Everyday Carry

Must-Have Gear for Emergency Situations

So you've gone out on your first adventure, gear in tow. But then, trouble...

Authored by:
Chris Szaroleta

Related Gear:
  What is EDC? Everyday Carry: The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide
  The Drop: Emergency COB Flashlight
  Prometheus Design Werx Everyday Essentials

In part one of this Carry Smarter: Hiking series, we accomplished our goal of outfitting you with some basics for a simple out and back day hike. Now we're going a step further to help you consider items that will aid in getting you out of a sticky situation. Keep in mind that the gear we'll list is intended for emergencies. Just having the gear with you is only half of what it means to be prepared. The other half is your ability to use it effectively. Just as we mentioned in part one, there's no substitute for knowledge. Practice use of these tools before going out.

In all likelihood, you don't carry everything you need for any situation when you're just walking down the street. It's a bit different when you're hiking; you need everything on you. Depending on your destination, it could be days before you see another person to help you through an incident. Even in the scorching summer heat, a downpour could be a dangerous event. The gear you carry can save your life. In survivability, the adage "two is one and one is none" tells us that redundancy is key in the gear we choose. For that reason, we've included two options in nearly every category. Let's get to it!


When you've trekked deep into the woods and unexpected weather hits, putting you at risk of exposure, it's best to ride it out safely. You’ll want to cover yourself as quickly as you can. For this, we recommend a lightweight tarp. Check out the Terra Nova Adventure Tarp 2, large enough to comfortably cover you and your gear. In addition, a mylar space blanket, like the Adventure Medical Kits Heatsheets Survival Blanket can keep you warm under your tarp.

Purchase: Terra Nova Adventure Tarp 2 ($58), Adventure Medical Kits Heatsheets Survival Blanket ($9)


Cordage has endless uses in the wild. In an emergency situation, it can be used to tie your tarp off, help to form a splint around a sprained or broken limb, lower gear from a ledge or create a primitive pulley system. The standard for EDC and outdoor use is 550 paracord, so our suggestion will mirror the norm. Grab a couple hanks of brightly colored 100 feet Rothco Paracord for your tying, cinching and knotting needs. Wrap your paracord around the Spool Tool to easily cut segments and even store an extra lighter to singe the frayed ends.

Purchase: Rothco Paracord ($8), Spool Tool ($18)


When stranded far from civilization, nothing will provide you with as much comfort as a fire. Fire gives warmth, wards off predators, and helps to prepare food sourced from nature. Here are two options you can choose from: The Soto Pocket Torch, which provides a wind-resistant flame through the use of inexpensive disposable lighters, and the Light My Fire Swedish FireSteel to throw 5,500 °F sparks on pre-made tinder.

Purchase: Soto Pocket Torch ($20), Light My Fire Swedish FireSteel ($18)

Wood Processing

Now that you can start a fire, you’ll need to keep it going. There are many options available for processing wood to create and maintain a fire; size and weight are always a concern. Because of this, consider a quality fixed blade knife and a small folding saw. We recommend the Morakniv Bushcraft Black for its weight, durability and out-of-the-box razor sharp edge. When looking for a folding saw that won't break the bank and lives up to its reputation, check out the Bahco Laplander Folding Saw.

Purchase: Morakniv Bushcraft Black ($48), Bahco Laplander Folding Saw ($21)

Hydration ...again?

In part one, we recommended a 2L reservoir to go inside your pack. But what happens if you're lost or injured and all that water you carried is gone? First, you'll need to gather new water, but then you'll need to purify away the nasties so it's potable. Here are two options to make sure your thirst stays quenched: A 40 ounce Stainless Steel Klean Kanteen holds plenty of water and will also allow you to set it in a fire to boil away any pathogens. While the second option can only filter away bacteria and pathogens, it does it effectively. Check out the Sawyer Mini Water Filter for a lightweight option that will last through 100,000 gallons of water filtered.

Purchase: Klean Kanteen Stainless Steel 40 oz ($28), Sawyer Mini Water Filtration System ($20)


If disaster strikes and you're trapped at night, you can use your headlamp to signal others of your whereabouts. During the day, that won't work. Find a wide open space and use the Ultimate Survival Technologies StarFlash Mirror to reflect the sun's light at planes/helicopters above, or someone on an adjacent ridge. A second option for signaling works on the auditory sense. Pick up the Ultimate Survival Technologies JetScream Whistle for high frequency sound at more than 122 decibels to notify others of your whereabouts. Luckily for you, we found both of these tools combined together at a wallet-friendly price!

Purchase: UST StarFlash Mirror ($10), UST JetScream Whistle ($6), UST Mirror + Whistle Combo ($11)


This is the easy one to list, but the most difficult to use in the wild with no prior experience. A button compass like the Suunto Clipper can easily be stowed away in a pocket or attached to a strap on your pack. For a more advanced option, look no further than the feature packed Suunto MC-2.

Purchase: Suunto Clipper ($15), Suunto MC-2 ($42)

As you consider the gear we've listed here in part two of our three-part hiking series, remember to be responsible in your approach to the outdoors. These items can save your life if you use them well. What do you pack for emergency situations? Let us know in the comments below, and stayed tuned for part three where we conclude the series with fun ways to stay comfortable in nature!

Discussion (13 total)

Glen ·
Thanks again Chris, szo looking forward to part three!
Johan Bertilsson ·
I havet an original Mora as my emergency backpack knife. It is a memento from my military service, a combat medics knife.
Nice list, but I would caution the suggestion of the Soto on account of it possibly being difficult to find the squarish Scripto Calico lighters it needs. Check your local places to see if you stock up on the right lighter shape as it will not work with ovalish Bics.
Mikey Bautista ·
Well done, Chris! Looking forward to the full set so I can finally get on that damn bug out bag, haha.
Great recommendation on the Mora. It won't win any tacticool contests, but its bang for buck can't be beat.
DevoD ·
Nice article Chris!
Bernard Capulong ·
Editor's Note: ironically not mentioned in this article: stormproof matches
Dan ·
No sporks either.
Chris Szaroleta ·
Hahaha! I'm sure whoever wrote this article already assumed that the readers would have stormproof matches on them at all times...
No bandana! :(
John Frank Slobodian ·
Forgot reusable toilet paper...I mean Bandana!
1 more comments