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The undisputed experts when it comes to key survival equipment? The rangers who save hikers who go astray. Jeff Webb, a SAR ranger at Yosemite National Park, has worked on more than 200 rescue missions. The 38-year-old has also seen action in Big Bend, Yellowstone, Canyonlands, Joshua Tree, and Rocky Mountain National Parks. This is the emergency kit he crams into the lid of his pack whenever he heads out into the wilderness.
“Cheap and small,” says Webb. $2; widely available
Brunton 15TDCL compass
Webb doesn’t cut corners here. This compass has a signal mirror and a built-in sighting line. $81.20; brunton.com
CamelBak Omega Reservoir
This convenient water carrier comes in four different sizes. Webb likes the 35-ouncer. $20;
Webb says cell phones are “pretty much mandatory” as survival items today. They’re lighter, cheaper, and less bulky than satellite phones. Just don’t rely on a cell alone to save you, he cautions. You might not get a signal.
Coghlan’s Emergency Tinder
It burns readily, is easily portable in an empty pill bottle, and so light and small there’s no excuse not to carry a few. $3.50; coghlans.com
Coghlan’s Magnesium Starter
A cheap, widely available backup for the Bic lighter. Webb recommends having redundancy in firestarters. $9; coghlans.com
GU Energy Gel and Clif bars
Together they have enough punch to aid in muscle recovery and deliver a nice energy jolt. $1, guenergy.com; $1.50, clifbar.com
Homemade first-aid kit
Webb’s includes an aspirin- and ibuprofen-filled pill bottle wrapped in duct tape and medical tape, a couple of gauze pads bound in a rubber band, and a standard gauze roll and a Kerlix gauze roll. It’s enough gear to “stop a bleed and wrap it tight with the tape, or wrap a sprain and take the pain meds,” he says. Webb packs it all in a Norelco shaver case.
Indestructible stainless steel 27-ounce water bottle. Webb brings an empty one along as a backup. $33; kleankanteen.com
Nike Lance 4 wristwatch
Webb recommends a watch with altimeter, barometer, and compass. The readings give you a good reference point, he says. $259; nike.com/timing
Webb calls this 4-ounce shell “a good all-around windbreaker that’s also ultralight.” $125; patagonia.com
Petzl Tikka Plus
This compact LED headlamp has four settings, including strobe. It’s great for emergency use, he says, but not bright enough for bushwhacking at night. $35; petzl.com
Potable Aqua iodine tablets
Lighter than a filter, and if you’re really thirsty, you won’t mind the taste. $6; potableaqua.com
Small tea light candle
Set one up under wet wood to speed drying, Webb says. $1
SmartWool Trekking Heavy Crew sock
Webb carries an extra pair of wool socks because they stay warm when wet. $18; smartwool.com
Smith and Wesson Baby SWAT knife
Sharp 2.5-inch half-serrated blade locks open to prevent accidents. $30; knivesplus.com
Heatsheets Emergency Bivvy
Having spent several uncomfortable nights in space blankets, Webb opts for this one, which is preformed into a sleeping-bag shape. The wind can’t catch the edges and you don’t come unwrapped. $15; adventuremedicalkits.com