10 Backpack Essentials for Wilderness Safety

Written by | Updated October 11, 2016

10 Backpack Essentials for Wilderness Safety

John Muir once said, “The mountains are calling and I must go.” As inspiring as this quote may be, we’d like to add “safely” to the end of it. After all, it’s difficult to enjoy nature if you’re cold, lost, or injured.

Whether you’re an experienced adventurer or a beginning hiker, wilderness safety is always important. Here are ten items you should keep in your backpack to stay prepared for the unexpected. This isn’t a comprehensive list of what you’ll need to stay safe in the wilderness, but it’s a good place to start.

1. SPOT GEN3 Satellite GPS Messenger

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Keeping a satellite GPS messenger in your pack is like having a rescue team on standby. You have instant access to emergency response teams and your loved ones thanks to satellite technology. Our favorite pick is the SPOT GEN3. It’s small and lightweight, so it won’t weigh you down. You can track and send your GPS location, send pre-programmed text messages to your contacts, request help from local response teams, and more—ith the push of a button.

2. DeLorme inReach SE Satellite Phone

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If you plan to travel for more than a week, you may want a more advanced communication device. The DeLorme inReach SE has a color screen with a virtual keyboard so you can send and receive 160-character text messages to cell phone numbers and email addresses, provide your GPS coordinates, and contact rescue teams. The phone is powered by the world’s farthest-reaching commercial satellite, making it reliable no matter your location in the world.

3. Rothco Orienteering Compass

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Along with a map and a GPS, don’t forget a compass. This basic supply is a good backup if your GPS loses power. For extra safety, bring a compass with a sighting mirror. The fold-out surface makes it easier to make accurate readings and can also serve as an emergency signaling device. Rothco’s orienteering compass is a great, budget-friendly pick.

4. Salus Ultra Urban Personal Defense System


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There is always a chance of being in danger from wildlife or even other hikers while exploring the outdoors. Feel safer and more focused on enjoying the experience by bringing along a personal defense system. The Salus Ultra Urban combines three non-lethal lines of defense into one nifty and compact tool. The unit features a loud awareness alarm, a disorienting strobe light, and law-enforcement-grade pepper spray, all while attaching easily to your belt or pack.

5. LifeStraw Water Filter

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Streams, rivers, and lakes may look pure, but hosts of harmful bacteria often lurk unseen. Although you should find the water purifier that works best for you, the LifeStraw water filter is a good choice for most because it’s compact, doesn’t require charging or pumping, and is widely affordable. Along with removing over 99.9% of waterborne bacteria and parasites, this portable filter doesn’t use iodine, chlorine, or chemicals and can purify up to 1,000 liters of water.

6. Well-Strong Waterproof First Aid Kit

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Every hiker should carry a first aid kit to treat potential injuries. A small injury can cause major pains if you don’t have the supplies to treat it. You can either assemble a kit or purchase one, like the Well-Strong Waterproof First Aid Kit. Created with hikers and campers in mind, this kit comes with more than 100 pieces stored in a waterproof bag.

7. Survival Spark Fire Starter

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Matches aren’t always reliable for starting fires, especially if it’s damp, raining, or windy. A fire starter is the most reliable option for getting a fire going in rough weather. The Survival Spark features a windproof and weather-resistant magnesium fire-starter rod and large striker that can be used up to 15,000 times. The device also comes with a compass and a whistle, and will fit in your backpack without a problem.

8. MTech MT-086 Series Fixed Blade Knife

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Many hikers will tell you a knife is one of the most important things to bring with you. A good knife can help with nearly any task, from building shelter to cooking meals. While it may take up more space, a fixed blade knife is a more reliable option than a folding knife. Fixed blades like the MTech MT-086 Series are stronger and more durable because they don’t rely on any mechanical movement.

9. Survival Shack Emergency Shelter

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Overnight campers will have a tent or form of shelter, but day hikers need to bring along some form of shelter in case they end up lost or stranded overnight. You can use something as simple as a large plastic trash bag or a space blanket, but if the weather is cold, the Survival Shack is the perfect option. It’s made from a Mylar thermal material that is lightweight, waterproof, windproof, and reflects 90% of body heat to keep you warm and cozy.

10. Casio Multi-Function Sport Watch

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An altimeter watch combines half a dozen helpful tools in one small device. Beyond a clock, an altimeter watch allows you to check the temperature and humidity, determine your direction, pinpoint your location, measure altitude changes, track air pressure, and forecast the weather. An altimeter watch is a must for more accurate navigation and trail safety, and this highly rated altimeter watch from Casio is an affordable option for the everyday adventurer.

Remember that along with purchasing these wilderness safety essentials, it is important to learn how to use them. It’s a good idea to master new equipment before you’re under the pressures of a hazardous wilderness situation.

Once you’re familiar with your safety essentials, toss them in your backpack along with the rest of your gear and head for the open road to answer the call of the mountains.

If you’re an experienced hiker, share your advice with novice adventurers in the comments. Are there any important items missing from this list? What else should adventurers prepare for?

Written by Caroline Maurer

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