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21 must-have survival kit items for trail riders

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Trail riders get lost. It’s a fact. It happens. Sometimes it’s because you are riding in unknown territory, sometimes the onboard GPS – the rider- messes up.

Make sure to have these 21 must-have items to keep you and your safe in the case of an unplanned extended stay in the forest.

1. Cell phone

Aside from the obvious “send help” phone call, a quality cell phone has many useful features that can help in an emergency. Download a compass app and save a picture of the map of the area that you are riding in. More on maps later but Google satellite view will do in a pinch.

Pro tip: Even if you don’t have cell service in the riding area, your GPS data can often still be working!

2. Wire cutters

If your horse gets caught in a wire fence or barbed wire, a set of wire cutters can quickly free your horse with as little damage as possible.

3. Map and compass

A topographical map is best, but any map of the area can help.  Make sure you know how to use them.

4. Whistle

It can signal anyone nearby that you need help. A Fox 40 whistle will easily reach 115 dB with little effort.

Pro tip: Avoid Whistles that rely on a small metal ball in the sound chambers to create the noise. A single whistle should last a lifetime, and that metal ball can corrode and break when you need it most.

5. Hoof pick

A foldable pick is small, light, and can easily save your trip from a misplaced stone. It can be used to grab and pull many other things too! A great tool to have in your pocket.

6. Paracord

Strong, light, waterproof, and easy to work with, paracord can be packed tightly into a stylish bracelet that can be quickly untied to repair a broken bridle, stirrup leather, or rein.

7. Vet wrap

Perfect for binding a wound or securing a splint. There are so many uses for vet wrap!

8. First aid items

This is an obvious one, but we’ll put it here as it cannot be overstated. Bring along the basic first aid kit for humans and horses: antiseptic, saline, gauze, acetaminophen. You’ll be glad to have them on hand should you ever need them.

9. Zinc oxide (aka diaper rash cream)

It will soothe and protect girth galls, saddle sores and chafed areas until you get home.

Pro tip: Get the highest percentage of zinc oxide that you can find. It’s good for sores on humans too. Don’t use it if the skin is broken, though.

10. Large garbage bag

Waterproof a shelter for the night, make a poncho, collect drinkable rainwater. Garbage bags have as many uses as you have imagination.

Pro tip: Horses often need to be desensitized to the noise of plastic beforehand.

11. Bug spray

Unless you ride in a sterile testing lab, your bug spray will not remain effective as long as it says on the bottle and even less if it’s raining. Bring some extra in case bugs are really bugging you and your horse.

12. Water

Dehydration can be a killer. Learn your horse’s signs and symptoms of dehydration and yours! Bring enough water for yourself. A healthy horse can continue to work at a light pace for 2 days without a water source.

Pro tip: If possible, train your horse to drink from running streams beforehand. Your horse needs to be used to it, but so does their stomach bacteria.

13. A spare hoof boot

This is your spare tire. If your horse loses a shoe or if you typically ride with boots, a spare can save the day.

14. Sunscreen & Lip balm

Protect yourself from sunburns for your immediate and long-term comfort!

Pro Tip: Zinc Oxide can be used on your nose and lips if needed.

15. Flashlight

Once the sun goes down the forest can be a very dark place. You will be happy to have a flashlight with you.

16. Waterproof matches

If you have to spend the night outdoors, hypothermia is one of your biggest enemies. They can help you make a fire, boil some water, make a fire signal. It’s good for the morale too.

Pro Tip: Coat some cotton balls in a generous amount of Vaseline to make starting your fire easier. The Vaseline can be used for minor skin issues too (Do not use Vaseline on burns)

17. Thermal space blanket

A compact but large sheet of reflective foil. Great for preserving your body heat in cold weather.

18. Food

It’s hard to think on an empty stomach. Bring along some food just in case! Granola bars, trail mix, chocolate, tea/hot chocolate/soup.

19. Work gloves

When gathering wood for a fire or shelter a simple pair of gardening gloves are not mandatory but will be very appreciated.

20. Snake bite kit

Be aware of any wild animals in your area that can be venomous, and pack accordingly. Make sure to learn how to identify the various species that you may encounter.

21. Trail tape

If you must keep moving, use trail tape to mark your path so that you can find your way back or someone can find you!


Although I hope you never have to use any of these in an emergency situation, I do hope that they are useful should you ever find yourself in need. 

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