Preparedness Items To Carry While Casually Hiking

I was thinking about the variety of items or things that we might decide to carry with us or put in our pockets or backpack while out on an ordinary short casual hike.

There has to be a limit as to what one might carry for preparedness of sorts during a relatively short hike. Too much ‘stuff’ and you will be bearing the weight and inconvenience of simply attempting an enjoyable outdoor experience.

While it would be somewhat (or entirely) careless to take nothing at all, what exactly would you bring along?

As usual, there are circumstances which will steer you towards what you might bring. The season, temperature, forecast, terrain, geography, expected distance of hike, whether you’re wearing a backpack or not, etc..

With that said, and given the variety of circumstances, it’s still worth general discussion.

A knife. Regardless of whether I’m out for short hike or not, I ALWAYS carry at least a folding pocket knife. Some might choose something a little (or a-lot) more substantial while out hiking.

I often carry a small LED flashlight in one of the pockets of my cargo pants (my typically daily wear). I wrote a review of this particular flashlight in the following article, “Best Pocket Carry Flashlight For Under 30 Dollars”. I admit, ‘best’ is subjective, however it is currently best for me, given my requirements ;) …although you are planning on returning before sunset, a flashlight is a good ‘just-in-case’.

I will mention as an aside that when you’re hiking, it’s generally best to wear long pants (although this may be unbearable during very hot weather). I personally like the typical ‘cargo’ pants (of which there are many manufacturers) because you can keep lots of little things in their pockets. After a fair amount of trial and error over the years, I’ve been happy with these, “Propper Men’s Canvas Tactical Pant”, of which I have many (I like the Olive and/or Tan because they blend in generally well).

A cell phone. The assumption is that the world hasn’t collapsed into a heap yet, and cell phones still work… If you get into trouble, this electronic gadget will be your best friend (assuming you’re not so far into the boonies that you lose cell reception). If you’re traveling with a partner, it might be a good idea to each carry a typical consumer 2-way radio in case you get separated. I own a few pair of these radios and have been happy with their performance, “Midland GXT1000”. Or maybe this radio which is fairly simple to operate, Motorola MH230R.

By the way, if you’re going on a hike, you really should tell someone where you are going (in case you twist an ankle, break a leg or worse, and can’t get out – for example). If nothing else, at least leave a note at home on your kitchen table…

Water. Even if you only plan to be out a few hours, it’s a good idea to carry a water bottle of sorts. You might also consider the following very practical and small (but effective) water filter which I reviewed here, “The Sawyer Mini Water Filter”.

Cordage. Even a small wrapped up length of Paracord (Five Benefits Of Paracord) will serve many purposes in the event that you need it.

Firearm. Now this depends on your region and legality of doing so, however where I live I feel comfortable carrying – given the odds of running into a bear or other such situation. Although it is a defense of last resort, it is defense nonetheless…

First Aid. Most people don’t think of First Aid when going out for a relatively short hike. But if you have the space, you might consider at least some basic items like band-aids, a gauze or two with tape (in case of a cut or gash wound). Any other ideas for practical First Aid carry for a short hike?

Compass. Depending on your familiarity (or not) with where you’re about to hike may inspire you to carry a compass (and a map of the area?). It’s always best to look at a map of where you’ll be hiking BEFORE setting out. Make a mental image of the route. If you’re hiking familiar trails or areas, this may not be necessary to carry. Just saying.

Rain poncho. You can get the very small folded up ponchos that could potentially fit in a cargo pants pocket. If you’re in an area where it may unexpectedly rain (even given a good forecast), staying dry will ward off hypothermia.

Fire. A lighter, matches, a FireSteel, etc.. just in case.

Bug spray. You can get the small little bottles of bug spray (with DEET) that will easily fit in a pocket. A hiking trip can be quickly ruined (sort of) by swarms of mosquitoes, deer flies, etc.. By the way, awhile back I wrote an article, “8 Things That Attract Mosquitoes”.

Okay, what are your thoughts on what to carry while going on a relatively short hike?


  1. I think the only other thing I would add to your list is a whistle. If you get hurt bad enough and can’t walk, a whistle is a handy device to have on hand. I know you also listed cell phone, but you could fall and break or damage, or just happen to end up in a dead zone.

  2. yes, I too would suggest whistle. might be the only way to single where you’re at. often cell phone don’t get good reception.

    duct tape….

    so many uses in an emergency, might be good
    – tape a splint on made from sticks
    -tape compression bandage type on in case of bleeding injury

  3. I do a lot of casual hikes; half day hikes or longer. I always take water, a knife, a way to start fire, hat and money. If I take my day pack, which I prefer to do, it has a second bottle of water, a water filter straw, small 1st aid kit, a cheap pastic raincoat, space blanket, fleece watch cap, flashlight, snacks, etc.

  4. Every day I go down to work on the cabin I take a backpack with a gallon of water, knife, lighter, band aids, cell, boot blousers to keep the chiggers and ants from getting up the pant legs, bandana, gloves, protein bars, and my Glock Gen IV G17 with the top two rounds loaded with snake shot.

    1. Actually no I haven’t tried it yet, but now I guess I need to cuz you’ve got me curious. :) It should only take one shot to kill a snake with the shot shells. If it should happen to stovepipe afterwards I figure I’ll just clear the obstruction, holster the weapon, and go on about my business. I thank you for the advice though, I was just assuming they would work. I figured why else would they offer shot shell in 9mm, not like there’s a lot of 9mm revolvers out there. Maybe a few that use those weird half moon clips or whatever they’re called. If I had the money I’d get one of those .410 revolvers, but the shot shell was all that’s fits my current budget. I’d take a shotgun with me down to the cabin but when I’m down there working I’d rather have a weapon on me instead of just near me.

      The ironic thing about the snakes though, I haven’t seen any yet when carrying, every time I’ve come across them was when I wasn’t. We did get to run a couple over with the riding mower though. It chopped one up but the other one got away cuz the deck was too high. On different days of course.

    2. Funny thing is, the thing I was concerned with when I picked up the shot shells, I figured they might be “dirtier” than normal ammo. The thought of a jam never occurred to me. So again, thanks for reminding me to take it out for a “test drive”. I’ll check it out tomorrow and I should have an answer to both questions.

  5. My son and I just returned from hiking/backcountry camping in Daniel Boone Forest area…It was in the high 80’s with extreme humidity. The single packs of propel to add to our water and dehydrated strawberries, apples, and bananas became a very good mid-morning valuable asset! But, everything else in the article and comments, I can agree with also.
    Thank you for the knowledgeable articles everyday!

  6. I got lost on a hiking trip in Canada, had to sleep the night in the forest, though hot during the day, at night it dropped a lot, and wish I had a lighter, I had one that was dead, and after a long fight managed to start a fire with it, it kept me alive.

  7. Extra pair of socks, vacuum sealed they take up little room. Foot powder.

    Pepper spray.

    I (almost) always carry a camera for the purpose of journaling the event but also for plant identification. Back home I look up any unidentified plants that I come across.

    A GPS can be used to mark locations of patches of wild edibles.

    I guess it is assumed that one has a hat canteen & walking stick, a homemade walking stick can be made out of PVC tubing that can double as a canteen by using threaded connectors and a plug.

    A mirror (a cd would work) for signaling.

    Orange ribbon to tie onto branches to mark path if there is no path.

    In your mental backpack a basic knowledge of: stars for navigational purposes, edible plants, first aid.

  8. A good flashlight is important. I recently bought a 3 pack of Duracell 300 LED flashlights from Costco. I am impressed with their ability to illuminate! You can count the feathers on a sleeping bird 200 feet away. They take 4 AAA batteries and have a high and low setting. HOWEVER they eat batteries in storage. One of them has crapped out completely. I do not recommend them.

  9. If going on a short walk of less than 2 hours I will bring a multi-tool (I always carry), pocket knife, small first aid kit, 9V LED flashlight (the kind that snaps onto a battery), mylar blanket, bottle of water, lighter, flint, whistle, compass, mirror, tinder, 0mm, small fishing tackle. It sounds like alot but one tool has 8 functions. Fits in my pocket. Longer trips I will carry a small shoulder bag which has at least 30 items. Spent the extra money to buy some titanium items such as spork, knife, cup, stove. I used to do orienteering, so Topo and compass are also a must. GPS should be carried, but I try to not rely on it. Use only to verify location.

  10. I carry a Norht Face backpack with a rub erupted poncho and poncho liner in the lower section. I have a camel back blade and hose in the compartment. A flashlight, three ways to make a fire ( waterproof matches, fire starter madnesium block, and a bic lighter) a small medical kit. A mini k-bar knife, a red blinker light, two cheap rain ponchos, two Mylar reflective survival blankets and about 50 ft of 550 cord ( stuff is invaluable in survival situations. Also some hard candy.

    Took my kids and wife out and set up a nice little site with the poncho and poncho liner. Got a fire going and had hot tea. They got the picture of why I carried that pack!

  11. I would add I carry a glow stick….cheap light if you have to spend the night that gives enough light to do the things you need to do if caught out after dark….

  12. A net hammock is very handy in the rurals. Multi-use item, extremely light and doesn’t take up much room.

    If its a pretty long hike, a quart canteen works, but the G.I. Pilots flask is about 1/2 the quantity (pint,) and easier to carry. I have one of mine wrapped with paracord and a few items underneath, it hardly adds any weight or bulk to it. I carry it in a canteen cup in 1 quart canteen cover – see below for why.

    I have tons of knives, but the humble SAK will get most of what you will need a knife for. The tweezers are a godsend if you forgot to add those to your FAK.

    Favorite food – plain old ramen. In desert heat, the salty ingredients helps me stay hydrated. In the cold, the hot soup contents keeps my belly warm. Extremely lightweight, needs no refrigeration, ramen is easy to heat or even eat as is in an emergency. Two packs of ramen in the canteen as well as the flask mentioned above. For snacking, raisins and peanuts give me energy and stamina. Where I live, I leave out the chocolate – even M&Ms can make a mess.

  13. I picked up a Taurus Tracker in .41 mag. 3 inch barrel, adjustable sights, stainless steel. Rem. 210 SPs in gun for bear/hog, speedloaders with Win Silvertips for cougar, coyote, etc. Very portable, very powerful.

    Second thought, plastic topologies make cheap, light emergency shelters.

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