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Runners Emergency and First Aid Kit

You never know when an accident might happen, especially when you’re out in the woods on a trail run. As beautiful as it is, hazards can pop up where you least expect them.

Putting together a runner’s emergency and first aid kit to keep with you or in your car is always an excellent idea. Rather have it and not use it, than not have it and need it!

We’ve put together a guide for creating your own emergency kit. You can put it together and keep it in your vehicle, and we suggest making a smaller one to carry with you in a running belt or pack for use on the go.


First up, we’re looking at items that will help keep you safe. These will provide some help if you find yourself hurt or in danger.


It can be tempting to leave your phone at home or in your car while you’re out on a trail run.

But, it can be an invaluable safety device. We highly recommend keeping it with you, especially if you’re alone.

If you hurt yourself or get stuck somewhere, your phone could be the thing that saves your life! No phone means no way of communicating and no indication of where you are if you find yourself in difficulty.

It’s a good idea to keep your location data on when you’re out on a trail. Also, make sure your phone is charged before you head out, and that you have enough call-time or data to make a call or get hold of someone in an emergency.

Most running belts can fit a decent-sized phone comfortably. Otherwise, you can invest in a phone armband or make sure you wear shorts with a zippered pocket.

E Tronic Edge Phone Holder

Check Price on Amazon


If you only run during the day, you may feel that a flashlight isn’t necessary. However, it could be a valuable thing to have in case you find yourself in trouble on the trail.

Getting lost, stuck, or injured may mean that you find yourself out on the trail for much longer than you anticipated.

If you’re trying to find your way to safety in the darkness, you’ll need to see where you’re going. On the other hand, if someone is looking for you in the darkness, a flashlight is an absolute necessity to be found.

It doesn’t need to be a chunky Maglite type! We recommend the Nathan Terra Fire 400RX Hand Torch. It’s a small but effective handheld torch, with a 415-lumen white LED in the front and a rear red light.

IT’s IPX4 weather-resistant and can last for up to 5 hours on high. The perfect companion for trail running in any conditions!


Nathan Terra Fire 400RX Hand Torch


Check Price on Amazon

First Aid Kit

A pre-created first aid kit is a great idea. They come in various sizes and with a range of different things included, but we recommend investing in something like the Swiss Safe Outdoor First Aid Kit.

It’s a compact, 64-piece kit that’s easy to leave in a car, or even clip to a belt or backpack while you’re on the trail.

A good first aid kit will contain a bunch of stuff to staunch bleeding, clean wounds, wrap wounds, ease insect stings or bites, and cut away restricting clothing.

We strongly recommend adding anything you particularly need to your first aid kit. For example, if you have an allergy to bee stings, add an antihistamine. If you take medication for a specific condition, make sure you have some with you.

It may also be worth adding things like splints, a space blanket, a mouthpiece, ice packs, and blister-relief treatments to a larger kit that you leave in your vehicle.

Swiss Safe Outdoor First Aid Kit

Check Price on Amazon

Emergency Whistle

If you find yourself in trouble, catching someone’s attention is extremely important.

On the trail, though, it can be easy to go unnoticed. This is why a whistle is a super handy tool to have, and it’s tiny enough to carry around with you anywhere.

A high-pitched whistle is sure to catch attention. If you’ve wandered off the path, fallen, or happen to be in a spot where you can’t be seen, this little gadget will lead people right to you.

We recommend Whistles for Life. It gives off a 120-decibel whistle, it’s waterproof, and features three separate chambers for a more robust sound.

Whistles for Life

Check Price on REI

Personal Alarm

A personal alarm is an excellent safety feature. Not only will it give searchers an indication of where you are if you happen to get lost or stuck, but it may also work as a powerful deterrent if someone tries to attack you.

We recommend an alarm like the Thoped Self Defense Siren Keychain. It’s small and easy to clip onto a belt, and when activated, it has a bright flashing light (ideal for nighttime) and a loud alarm tone.

Perfect for catching attention and scaring off would-be attackers, muggers, and other possible rascals!

Thoped Self Defense Siren Keychain

Check Price on Amazon

Pepper Spray

It’s always a good idea to double up on safety items, just in case. Pepper spray is a good choice because if an alarm doesn’t deter someone, a dose of this definitely will.

If you’re out on the trails, there’s always a chance that nobody is nearby to hear your alarm. But spraying someone with pepper spray will have an immediate effect, giving you the space you need to get away.

It doesn’t only work on people, though. Stray dogs, bears, and other animals can be effectively handled with pepper spray, although we don’t recommend using it on domestic animals in case their owners are nearby. It can cause damage and lead to lawsuits and such.

The SABRE Red Pepper Gel Spray is our first choice. It’s thick, sticky, and doesn’t come off easily, so the recipient will have no choice but to leave you alone to fend for themselves.

SABRE Red Pepper Gel Spray

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Next up, let’s talk not getting lost. How to avoid it – and things to have if you do get lost.

Paper Maps

It’s never a good idea to rely on your phone or GPS unit. Excessive heat, cold, damage, or unpredictable battery failure can leave you high and dry in the middle of nowhere!

Paper maps can be folded up nice and small and slipped into a belt, backpack, or pocket. Make sure they’re in a waterproof bag – you don’t want to be caught without electronics or paper navigation.

It’s the kind of thing you never need… Until you do. Don’t get caught out on those rare occasions!


We strongly recommend learning how to read a compass if you’re likely to be spending time out on the trails, whether alone or with someone.

When your devices die, your paper maps get damaged, and you’re stuck… A compass could be your lifesaver. You can learn how to use one just by checking out YouTube videos! It’s a valuable skill if you spend time outdoors.

The Suunto Clipper L/B NH Compass is our first choice. It clips conveniently onto anything nice and thin, like a backpack strap, belt, watch strap, sleeve, or shirt collar.

Suunto Clipper L/B NH Compass

Check Price on Backcountry

GPS Watch

If your running watch tracks your data but doesn’t have GPS functionality, it may be a good idea to buy a GPS watch specifically for your trail runs.

Not only will you be able to track all your stats, but you’ll also have GPS navigation right on your wrist. Along with your paper maps, this could be extremely helpful in cases of emergency.

Looking to invest in a GPS watch? We suggest the Garmin fenix 6X Pro Solar. It has excellent GPS capabilities, is able to be charged in the sun (excellent for outdoorsy types!), and the battery lasts up to 15 hours in GPS mode.

Garmin fenix 6X Pro Solar

Check Price on Amazon


If things go really sideways, these items will help you make it through a dark, cold night and provide some essentials for staying warm and getting out.

Thermal Blanket

A thermal blanket could be the difference between surviving the night outdoors and… Well, not. They’re small and easy to slip into a pocket or pack, so it’s definitely something you shouldn’t neglect to take with you.

You may know them as space blankets or emergency blankets. They’re made of a foil-like material that retains heat. If you get stuck outdoors overnight, this simple blanket could, literally, save your life by warming you up with your own body heat.

The Swiss Safe Emergency Mylar Thermal Blankets come in a pack of 4. You can take one with you on a run and leave the others in your vehicle kit.

Swiss Safe Emergency Mylar Thermal Blankets

Check Price on Amazon

Head and Neck Buff

A buff is a multi-functional piece of apparel that can be used for a variety of different things out on the trail.

If the temperature drops, it can help keep you warm. If the air is smokey or polluted, it can protect your lungs. You can even use it as a bandage or tourniquet in a pinch.

The Buff Multifunctional Neckwear is our top choice, for a few different reasons. There are more than 12 different ways to wear it, depending on your need at the time.

It’s made of Merino wool, which is temperature-regulating so it’ll help you stay cool in heat and warm in the cold. It can also stretch to an unusual length, making it even more versatile and a step above others.

Buff Multifunctional Neckwear

Check Price on Backcountry

Water Bottle

Dehydration can be a medical emergency. While it’s always advisable to have more water with you than you think you may need, it’s not always practical or possible.

Enter the Salomon Soft Flask XA Filter. This is an excellent tool to have with you when you’re in the wilderness. Not only can it carry 17 ounces of water, fit ice blocks through the 1.6-inch opening, and shrink as you drink, but it also filters your water for you.

Stop at any stream you come across to top your water up. The built-in filter removes 99.99% of bacteria from your water and can filter 1000 liters of water before needing to be replaced.

Salomon Soft Flask XA Filter

Check Price on Salomon

Larger Filtration System

If water filtration is something you really like the idea of, it’s a good idea to invest in a slightly more robust filtration system. Something like the Sawyer Squeeze Water Filtration System is a good choice.

You can apply it to the opening of almost any conventional water bottle or hydration system. It offers the highest level of filtration available on these kinds of devices – 0.1 absolute micron. It also has a limited lifetime warranty.

Sawyer Squeeze Water Filtration System

Check Price on Amazon


When your body is depleted of electrons, it can display some horrible symptoms!

Nausea, vomiting, fatigue, and weakness are some of the common ones, and they’re not what you want to happen while you’re out on a remote trail somewhere.

Thankfully, taking an electrolyte supplement along with you is super easy. They’re generally in tablet form, small, and easy to keep in a pocket or belt. We suggest keeping one or two on your person and a bunch more in your vehicle.

If you aren’t sure which one is good, try the Nuun Sport tablets. They come in various flavors, come in caffeinated and caffeine-free versions, and contain just 15 calories per tablet.

Nuun Sport

Check Price on Backcountry

Fast Energy

Energy chews are the fastest way to get a bit of a boost when you start feeling like there’s nothing left in you to give. They’re also super little, easy to carry with you, and also a nice little treat during your run.

If you haven’t tried them yet, we highly recommend CLIF BLOKS Energy Chews. They come in a range of different flavors, and types. Some include extra sodium, some come with added caffeine, and others just contain the average amount.

One serving is 3 pieces, which equals 100 calories and gives you a good dose of carbs, sodium, and potassium.

CLIF BLOKS Energy Chews

Check Price on Backcountry

Packable Jacket

A jacket that packs down into its own pocket is ideal for being out on the trail. It will keep you warm when it needs to, but won’t be a heavy, in-the-way item when you want to take it off.

The North Face offers some great options. For men, we recommend the First Dawn Packable Jacket. For women, the North Face Resolve 2 Jacket.

They’re both lightweight, come in a variety of colorways, and pack down to a tiny size, easy to handle on the trail.

First Dawn Packable Jacket

Check Men’s Price on BackcountryCheck Women’s Price on Amazon


Not sure about putting together a runners emergency and first aid kit? Here’s some more information to help you figure it out.

Why Do You Need a First Aid or Emergency Kit?

Never underestimate the power of having a first aid kit! Having one in your possession can not only help you if you get injured, lost, or stuck, but it can help you to help others (human or animal!) who may be in the same situation.

Many of the products we’ve recommended here are also excellent to protect you against harsh weather conditions or the hazards of the wilderness. They can even help protect you against people or animals who threaten your physical wellbeing.

What’s Usually in an Emergency Kit?

It depends on the kit, but there are some fundamentals that every kit should have. First and foremost, your kit should include protective gloves. Remember, if you’re treating someone else, the first thing you should do is protect yourself.

Bandages, gauze, and first aid dressings are necessary. These help to stop blood flow and dress wounds, and you should have a variety of sizes available.

Alcohol pads and saline solution can be extremely helpful for cleaning wounds on the go. You should also have insect bite/sting relief, antihistamines, and tweezers.

Anything else is really optional, although we really recommend bumping it up and adding extra items so you’re covered all-round.

Tips to Stay Safe While Running

Having a runners emergency and first aid kit is a good way to provide some peace of mind on the trail. But you still need to take steps to stay safe! Here are our top tips:

  • Try not to run at night whenever possible
  • Check the weather forecast before going
  • Choose routes you already know well
  • Take note of the surface, and pace accordingly
  • Avoid animals and people on the trail if possible
  • Err on the side of caution – rather “overreact” and send emergency signals, than hold back and find yourself in trouble
Shanna Powell

Shanna Powell

Shanna is a writer who runs... And cycles, jumps rope, and lifts weights. She lives in beautiful South Africa and enjoys sharing her knowledge and experience with other avid athletes.

The Wired Runner