day hiker on mountain

Generally speaking, survivalists and bushcrafters tend to have pretty robust packs that borderline obese. A folding saw, axe, shelter, wool blanket, zebra pot, and a water pump might be essential for being comfortable for long stays in the wilderness, but how what do you pack on your day hike? If you needed to make an ultralight survival pack for day hiking, what would be in it? Statistics show that when it comes to survival situations, its generally not the backpacker that needs to go into survival mode. More than likely, it is the day hiker that strays off trail that will need a rescue.

Ultralight Pack

osprey ultralight hiking pack

If I’m hiking with my wife and dog in the local parks and forest, I don’t want to throw the tacticool molle pack over my shoulders. I’m not military nor is anyone in my family. We’re probably more against the man than most. If we’re going on a longer day hike, an ultralight pack like this Osprey would do nicely. The bright panel could be beneficial in a search and rescue situation and is large enough to carry the basics – keys, wallet, glasses, water, extra clothes.

While that’s what I would recommend, I go with the lumbar pack and really lean into the suburban lifestyle. Depending on how much space you need, this may be the way to swallow carrying any extra load on a short trail. Keep in mind, this article is more for those not looking to carry a bunch of stuff on a 10-mile loop.

The lumbar pack enough space for me on a day hike and I’ll go into my strategy further down.

Ultralight Survival Items

The study that SmokeyMountain did breaks down what lost hikers turned survivalists really needed in those scenarios. In that study, all but one hiker were rescued in under 16-days, so starvation was not particularly an issue. One hiker went 90-days and ate his dog. Brutal.

Warmth was of particular concern. On a day hike, not many people will bring sufficient clothes to stay the night if you needed to. My wife is a prime example of leggings, t-shirt, and water bottle on a hike. I’ll tend to at least put a sweater on for the morning and tie my sweater around me in the afternoon. In California, an extra sweater seems to be sufficient for extra warmth to make it through the night when combined with fire and shelter. This brings us to the list to pack in your ultralight survival day hiking pack:

Now, that list is pretty standard. Bic lighters are so cheap you might as well two in there in case one fails. The most interesting item on there is the pocket blanket. This is one of those versatile items that doesn’t take up a lot of space in a pack and gets used as much as you want to use it.

It’s real nice being able to lay a small blanket out and take a seat to enjoy a sandwich or a view. Additionally, it could be made into a small tarp shelter in case of a hike gone wrong.

Final Note

I wanted to illustrate the bare minimum ultralight survival kit that would be taken on a day hike, by a day hiker. If I had the space, there are things that I would chose to bring depending on the hike. A simple first aid kit would be a reasonable addition. Further, a fire starting kit with charcoal and tin would be a nice to have in case you were going on a wet hike and finding tinder proved difficult. If you were exploring caves, you’d bring a flashlight. A compass would get you out of survival in the first place… there are endless possibilities.

I believe it was Ray Mears who drilled in the idea that the more you know about the wilderness, the less bulk you needed to carry in order to enjoy it.

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