Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In

Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In



The Ultimate Survival Kit for Backpackers

Want to make it out alive? Consider packing this 16-item kit, assembled with help from a Yosemite rescue ranger.

Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.

Essential Survival Gear

The undisputed experts when it comes to key survival gear? The rangers who save hikers who go astray. Jeff Webb, a search-and-rescue ranger at Yosemite National Park, has worked on more than 200 rescue missions. He’s also seen action in Big Bend, Yellowstone, Canyonlands, Joshua Tree, and Rocky Mountain National Parks. With his advice, our editors put together this ultimate survival kit for hikers.

Black Diamond Ion Headlamp best headlamps
Black Diamond IonCourtesy

Headlamp: Black Diamond Ion

At just 1.9 ounces including batteries, the Black Diamond Ion is small enough to stuff in a pocket, but powerful enough (100 lumens) to actually make a difference. Bonus: The headband adjustment is easy to operate even with chilled hands. $25—Buy Now

emergency blanket Ultimate Survival Kit
SOL Emergency BivvyCourtesy

Emergency Blanket: SOL Emergency Bivvy

Having spent several uncomfortable nights in space blankets, Webb opts for preformed, sleeping-bag-style sacks. The wind can’t catch the edges and you don’t come unwrapped. Tip: Emergency blankets don’t breathe well. If you’re stuck out for more than one night, turn the bag inside-out during the day so it can dry. $14—Buy Now

fourpoints bar ultimate survival kit
Fourpoints BarCourtesy

Food: Fourpoints Bar

Fourpoints’ Colorado-made bars use plums and figs as their base for sustained energy that won’t lead to a crash. We dug their PB&J flavor. $18/5 bars—Buy Now

bic lighter ultimate survival kit
Bic LighterLindsay Fox

Lighter: Bic

“Cheap and small,” says Webb. Tip: In cold temperatures, keep it in an inside pocket, so your body heat keeps it warm. $2—Buy Now

TOPS MSK 2.5 Rockies Edition Knife

Knife: TOPS MSK 2.5 Edition

This 3-inch fixed blade is tough enough for most jobs on the trail, but small enough to carry with you. $67 – Buy Now

Gregory 3D Hydro Hydration Bladder
Gregory Hydration 3L

Reservoir: Gregory Hydration 3L

For desert trips or other environments where water is hard to access, the Gregory Hydration keeps 3 liters of water nestled snugly against your back, and opens for cleaning like a water bottle. $36—Buy Now

Hydroflask Ultimate Survival Kit
Hydro Flask 24 Oz Standard Mouth FlexCourtesy

Water Bottle: Hydroflask 24 Oz. Standard Mouth Flex

Webb brings an empty steel bottle along as a backup. This near-indestructible 24-ouncer does the trick. Bonus: It can insulate hot beverages for hours. $35Buy Now

patagonia storm racer
Patagonia Storm RacerCourtesy

Shell: Patagonia Storm Racer Running Jacket

This 6-ounce jacket is the lightest waterproof-breathable coat that Patagonia has ever made, and packs up small enough to act as perfect, take-everywhere storm insurance. $249—Buy Now

Ellsworth Hike/Pack Sock best hiking socks
Ellsworth Hike/Pack

Socks: Ellsworth Hike/Pack

This heavy sock’s blend of merino, nylon, and spandex mixes wool’s warmth with the quick-drying properties of synthetics for a piece that defeats cold as easily as moisture. $22—Buy Now

Casio Pro Trek
Casio Pro Trek WSD-F20Louisa Albanese

GPS Watch: Casio Pro Trek WSD-F20

Webb recommends a watch with altimeter, barometer, and compass. The WSD-F20 packs all of those, plus a GPS with the ability to download and store maps, into a wrist-size package. (Not willing or able to drop that much on a watch? You can use most smartphones as barometers and altimeters—just bring an extra battery.) $500—Buy Now

Smartphone Screen (Kārlis Dambrāns/Flickr)

A Smartphone (Any Kind)

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.

Suunto MC-2 Global (Photo by Courtesy)

Compass: Suunto MC-2 G Mirror Compass

Of course, even the best GPS units break or lose reception sometimes, which makes a compass an essential backup. Webb recommends a compass with a signal mirror and built-in sighting line, like the MC-2 G. Pair with a map of your destination for a complete navigation solution. $95—Buy Now

iodine tablet ultimate survival kit
Iodine tablets are a quick and convenient way to purify water.John Loo

Water Purification: Potable Aqua Iodine Tablets

Lighter than a filter, and if you’re really thirsty, you won’t mind the taste. $6.99—Buy Now

tinder ultimate survival kit
Coghlan’s Emergency TinderCourtesy

Firestarter: 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. $6—Buy Now

First Aid Kit Ultimate Survival Kit
First Aid KitDLG Images

First Aid Kit: Homemade

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.

Tea Light Ultimate Survival Kit
Tea lightMaja Dumat

Campfire Helper: Tea Light

Not just for ambiance: These little candles weigh practically nothing, and can do everything from helping to dry wet wood to providing a little extra warmth and light in an emergency snow shelter. $6.29 for 30 – Buy Now

Upgrade your skills with our online Wilderness First Aid Basics class! Learn to conquer common problems and handle emergencies with grace. Start it instantly, complete it at your own pace, access it forever. Sign up now!

How to Pack for Backcountry Skiing

Get to know the winter safety gear you need in your pack.