Hiking Survival Gear Gift Guide

Hiking Survival Gear Guide

Every hiker should carry some survival gear so they can stay alive long enough for search and rescue teams to arrive. If you can signal for help, you’ll be rescued eventually, but the wait can kill you. There really are some basic things you want to have with you on any hike into a wilderness area like a headlamp, a whistle, a way to make a fire, extra food and water, and nighttime insulation for an unexpected overnight. If you have a loved one who’s a dedicated hiker or just starting out, make sure they’re outfitted with what they need to survive. Here are 10 items of survival gear that every hiker should have in their gear closet and on their trips. I carry the majority of these on every single hike and backpacking trip I take.

1. Garmin inReach Explorer+

Garmin inReach Explorer+
The Garmin inReach Explorer+ is a two-way satellite communicator that can transmit your GPS location to search and rescue personnel or send out tracking breadcrumbs so that someone monitoring your location can signal the authorities if you inexplicably stop moving along your route.  While it also has GPS map and tracking functionality, its greatest value is as a standalone two-way satellite messenger that lets you type out messages and receive them without the need for a smartphone. If rescuers are delayed or in transit, they can still provide advice and assurance remotely until they arrive. The inReach has an onboard battery pack and can be recharged in the field with a USB recharger. Battery life is excellent. We think the Explorer+ is simpler to use than the Garmin Inreach Mini because it has a built-in keyboard and a GPS mapping capability. Read our Explorer+ Review. 

Check for the Latest Price at:
REI | Moosejaw | Amazon 

2. Nitecore NU 32 Headlamp

Nitecore NU 32 Headlamp
The Nitecore NU 32 is a very bright 550 lumen rechargeable headlamp with a larger-than-average 1800 mAh lithium-ion battery for long-lasting power. It has four brightness levels, a primary CREE spotlight and auxiliary LEDs for flood, closeup, and red lighting modes with a tilt adjustment making it ideal for night hiking, trail running, and camping. The NU 32 has a built-in power indicator and lock to prevent accidental activation, it is water-resistant to 2 meters and includes a micro-USB cable for recharging. Read our Nitecore NU32 review.

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3. Anker PowerCore 10000 Battery Pack

Anker10000 USB Battery

If you carry a USB-rechargeable device on a hike, it’s quite helpful to be able to recharge it if the battery runs out of juice. Most smartphones, GPS satellite messengers, headlamps, and even cameras can all be recharged with a battery like this. I carry this Anker Powercore 10000 battery pack because it’s one of the smallest and lightest weight 10000 mAh batteries available, it has a quick charge capability to charge devices fast, and it recharges itself quickly when you get access to a power source.

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4. NEMO Switchback Folding Foam Sleeping Pad

Nemo Switchback Sleeping Pad
The NEMO Switchback is a folding closed-cell foam pad that you can sit or lay on while you’re waiting for help to arrive. It has a high enough R-value to prevent the cold ground from robbing your body warmth and causing hypothermia. Thru-hikers prefer to use foam pads like these for sleeping because they’re so durable, reliable, and inexpensive. Many hikers strap them to the outside of their backpack, especially in cold weather, because it’s considered a wilderness first aid essential to insulate a patient from the cold ground. Read our Review.

Check for the Latest Price at:
REI | Moosejaw | Amazon

5. SOL Emergency Bivy

Sol Emergency Bivy
The SOL Emergency Bivy only weighs 3.8 oz and is durable enough that you can use again and again (unlike most space blankets) as a sleeping bag cover or a liner for added warmth in addition to emergency use by itself. Lined with foil, it reflects 90% of your body heat and is best coupled with a foam sleeping bag like the Switchback, above, to provide insulation from the ground.

Check for the Latest Price at:
REI | Amazon

6. Fox 40 Whistle

Fox 40 Classic Pealess Plastic Emergency Whistle
The Fox 40 is a very loud signaling whistle. You can blow a whistle to attract the attention of samaritans or search and rescue personnel a lot longer and much louder than you can by yelling. A whistle’s also great to attract the attention of a lost hiker and help bring them back into contact with you. Read our Review.

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REI | Amazon

7. Life Straw Flex Water Filter & Bottle

Lifestraw Flex
The Lifestraw Flex WaterFilter includes a soft bottle so you can capture and filter water in an emergency or one the go. The filter can also be threaded onto regular soda water bottles if you have one handy. The Flex is a 2 stage filter that removes microbes and has an activated carbon filter to make water taste better. If they already carry a Sawyer water filter use that. But I like the Lifestraw Flex better for people who normally don’t carry a water filter because it rolls up small, comes with a transparent soft bottle, it has a mouthpiece cap and is more intuitive to use.  Read our Review.

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REI | Moosejaw | Amazon

8. Morakniv Bushcraft Survival Knife

Mora Bushcraft Survival Knife
The Morakniv Bushcraft Survival Knife includes a razor-sharp knife with a scabbard, an all-weather Morakniv fire starter, and a diamond sharpener. With a little practice, you can gather burnable materials, featherstick kindling, and start a fire with the natural resources around you. Feature-strong and long-lasting a 3.2 mm stainless steel blade, The Morakniv Bushcraft knife is ground especially for use with a fire starter. The included fire starter yields 7,000 strikes and creates sparks at 5,430° F, making it easy to light a fire in any weather and at any altitude

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REI | Amazon

9. Rab 2 Person Bothy Bag

Rab 2P Bothy Bag
Popular in the UK where they have horrible weather, Rab’s 2-Person Bothy Bag is a 2 person waterproof and windproof polyester shelter used by hikers, climbers, and backcountry skiers to get out of the wind or rain to rest, east, or plan out a route. It has a clear plastic window, air vents, and built-in seats at the ends. You can sit on your backpack or a foam pad inside, support it using trekking poles, or just drape it over occupants. The Bothy Bag only weighs 11 oz and packs up small.

Check for the Latest Price at:
Moosejaw | Amazon

10. Wilderness First Aid Class (WFA)

Wilderness First Aid

Give someone you love a Wilderness First Aid Class. The most important gear you carry in the backcountry is between your ears. While it helps to have a good first aid kit, there are a lot of hiking injuries that are too severe or life-threatening for you to treat. Wilderness First Aid teaches you how to stabilize a patient until medically trained search and rescue personnel can arrive to transport them to advanced care. This training is very useful if you hike by yourself, with family or friends. It’s primarily scenario-based, so you get to practice the skills you learn in life-like simulations which make the lessons hard-to-forget. Read about my WFA Training Experiences.

Check for the Latest Price at:
REI | SOLO | Wilderness Medical Associates International

Editor's note: Help support this site by making your next gear purchase through one of the links above. Click a link, buy what you need, and the seller will contribute a portion of the purchase price to support SectionHiker's unsponsored gear reviews, articles, and hiking guides.

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  1. Hey Philip,
    Great article as usual, do you know of any foam folding pads that do not have the warning label of causing Cancer ? Thanks db

  2. it is law that anything sold in CA that might have been created with carcinogenic content or used known carcinogens in their manufacture are required to have a Prop 65 label. According to the law, even coffee requires a Prop 65 warning label, so take the warning with a grain of salt (apparently not yet identified as a cancer causing substance).


  3. The best thing on this list is the first aid class. There’s something anyone can use. If you already have basic first aid skills, SOLO offers intermediate and advanced courses, as well as refreshers.

    • +1 on that, sir. Knowledge is the absolute best thing to carry. It’s lightweight too. If I could spend money on only one item on the list, it’d be the wilderness first aid course. Good call, Phil.

  4. I am interested in the Bothy Bag. It looks better than the SOL Emergency Bivy. The downside is that 2 folks have to sit up inside of it. Is there a comparable bag where 1-2 folks can lie down in it. I went to the Bothy website, but it wasn’t clear to me.

    • Not really. You probably should just carry a tent if you want that. (It’s a temporary shelter intended for sitting, not lying down, although you could probably use it for that in a pinch). You can also just lie in a tent body without poles in an emergency, similar to a zarski sack (a tube with holes at both ends.)

    • Susan, I have the bothy, and just use a trekking pole to keep it off my face…it’s easy to adapt.

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