How to Pack a Hiking Emergency Kit

How to Pack a Hiking Emergency Kit

Summer is here and it’s time to hit the trail. The right hiking emergency kit will boost your confidence outdoors and prevent added stress or injury in an emergency. Aaron Bertalmio, MD from Renown Health Urgent Care shares his tips for packing a hiking emergency kit.

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Hiking Emergency Kit Packing List

With more than 300 days of sunshine in Reno-Tahoe and plenty of trails to explore, you’ll want to keep these important items handy.

Surprisingly, this no-brainer is often overlooked. In fact, bring enough water to last for the entire adventure. This amount of water can be heavy depending on the distance, altitude or intensity. With this in mind the next best bet is to filter or purify water from a lake or stream. You can do this with iodine or chlorine dioxide tablets, charcoal or an ultraviolet light wand. Tip: Look for water that is moving or rushing over rocks.

To emphasize, having water cannot be underestimated. “If you become injured and are forced to wait for help, you can only last about three days without water,” Dr. Bertalmio says.

Put a couple of Meals-Ready-to-Eat (MREs) or dehydrated food pouches in your bag. This ensures to make sure you have plenty to eat if you’re outdoors longer than expected — or need extra calories for the return trip.

Bring a back-up map and compass or GPS. This allows you to navigate the trail when your smartphone dies or loses service.

First-Aid Supplies
Your hiking first-aid kit should change based on the type of hike you do. As a basic rule, keep the following items in your pack:

  • Fever/pain reliever bottle
  • Sewing kit with safety pins
  • Tweezers
  • Bandages and moleskin
  • Antibiotic ointment
  • Duct or medical tape
  • Whistle

Tip: Take a small bottle filled with aspirin and ibuprofen and wrap it in duct or medical tape, instead of having the roll of tape packed separately, for compact packing.

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Wear or pack a small headlamp to illuminate the way if you get caught outside after sunset or in a poorly lit area. Headlamps are also great in emergencies because they are hands-free.

Even if you’re only going out for the day, pack a low-weight emergency blanket for the trip. In other words, if the day-trip turns into an overnight adventure, the blanket will keep you warm and alive in the event of cold temperatures.

Fire Starter
Pack small tools in your hiking emergency kit to ensure a fire could start easily. Waterproof matches, a knife, lighter, or a strike fire starter are all great options. Tip: Bring a multi-tool including a knife and scissors that can also be used for first-aid.

Layers of Clothing
Mother Nature likes to change her mind in northern Nevada and temperatures can vary greatly within 24 hours. Having a compact, lightweight waterproof, windproof jacket could mean the difference between being uncomfortably chilly and experiencing hypothermia.

“Hypothermia is when your body temperature drops to a dangerously low level. You want to avoid this completely by keeping body temperature regulated outdoors and avoiding cold water immersion,” says Dr. Bertalmio.

Sun Protection
Certainly, sun protection should be part of your daily routine and an essential in your hiking emergency kit. You’ll want to bring enough sunblock to reapply every two hours in direct sunlight and layers to cover exposed skin.

Dr. Bertalmio reminds everyone the sun is intense in northern Nevada. “The higher altitude means increased risk of sun-induced skin damage,” he explains. “Some trails can reach above 10,000 feet, and at that altitude, UV radiation may be 35 to 45 percent more intense than at sea level.”