The great outdoors is an extremely beautiful place – but it can also be pretty inhospitable. Any adventurer worth their salt should take a leaf from the Scout’s manual and be prepared for the worst by carrying the gear that could save lives in a pinch. From water filters to paracord bracelets, these ten must-pack bits of kit designed for extreme environments are extremely handy to have in sticky situations.
Ten bits of kit that could save your life on an adventure
You may spot these chunky bracelets around the wrists of explorers and mountain guides. They’re more than a rugged fashion statement, though – crafted from seriously tough paracord, you can unravel one if needed and end up with a rugged rope to use to make a shelter, fishing lines, snares, snow shoes, a splint – the list goes on.
A portable first aid kit should be the first bit of gear you pack for any trip, on or off the beaten track. You can buy travel-sized soft packs to fill with your own essentials (a basic kit should include a variety of bandages and antiseptic ointment) but this handy Lifesystems pack is small and light, yet fits in a huge amount of helpful gear, all designed for use when you’re far from civilization.
The simple yet genius Lifestraw makes contaminated water safe to drink. This nifty straw contains fibres that filter water and will completely change how you hike. No more heavy water to cart along on your back – as long as there’s a source of H20 along the route you can filter any water (except seawater), cleaning out bacteria and making it totally safe. Lifestraw also uses some of its profits to provide schools with safe drinking water, so buying one is a win-win.
Ok, so they may be eye-wateringly expensive, but if you’re a mad keen off-piste skiier or snowboarder an Ortovox backpack could save your life. An airbag built into a strong, lightweight backpack prevents complete burial in an avalanche, and Ortovox reckon a 98% survival rate for avalanche victims using their kits. The airbags are reusable and they’re also the smallest in the world, ideal if you love hitting up the backcountry and don’t want to be too restricted by weighty kit.
Totally hate the claustrophobic feeling of wearing a bike helmet but don’t want to risk your noggin in traffic? Enter the smart Swedish Hovding. It may sound like the latest bit of Ikea furniture, but this clever cycling device is actually a neck support that looks like a jacket collar and acts like an airbag-style helmet, activating in a crash to protect your skull from impact. The makers reckon it offers eight times the protection of a traditional helmet.
If you’re tramping off into the wilderness or preparing for a winter mountaineering trip I recommend you pack 1. A thermal survival bag and 2. Someone you wouldn’t mind cuddling in it. Okay, so only 1. is obligatory. Windproof and waterproof, Lifesystems’ thermal bag retains 90% of your body heat, keeping you alive in an emergency whilst help reaches you or working as a bivvy bag in a pinch if you get stuck overnight. At less than a tenner, it’d be silly not to stick one in your pack.
If all else fails you can always make your way out of a tight spot with a compass in your pocket – stick one and a waterproof map in your backpack before any hike off the beaten path. If you don’t feel super confident in your map-reading skills, sign up for a day’s tuition with the Silva Navigation School, then get out and get practicing reading contours and taking bearings – you’ll be surprised how useful a compass like this classic Silva number can be on even a straightforward route.
No more relying on fickle batteries – you’ll have a light source forever more with this handy waterproof torch, which can either be left in the sun to charge or powered up with a dynamo handle. The LED lights give a strong, clear light that lasts for hours before you need to top up the juice.
It’s one of the ironies of outdoor life that the conditions in which you need a fire the most are the hardest to get a flame to stay alight in. Waterproof matches to the rescue! These matches from The Bug Out have waxed heads and come in a handy jar with a striker top. At under a fiver they make a good stocking filler, too. Or you can save your pennies and make your own by dipping match heads in wax or nail polish and leaving to dry.
Sending out an SOS just got a lot easier. The technology we use every day to ring mates or check our location on Google Maps can end up being a lifesaver on a remote expedition – precisely where a dead iPhone is about useful as a brick. Rent or buy a SPOT GPS messenger and you’ll have coverage pretty much everywhere on the planet to phone, email, navigate or call Search and Rescue. If we haven’t convinced you, the clutch of stories of adventurers whose lives were saved by this smart tech will.