How to Go Backpacking – Part 3: Navigation Tools, First Aid, and Emergency Supplies

Navigation tools, first aid supplies, and emergency supplies.

An overview of the basic navigation tools, first aid supplies, and emergency supplies every backpacker should carry to backpack safely.

Chris & Mac of Grey Otter Outventures

Chris & Mac
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So, we have our pre-planning done and have our water, hydration, and food worked out, but what about safety?  Yup, it matters.  Realize, although it may seem docile, you are entering a wilderness environment and things can happen.  Having basic navigation tools, first aid, and emergency supplies may make the difference between self-rescue and being “those people” on TV with an embarrassed look and a big bill from the rescue teams.  So, what do we need?

  • Navigation Tools –

You should always have a map of the trail and area you plan to hike – period. That said, maps are great, but you must know how to read it and should carry a compass, that you know how to use, because it will do you no good to have a map but no bearing on direction.  In addition, your cell phone can be very helpful.  There are numerous apps that provide trail maps and track your location and progress.  (Our favorite tracking app is Gaia GPS.  You can visit them here.)  Because cell phones are electronic, however, they are not a substitute for a map and compass.  Batteries can die and phones can break.  Again, you don’t want to be “those people” so carry both.

  • First Aid –

It is important to carry a basic first aid kit with you on the trails. It doesn’t need to be fancy, but should contain some band aids, disinfectant ointment, gauze pads, gauze wrap, tape, hand wipes, antihistamine tabs, and aspirin.  We personally add to that a tick remover, antihistamine topical, foot tape for blisters, sunscreen, and bug wipes.  We know this may seem overkill, particularly for a basic trip, but it is not.  These items add virtually no weight to your pack and sometimes even the most non-threatening trips may have hidden dangers.  Obviously, if you intend to go far out in the wilderness, you would want to beef up your first aid kit to match the potentials you could encounter on the trail.

  • Emergency Supplies –

You should also carry some waterproof matches (yes, even if you have a lighter) and a small reflective mirror for signaling. Additionally, a small knife should find its way into your pack.  It will come in very handy if you need to fix something like a broken piece of equipment.   We also carry a few tie wraps and a small roll of quality tape to make a quick repair should something break.  You will be surprised how handy tie wraps and tape can prove to be on the trail.  Additionally, a small backup battery to power the phone in case its battery dies.  You also need a water filtration system.  It does not need to be fancy, just effective.  You can find something appropriate for under $25.  Just remember, things fail, often at the worse possible moment, so be prepared.

Gear We Use for Backpacking

To see descriptions of the gear Chris & Mac use for backpacking, as well as links to manufacturers and retailers offering the gear for sale, please CLICK HERE.

SAFETY DISCLAIMER:  The activities discussed in this website are outdoor activities and, as such, have inherent risks to which participants are exposed.  It is not the intent of this website, nor is it possible due to the variability of weather, terrain, equipment, and experience, to detail all of those risks.  The information contained in this site is informational, but not instructive nor exhaustive.  It is the sole responsibility of the user to ensure he/she is in good health, fully prepared, and fully informed as to dangers before undertaking any of the activities discussed in this website and the user does so at his/her own risk.  The user understands that by using this website he/she acknowledges and accepts all risks associated with use of information from this website and participation in any particular activity addressed herein.  Please see “Terms of Use” for additional information.

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