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Checklist of Items to Carry in Your Backpack Year-Round in Case of Emergency

No one heads into the mountains thinking they may have to spend the night, but it happens. You take a wrong turn, get lost, some one in your group sprains an ankle or gets hurt or maybe there’s wildlife on the trail and you have to take an alternate route. Suddenly your “day hike” turns into a “night hike” through the dark woods under uneven terrain.

If you enjoy spending time in the mountains, are you prepared in case of emergency? Do you know what you should have in your pack?

Items to Carry in Your Backpack Year-Round

Following are some ideas on what you should carry in your pack year-round in the mountains in case of emergency. This list includes Banff National Park’s recommended packing list for hiking.

  • Trail guide and map
  • Water (please note how much water you need depends on your route, length of your hike, body, weather conditions and more)
  • High energy food such as bars that you can leave in your pack a while and have a long expiry date
  • Bear spray
  • Sunscreen and sunglasses
  • First aid kit and emergency blanket
  • Headlamp or flashlight with spare batteries
  • Hat or toque
  • Gloves or mittens
  • Hiking Poles
  • Rain/wind jacket
  • Extra warm clothing in case of an emergency (puffy jacket, gortex jacket, polypro underwear, good quality hiking socks and gortex over pants)
  • Fully charged cell phone
  • Satellite emergency communication device like SpotX, inReach or Zoleo

In addition to the above, it is also smart to carry:

  • Compass
  • Fire starter such as water proof matches or a lighter
  • Knife
  • Emergency shelter such as a tarp or bothy bag for colder weather
  • Signaling device such as a whistle 
  • Water purification tablets

Carrying this extra gear may add a bit of weight, but if you ever find yourself in a situation where things don't go as planned, you will be grateful that you were prepared. 

Before you head out, be prepared

It is also very important to do the following, before heading into the mountains for any hike:

* Let someone know where you are going and when you expect to return.

* Be prepared (Source: Alberta Parks, Backcountry Safety)

  1. Research the route you plan to take
  2. Check local weather forecasts before you go. Be prepared for sudden changes in mountain weather. Snow is possible any month of the year.
  3. Check current conditions on trails and potential wildlife concerns:

Being prepared also means making sure you are wearing appropriate clothing (not cotton) and footwear for the conditions. 


Parks Canada, Banff National Park

North Shore Rescue, Education, What to Bring

Alberta Parks, Backcountry Safety