This is the second in a series of three articles on what to wear and pack for a trek in the Indian Himalayas. In the first article we looked at essential clothing items for a three season trek. In this second article, we cover items that should be a part of every trekker’s emergency kit when out hiking in the Indian Himalayas.
An Emergency Kit for the Indian Himalayas
An emergency kit is your go-to bag when things get out of hand. If for any reason, you are forced to ditch your rucksack and escape with just one item, this kit should be it. An emergency kit should be taken along by anyone who spends any amount of time, hiking or trekking. However, it is important to remember that this kit works only in conjunction with presence of mind. Remember! That your brain was and shall aways be the best survival tool. When confronted with an emergency, the most important thing to remember is to – STOP.
Stop – when you realise you’ve got a problem, the first thing to do is to stop panicking
Think – about what you need to do to survive
Observe – the area or the situation; and look for shelter, water, etc.
Plan – how you are going to use your survival kit and the other resources available to you
1. Full tang knife and a ferrocerium rod. A knife with a full tang design, a four to five-inch carbon-steel blade, flattened back edge and a non serrated blade is usually the most reliable and versatile. Even though it is not full tang, we are yet to find a knife that is more robust than MoraKniv’s bushcraft survival knife. Available in India (albeit expensive), it is a better alternative than other similarly priced knives.
2. Fire starter. Time for a little Do It Yourself (DIY). Cotton balls soaked in Vaseline make a superb fire-starter. Cheap, simple and fun. A quality matchbox in a watertight Ziploc bag to be packed along with these “mini-napalms”
3. Stainless steel bottle. A stainless steel bottle can be used to heat / treat and store water. Essential.
4. Rope. While it is possible to use vines to fashion a rope; a small parachute cord or para-cord is inexpensive and may be put to multiple uses.
5. Candle and Headlamp. If you are stranded on that day trek for some reason and the onset of darkness is a real concern, a source of light and heat is invaluable.
6. Bandana and Whistle. As discussed in a previous article; from a scarf to a bandage or a signalling flag, a bandana is a cheap and a must have survival tool. Similarly, a whistle is louder and easier on the lungs than shouting and is a must have signalling device.
7. Compass & topographic maps. A GPS can fail and constellations may not be visible in inclement weather. However, a compass with topographical maps and the knowledge to use them is often the most failsafe orienteering equipment.
8. Needle and Dental Floss. Dental floss makes a great high strength thread for repairing bags, clothes, and works even as emergency shoelaces. While a needle can be used to remove splinters etc.
9. Duct tape. From injuries to hotchpotch repair jobs. You don’t need to carry the whole roll, just wrap a 10 metre piece of duct tape around a business card.
10. Medicines. We carry three essential medicines; a painkiller like Combiflam, something to stop diarrhoea like Dependal-M and an antibiotic like Neosporin. The number of days in a trek multiplied by the normal dosage should give you a reasonable carrying amount. Resist the urge to carry more.
11. Garbage bags. Can be used as an emergency poncho, keeping your gear dry in a thunderstorm or as additional insulation on a cold day.
12. Lifestraw. The only water filter that you will ever need. It is reliable because it no moving parts that may fail, cheap and lightweight. Helps you retrieve potable water from most available sources.
13. Money, mobile and identification card. Duh! keep an identification card (driving license, PAN etc.) with some rolled up paper currency in different denominations next to your mobile phone. We prefer a good old push button mobile over smartphones because of; their longer battery life, ability to hold poor signal for longer and the fact that they can be operated with gloves on.
14. Miscellaneous. Sunscreen, lip balm and Vaseline and toilet paper. You don’t need to carry the entire bottle, just pack them in small ziplock bags or used camera film canisters.
Is there some item that you find essential and we might have missed? Let your voice be heard in the comments section below.