As an avid hiker and outdoor enthusiast, I always make sure my survival bag is stocked and ready to go before embarking on a new trail.
In this comprehensive guide, I’ll walk you through everything you need to know about survival bags for hiking.
We’ll cover what exactly goes into a well-prepared survival kit, from basic supplies to unexpected yet crucial extras.
I’ll also share my top survival bag recommendations based on years of experience using quality used Patagonia gear on the trail.
A survival bag, sometimes called a go-bag, is designed to contain supplies and tools to help you endure an unexpected emergency scenario while hiking.
It can make a life-saving difference if you become lost, injured, or stranded in the wilderness.
Here are some key reasons every hiker should carry a survival bag:
- Provide critical supplies – Items like food, water, first aid, fire starters are essential to have on hand. Your survival depends on having these basics.
- Prepare for the unexpected – Weather can change instantly in many environments and terrains. Your survival bag should include gear to get through harsh weather.
- Promote self-sufficiency – Depending completely on outside emergency help isn’t always an option if you’re in a remote area. Your bag allows you to independently handle survival situations.
- Boost sense of security – Just knowing you have the right gear in an emergency can help you feel confident and less anxious if issues arise.
- Weigh the risks – A 12 oz well-stocked survival bag is a minimal burden compared to the potential catastrophes it can help you avoid.
The exact contents of your survival bag will vary based on factors like climate, trail location, trip duration, group size, and assessed risks.
However, most hiking survival kits should contain some combination of the following:
- Water – Dehydration is dangerous. Pack a lightweight, portable water filter or treatment tablets. Also include a metal container to boil water if needed.
- Food – Lightweight, high protein bars and packets provide energy. Choose options that won’t be damaged if they get wet.
- First aid – Bandages, gauze, medicines, ointments, gloves, scissors, and blister care items.
- Fire starters – Waterproof matches, lighter, flint striker, tinder, and fire starter cubes. Practice ahead of time!
- Shelter – Lightweight tarp, emergency blanket, cord, and even a mylar sleeping bag for retaining body heat.
- Tools – Knife, multi-tool, parachute cord, whistle, compass, flashlight, batteries, duct tape, and zip ties.
- Navigation – Map, GPS device, signal mirror, trail markers. Never rely just on your phone GPS.
- Weather protection – Extra socks, gloves, hat, thermal underwear. A windproof/waterproof shell is also recommended.
- Illumination – Flashlight, glow sticks, headlamp. Hands-free light sources are extremely useful.
When selecting a survival bag, there are a few key factors to consider:
- Weight – Pick the lightest bag that still fits all your gear to avoid adding unnecessary pounds to your hike.
- Durability – Choose bags made of ripstop nylon, treated canvas, or other heavy-duty fabrics that resist tears.
- Water resistance – Your bag should be water-resistant or waterproof to protect contents. Some bags have removable dry sacks.
- Compartments – Multiple compartments and pockets help organize gear and make items easy to access.
- Comfort – Padded straps, waist belts, sternum straps, and ventilated backing provide carrying comfort.
- Size – Ideally 10-20 liters capacity. Too small and it won’t fit your gear. Too big and you’ll be tempted to overpack.
Based on extensive use and field testing over the years, these are my top 3 survival bag picks:
- REI Co-op Flash 18 Pack – Lightweight (12 oz), streamlined, and technically advanced. Excellent comfort and water-resistance. I’ve used this bag on hikes across various terrains and environments over the past 3 years and it has yet to fail me. A bit pricey but worth it.
- Kelty Redwing Reserve Tactical Backpack – A budget-friendly option but still highly durable and functional. The strap system provides a stable, secure, and comfortable carry. I used an older model of this pack when I first started hiking and loved it.
- Mountain Hardwear Scrambler 30 Outdry Backpack – A topo-inspired silhouette made with fully waterproof fabric. Outstanding wet weather performance. Smartly designed with plenty of external attachment points. It’s become my go-to for multi-day excursions in damp climates.
Having the right survival gear truly can make the difference between life and death when you’re miles into the wilderness.
But remember – your pack is only as good as its contents. Take the time to thoroughly inspect and test out your gear before hitting the trail.
And don’t let unused Patagonia equipment just gather dust – put it to good use on your next outdoor adventure!