there are ten essential wilderness survival items that you should pack on your trip that can help if you are injured, experience sudden weather changes, or an unexpected delay. You may require additional supplies depending on the activity you are participating in, such as bug spray for specific areas or a life jacket if heading out on the water.
TOP TEN ESSENTIAL WILDERNESS SURVIVAL ITEMS
NAVIGATION – Map, compass, and GPS. When planning your route before your trip and help orient yourself in your surroundings during your activity. Know how to use a topographical or relief map and your compass or GPS unit before going out.
SUN PROTECTION – Sunglasses, sunscreen, and hat. Sun protection is necessary to protect your skin and eyes against harsh UV rays responsible for sunburns and skin cancer. Wear sunglasses, apply sunscreen, and wear a hat. Protective clothing such as pants and long sleeve shirts can also help minimize your exposure to the sun.
INSULATION – Jacket, hat, gloves, rain shell, and thermal underwear. Nature is unpredictable, so be prepared for sudden weather changes. Pack an extra layer of clothing to withstand the most extreme conditions you could encounter.
ILLUMINATION – Flashlight, lanterns, and headlamp. Headlamps are the preferred light source because they are hands-free, but they require batteries, so pack extra.
FIRST-AID SUPPLIES – First Aid Kit. Be prepared for emergencies by packing first-aid supplies with you. Start with a pre-made kit and modify it to fit your trip and your medical needs. (Shop First Aid Kits Here)
FIRE – Matches, lighter and fire starters. Fire can be an emergency signal, a heat source for cooking, and keep you warm. Pack matches (preferably waterproof) and fire starters.
REPAIR KIT AND TOOLS – Duct tape, knife, screwdriver, and scissors. Carry a basic kit with you to repair equipment if needed. The kit should include items such as duct tape, a knife, and scissors. Consider packing a multi-tool. A compact version may consist of a spoon, screwdriver, or can opener. Be sure to bring any tools specific to your trip and your activity.
NUTRITION - Food. Prepare for the possibility of making adjustments to your plan. Pack an extra day's supply of food, preferably no-cook items that contain high nutritional content to keep your energy up. Salty and easy-to-digest snacks work well for outdoor activities such as granola bars and nuts.
HYDRATION – Water and Water Treatment Supplies. Staying hydrated on your trip is of utmost importance when it comes to wilderness survival! Physical activity increases your risk of dehydration (loss of water and salts from the body), leading to adverse health consequences. If you're active outdoors (hiking, biking, running, swimming, etc.), you should drink water often and before you feel thirsty, especially in warm climates. Prepare your water before you need it, and do not allow yourself to become dehydrated. Before heading out on your trip, be sure to identify any water sources at your destination that you could collect and treat using water treatment supplies.
EMERGENCY SHELTER – Tent, space blanket and tarp. The shelter is one of the most critical elements during an emergency survival situation. It can protect you from severe weather conditions and exposure to the elements. A tent, tarp, or emergency space blanket are lightweight options for emergency shelters.