By Amanda Schupak
Bug spray? Check. Sunscreen? Check. JetScream Whistle? Didn't think so. When you venture into the great outdoors, do you have what you'd need should disaster strike? Dina Bennett, an instructor at the Mountain Shepherd Wilderness Survival School in Catawba, Virginia, says preparedness is the key to enjoying all kinds of outings, from three-day expeditions to three-hour hikes. ("It's those short trips," she warns, "that people forget to plan for.") Her kit is ready to go wherever you're headed.
1. Tweezers. So you don't take splinters and ticks home with you.
2. Alcohol wipes. Good for cleaning scrapes -- and for tearing into tinder to start a fire.
3. Medical ID card. In the event that you need emergency care, carry an index card with your name, address, emergency contact, and medical information like allergies, blood type, blood pressure, and resting heart rate. (Endurance athletes often have lower-than-average resting heart rates.) Store it in a ziplock to keep dry.
4. Garbage bag. For instant shelter in a rainstorm, cut a hole in the front of the bag near the bottom seam. Slip the bag over your head, and put your face through the hole.
5. Cotton balls covered with Vaseline. Petroleum jelly is another fire fuel. Also useful for lubricating blisters.
6. QuikClot Sport. First used by the U.S. military, this hemostatic sponge seals up wounds. ($13; quikclot.com)
7. StarFlash Signal Mirror. Use it to reflect sunlight as a distress sign. Instructions are printed on the back. ($9; bestglide.com)
8. Waterproof bandages. They will keep cuts protected even while you ford a river.
9. Benadryl capsules. Allergies can appear suddenly in adulthood, which means you might not be allergic to ragweed right now, but you could be tomorrow. Carry antihistamines in case of an unexpected reaction.
10. Folding blade knife. Easy to open and close with one hand, it can be used in myriad ways—even to cut away your clothes from injuries and swelling. Kershaw makes a nice folding knife, but make sure you practice handling it. Self-inflicted wounds are a common wilderness mishap.
11. Sparkie Fire Starter. Waterproof, super-lightweight, and more reliable than a lighter, it can produce sparks in pouring rain. ($10; rei.com)
12. Energy bar. The body can survive three weeks without food, but if you're too hungry to think straight, you're more likely to panic in a stressful situation. Try natural Honey Stinger bars for their satisfying taste and 12-month shelf life.
13. JetScream Whistle. From a high ridge or over open water, the whistle's 122-decibel shriek can be heard for miles. Rescue rule of thumb: Blow three times and listen for a single long call in response. ($6; basegear.com)
14. Imodium tablets. Because even the most pristine stream can contain stomach-tormenting bacteria.
15. Blaze orange or fuchsia bandanna and a few safety pins. Soak the bandanna in cool water and tie it around your neck to cool yourself off. If you get lost, wave it in the air to help rescuers spot you from a distance. And in case of arm injury, wrap it around a cut to stop the bleeding, or create a makeshift sling by folding along the diagonal, placing your elbow in the seam, and pinning the corners to your shirt.
16. Aquamira tablets. If you need to fill your drinking bottle from natural sources, drop in one tablet per liter to purify the water. Flip the bottle upside down and unscrew the cap just enough to soak the rim, letting the chlorine dioxide kill germs where you put your lips. ($15; outdoorready.com)