12 Essential Items That Can Save Your Life If You Were Lost While Trekking

Many of  my guests who come on outdoor adventure trips ask me what I carry in my back pack when I hit the trails or go trekking into the wilderness. They would like to know what recommendations I have for them. And if they were to pack for a trek what would the essential items be. Things that would be beneficial to them for the trip should their trip back be delayed requiring them to stay longer. Or, let’s say if they were lost. What are the items that they have in their pack that could propably help increase their chances of survival, or at the very least make them comfortable while they wait for help.  With that in mind, I sat down an wrote this blog post  on “12 Essential Items That Can Save Your Life If You Were Lost While Trekking”.

Before I started writing this post, I had a quick look in my backpack thinking that listing out the items in this post was sufficient. But I realized that what you do before you start stuffing you backpack is also important. So the first thing if I were you is to ask yourself how long would your trip be. Things that go into the backpack would really depend on how long your trip is.

Essential items taken on a day trip or an overnighter would be lesser than a longer trip. Trip spanning a few days would require even more essential items which would probably be explained in another posting.

Since many people would be going out trekking on day trips I would really want to address this group of people first.  Generally day trips would also interest newbies who are only starting to get their feet wet in trekking and hiking activities.  Because the trip is short, probably taking only a few hours and thinking they would be back at the trail head before sun down they would probably bring only a few essential items like water and some food in their backpack.  This is where the problem starts because they are ill-prepared should something happen along the way on their trek such as an injured team member or getting lost.

In my opinion people who go on longer journeys tend to be more prepared because they would have given more thought and planning into what items they would need to bring with them.

Please note that most of my trails are in tropical jungle and rainforest so the essential items listed here may not be applicable to those trekking or trail walking in other type of forests.

Yes, you may not believe it but these are the things I carry on day trips.  To me they are essential items to carry with me to raise the odds in my favor should some thing unplanned happen.


Either matches or disposable lighters – you don’t have to carry both. Matches are cheaper but if you are lousy at lighting fires with them you can finish a box in no time. They can get crushed easily too. To avoid getting them wet I would recommend that you apply vaseline onto the match sticks before putting them into a waterproof container.

A disposable lighter is cheap and can go a long way. Unfortunately, it is not biodegradeable and when lighted for sometime the metal head gets really hot and may burn you fingers if you touched it. If the lighter gets wet you may not get any spark from the flint wheel in the metal head and you may not be able to light it up. Putting it to dry in the hot sun may help.

I feel comfortable knowing that I can start a fire if I needed to.   If I ever got stuck,  fire can be my source of light, heat and comfort at night. The smoke and heat will chase away insects and wild animals too. And I can start to cook some hot food or prepare a hot drink. For rescue purposes, creating thick smoke from the fire will assist rescuers in spotting where I am.


When it gets dark, a small flashlight or a headlamp will help you find your way around. Believe me, in the rainforest due to the thick forest canopy it normally gets dark much earlier. Now with the latest technology in bright LEDs, flashlights and headlamps are much brighter and they are much lighter because they don’t need large batteries. The Petzl headlamp (like in the photo on the left) only requires 3 AAA sized alkaline batteries. Since the LEDs do not drain very much, the headlamp last much longer – sometime several trips before needing a change.  When you get yourself a flashlight or headlamp, I would recommend that you buy the LED type and do away with the conventional bulb types. It’s your choice whether you want to carry a flashlight or a headlamp. As for me I prefer a headlamp because when I wear it on my forehead, my hands are completely free to do other tasks. I use a Petzl headlamp like this and just love the brightness of this unit.


I am a strong advocate of carrying a handheld GPS on any outdoor trip. The reason being is the trail logging feature of the GPS. It will record your trail as you move (make sure you swith on your GPS before you start 🙂 and if you were ever lost you just need to save the trail into the GPS and activate the ‘track back’ button. It will trace your way back to the starting point so just follow it and hopefully the GPS will take you out of your mess. So for me with the GPS I can do away with markings on trees and trails (like what we had learnt as boyscouts) or the need to carry a compass and a map. There is no damage to the trees as we don’t have to make markings on them or break their branches. Don’t forget to carry an extra set of batteries though.

Get the handheld models which are hardy and normally waterproof. Good brands can capture weak satellite signals under thick forest canopy. My trusted unit is a Garmin 60Csx but there is a newer Garmin model here.

Wouldn’t it be cool to give your exact waypoints to rescuing parties or the helicopter flying in to rescue you? 🙂


To me these are my emergency rations and different from any food which I could be carrying. They will only be consumed when in an emergency and I have finished my food supply altogether.

  • 2 bars of chocolate because they give energy and they are also my comfort food. They can be kept without spoiling.
  • Individually packed biscuits.
  • Soup powder. You can make a hot soup with hot water. Imagine if you were lost in the jungle and it was raining. You’d have some hot sustenance to make.
  • Tea bags, coffee sachets. So I can have a hot drink when I need one. I don’t bring sugar because that will add weight and I can get by without it. Water would be sourced in the area where I will be at.
  • I got a good tip from my 10 year old son. He told me to pack  Murukku! (a typical Indian spicy crisps made of chickpeas and lentils). I thought his idea is great because they are cheap, full of protein and they keep well for a long time. So I will definitely include this in my emergency ration (I can remove biscuits from my food ration since I don’t like biscuits anyway – they could be either too bland or too sweet).
  • All this are put into a metal mug. Mug will be used for drinking, boiling water, cooking the soup etc. To stir, I will get a clean branch from a non-poisonous tree for the job.


Because I can get a bad allergy from insect bites I carry a tube of Eurax. The cream is applied onto the irritated skin and it is great for all types of itches. I don’t bother too much packing small handplasts because small grazes and cuts don’t bother me too much. But I will pack some 3″x3″ cotton gauze and surgical tapes for larger wounds. I also pack some anti-histamines pills for allergies and also some painkillers. I would also put in a large 2’x’2 cotton cloth which can be fashioned into a brace or wrap if needed. It also can be used as a twist tourniquet if required.


Just in case I need coverage I can fashion the tarp into a roof, I can use it to collect water,cover my belongings from the rain etc. I carry a small one which is about 4 feet x 4 feet and can be folded into a small bag and stored in the backpack.


Ropes have many uses and they would be used if I need to tie or secure items together, or build a tent, etc. I would pack 1 piece of 1/4 inch double braided polyester rope about a 10ft in length. I don’t like the cheap plastic nylon ropes because they are difficult to tie and they slip easily.


I carry about 1.5 liters. I don’t like to carry too much because it is the single heaviest thing in my backpack. Abt 1 liter if I know I can source for water easily. I prefer to carry mine in a Camelbak bladder. Then I would just place the bladder into my backpack which already has a compartment for it.


Blowing a whistle to get attention is better than shouting as it uses less effort. The sound from the whistle also travels further.  The loud shrill from the whistle can also startle and chase animals which may be close or approaching you. Get something like JetScream whistle here.


Yes, the modern day adventurer carries a cellphone. I would make sure that it’s fully charged and I would switch it off when I am out of network coverage area so that the cellphone will not drain the battery as it attemps to locate its network. My idea is if I should get stuck and while waiting for rescue, I can play the music I have stored into it, read an e-book or play games. And if it is GPS enabled, it can also be a backup for my handheld GPS.


Most of the items you would be carrying such as your First Aid kit, cellphone, food ration, etc are to be kept dry or risk them being ruined due to water. On your trail, you may be crossing a river, or experiencing a torrential downpour so it is imperative that you keep these items dry. The best way to do it is to pack them into waterproof pouches. I highly recommend you put them into Aloksak pouches like this. They come in various sizes. Distribute your items into separate pouches such as one for medicine, another for eletronic devices, etc. It makes it so much easier to get your things and you are also in a way spreading your risk – rather than putting all dry items into one large pouch. If it should tear you risk damaging all the items in that pouch. Whereas if you put them into different pouches, if one were to tear then only items in that pouch risk being damaged by water.


I would never go out on a trek without one. To me it is just as important as being able to start a fire. There are so many choices out there but from all the knives I have used, I love the Mora Bushcraft Triflex. It’s not sexy but it serves its function extremely well.  It is not only comfortable to use but very sharp too. It can be used for all types of cutting. It’s great for cutting rope, wood or plant matter, eating, and I could see skinning with it.  You can put this into your backpack or strap it on your waist. In Malaysia you can purchase Mora knives from Outdoor Dynamics based in Penang. (just google them).

So there you go..I hope you find my post on the 12 Essential Items that can save your life if you were Lost helpful.

Don’t forget to leave your comments and views!

Read about people getting lost in the Malaysian Jungle:

Hashers Lose Way, Prompt Rescue Ops

Charity fundraising group gets lost in dense Malaysian jungle

It’s a jungle out there and we nearly didn’t get back

Man missing in jungle off East-West highway found

Massive search for four boys in Fraser’s Hill

Four boys missing in Fraser`s Hill found alive

Missing women trekkers rescued


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