The undisputed experts when it comes to key survival gear? The rangers who save hikers who go astray. Jeff Webb, a search-and-rescue ranger at Yosemite National Park, has worked on more than 200 rescue missions. He's also seen action in Big Bend, Yellowstone, Canyonlands, Joshua Tree, and Rocky Mountain National Parks. With his advice, our editors put together this ultimate survival kit for hikers.
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It turns out that when you're down to your last moldy hunk of bread and giardia-laced mud puddle, letting it all melt away in a cloud of smoke for a few precious moments can mean the difference between giving up and giving the rat (eating) race another go. If history has anything to say, it's more common than you think for people to happily give up MREs and gunlord harems in return for hastening their ends with carcinogens wrapped up in tidy paper packages. In traumatic situations like war, cancer sticks are often valued more highly than food. Even in the current (more or less) pre-apocalyptic global economy, cigarettes are one of the stable forms of currency.
Different locations present different climactic challenges, which you’ll want to factor into your survival-kit-making decisions. Trips through the northern reaches of the globe, for example, will force you to confront very cold temperatures. This may make things like emergency hand warmers and hot chocolate important in your survival kit. By contrast, you’ll want to prepare for heat stroke, snake bite, and torrential rain if you are hiking or camping in the tropics.
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