Your backpack gear can either set you up for survival, or make you more likely to struggle in emergencies. What essential items do you keep in your backpack?
Hiking the globe is a beautiful way to see the world. Some trails are more challenging than others, but I never let difficulty stand in my way. I welcome the challenge and explore it to the fullest. As a solo female traveler, my top priority is safety. My goal is to always set myself up for success. I keep my backpack gear fully stocked with all the necessary items to stay safe on the trail. This gives me the added confidence and peace of mind to know I can handle any issues that may arise.
Preparation helps you gain the courage to set out on your own. Unfortunately, many people that hit the hiking trails are not prepared. As a result, small issues can turn into big ones. Here is a list of the essential items you should include in your backpack gear.
Backpack Gear Contents:
– First Aid
– Sun Protection
– Emergency Items
One of the most important goals when hiking solo is to not get lost! A compass and map are essential tools for your backpack gear. Before you set out, make sure you understand how to read a compass. Additionally, pay attention to trail markings. Do not go off the beaten path. There are also several GPS devices available to help you keep your bearings, even in areas with no reception. This handheld GPS is water resistant, loaded with topographic maps, and has a battery life of up to 16 hours.
You never know when you might come across injuries. This is why a first aid kit is an essential addition to your backpack gear. Whether I am going on a two mile hike or a twenty mile one, I always pack my first aid kit. It should contain the following items:
- Antibacterial ointment
- Antiseptic wipes
- Pain medication
- Insect bite wipes
- Blister treatment
- Medical tape
- Safety pins
- Duct tape
Mosquito Spray and Afterbite
If you are anything like me, those pesky mosquitos can be the worst part of your hike. Prevention is the best form of protection. I always keep a mini mosquito spray in my backpack, along with extra after bite to relieve the itching.
You can never have enough duct tape. It is especially useful to have while hiking solo. For instance, duct tape can be used to make a splint, stabilize a wound, or prevent blisters. It can also be used to remove splinters and ticks. It will waterproof your boots and make repairs. In a pinch, you can also use duct tape to help build a fire. It provides two minutes of burn time. Because of its usefulness, I always carry these travel sized packets in my backpack:
Poison Ivy/Oak Soap
Poison ivy or poison oak can quickly turn your pleasant hiking trip into an itchy nightmare! These plants blend in and can look like any other harmless plant. Know how to identify poison ivy plants and keep an eye out for them. “Leaves of three, let them be.” If you come into contact with these leaves, it is always a good idea to have a remedy on hand. This is why I carry poison ivy soap on longer hikes.
Sunscreen. Protect your body and eyes from harmful UV light. Sunscreen and SPF lip balm will lessen the amount of damage from UV rays. To be most effective, SPF 30 is recommended. In the short term, these items will decrease the chance of sunburn. In the long term, they will help prevent skin cancer and premature aging.
Sunglasses. Good eye protection is also necessary to shield your eyes from the sun. Make sure your sunglasses have quality lenses that block 100% of UV light. This decreases your risk of developing cataracts.
Clothing. There are many types of clothes that are specially designed to protect your skin from damaging UV rays. While sunscreen is still necessary to apply to exposed skin, UV clothing helps cut down the need to douse your entire body.
I love watching the sun rise. I wake up before the crack of dawn and hit the trails while it is still dark outside. Hiking in the dark can be dangerous, so it is important to bring your own source of light. LED lanterns and solar flashlights provide a good amount of light, but tend to be bulky. This is why I prefer headlamps. They keep my hands free and also do not take up much space in my backpack. Always carry extra batteries. If you get stuck on a trail or are camping overnight, this headlamp will help you find your way through the wilderness in the dark.
Have you ever tried to start a fire from scratch? It can be very difficult. Creating a fire is a key survival skill when exploring on your own. Make your life easier. Work smarter, not harder. Lighters are simple and convenient, but most airlines have strict rules about flying with them. This is why I always pack stormproof matches in my backpack. Whether you are on a planned camping trip or lost in the woods, these matches can save your life.
A quality hunting knife or utility knife can be a very useful item to have in your pack. It can be used for repairs, to cook, hunt, and make kindling. You can also use it to protect yourself in case of danger. As a solo female traveler, I like to carry a large hunting knife with me on my hikes. However, always check open and concealed carry laws before hiking with large knives.
An emergency blanket is a simple, lightweight addition to your hiking backpack. If you are injured and unable to walk back to your tent, this blanket will shelter you from the wind and rain. It reflects up to 90% of your heat back onto yourself. This keeps you warm and can save your life in an emergency. Ultralight backpacking gear is both efficient and useful. I keep this blanket in my pack and also in my car.
One item that is usually overlooked is a signal mirror. However, this tiny mirror comes in handy if you are stranded or unable to move, and need help. Use it to signal other hikers in the distance, or even planes up above. Once you learn how to use a signal mirror to reflect the sun, it will become an important part of your safety survival gear.
A safety whistle is an important addition to your backpack gear. Use it to get attention if you need help. If you are hiking on a less crowded trail, or get into trouble off of the main trail, distant hikers can pinpoint your location. It is a simple, ultralight backpacking item to carry, and can possibly save your life.
There are hundreds of amazing uses for paracord. It is a signature item in my hiking backpack. The braiding of the cord makes it sturdy and durable. Use it as shoelaces for your boots. Make a pulley and hang your food to keep it away from hungry bears. Use it to start a fire. I love this particular paracord because it doubles as a fire starter. Although all paracords burn, this core contains flammable tinder that will help start a fire. Be sure to add this item to your survival gear!
On long backpacking adventures, a solar charger will help you stay connected. You can use it to charge your phone, GPS device, or fitness tracker. A solar charger can consist of panels only, or panels with integrated or detached battery packs. Panel solar chargers seem to work best. Additionally, backpacks with integrated solar panels are also available.
Our bodies are made up of two thirds water. Because of this, it is important to maintain that fluid balance. Stay hydrated. With moderate to difficult hiking, you should plan to drink about 500mL to 1 liter for each hour of activity. On longer backcountry hikes, you may need to find a natural source of water. Be prepared with a water filtering device or iodine tablets. Proper treatment of the water will kill bacteria and make it safe to drink. I personally love my Grayl water purifier bottle. It filters bacteria, viruses, chemicals, and debris from any water source. It is convenient and easy to operate. I also keep a life straw in my backpack in case of emergencies. You can use it to drink straight out of a puddle if necessary!
Always pack at least one extra day’s worth of food. When hiking in snow or severe weather, plan to carry a bit more in case you become stranded. Choose foods that are not perishable. Beef jerky, nuts, dried fruit, trail mix, and energy bars are best. Additionally, I like to pack these freeze dried meals on multi-day hikes. They are lightweight, full of nutrition, and actually taste good! Just add water and enjoy a gourmet meal on the trails!
The weather can be unpredictable. For this reason, it is wise to dress in layers. You can always add or remove clothing as needed. There are three main components of layering:
- Base Layer: closest to your skin; underwear and thermal layers
- keeps you warm or cool by absorbing and removing your sweat (wicking)
- Middle Layer: examples include a fleece or down jacket
- acts as an insulator by trapping the warmth your body releases
- Outer Layer: a durable waterproof, windproof outer shell
- provides protection from the wind, rain, and snow; holds in body heat and allows vapors to escape
High quality outdoor clothing is essential to setting yourself up for success. You are not going to enjoy the trails if you are freezing and miserable the entire time. Invest in proper clothing to keep you safe and maximize your hiking experience. In addition to layering, be sure to also pack an extra set of warm wool socks. Sometimes you cross streams and your socks get wet. Hiking in wet socks promotes the formation of blisters. Go in prepared and come out with epic memories!
Now that we have covered all of the essential safety items that should go into your backpack, it is time to discuss backpack options. Check out my collection and review of various hiking backpacks.
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