Emergency Hiking Kit Essentials

By: Renown Wellness Team

May 20, 2022

Man hiking with his dog, standing on rock

With the help of Aaron Bertalmio, MD of Renown Urgent Care, we're sharing nine essential must-have items for your hiking emergency kit.

9 Essential Items For Your Hiking Emergency Kit

With more than 300 days of sunshine in Reno-Tahoe and plenty of trails to explore, you'll want to keep these essential items in your kit.

1. Water

Surprisingly, this no-brainer, however, is often overlooked. 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. Here's how: 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.

Having enough water or filtration cannot be underestimated. "If you become injured and need to wait for help, you can only last about three days without water," Dr. Bertalmio says.

2. Food

Meals-Ready-to-Eat (MREs) or dehydrated food pouches are essential, ensuring you have plenty to eat if you're outdoors longer than expected.

3. Maps

Bring a printed map, compass or GPS. You can't always rely on your smartphone, so this is the perfect backup plan.

4. First-Aid Supplies

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

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

5. Light Source

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.

6. Emergency Shelter

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.

7. Fire Starter

Pack small tools in your hiking emergency kit to ensure an easy fire start. Waterproof matches, a knife, a lighter, or a strike fire starter are great options.

Tip: Bring a multi-tool, including a knife and scissors that can be used for first-aid.

8. Layers of Clothing

Mother Nature likes to change her mind in northern Nevada, and temperatures vary significantly within 24 hours. Therefore, pack a compact, lightweight waterproof and windproof jacket. This will protect you from 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.

9. 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 in direct sunlight and layers to cover exposed skin every two hours.

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


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