Signal Devices You Should Always Bring with You Camping and Hiking

Signal Devices You Should Always Bring with You Camping and Hiking

When camping and hiking, there may be a situation where you’ll need to signal for help. Because camping and hiking takes place in remote areas, its not as simple as making a phone call or yelling for help.

An emergency could be the result of severe weather, getting lost, or suffering an immobilizing injury. Whatever the case, it’s important to always have a few tools with you so you can signal for the help of other people in the area, or for search and rescue crews.

Below we’ll go over some essential items you should bring pack with you so you can be prepared for just about any situation. The good thing about these items are they are small and lightweight, so even a small pack can accommodate them.

Fire Making Tools

Fire making tools such as a lighter, fire striker, and fire starter paste is always a good thing to have when camping or hiking. Odds are you’ll already be packing these things, so it’s not an extra thing you’ll have to put much thought into.

Making a signal fire is one of the most basic, and sometimes the most effective way to signal for help. Fire smoke can be seen from miles away, so if you make a fire that produces a lot of smoke, someone is bound to see it.

If you truly need to make a signal fire, make it as smoky as possible. Place a lot of leaves and dead or rotting wood on a hot fire to produce billowing smoke. This will create an unusual amount of smoke, so changes are good that someone will come by to investigate and eventually help you if they can.

Signal Mirror

A small mirror in another compact, yet effective means to signal for help. The reflection from a small mirror can be seen for extreme distances, and if you’re familiar with basic morse code, you can hail an S.O.S signal.

Signal mirrors are especially useful for signaling aircraft. Even if it’s an aircraft that’s not actively looking for you, it can radio in your location to search and rescue teams in the area so they can start looking for you.


The human voice can only get so loud, and if you’re in situation where you’re severely dehydrated or tired, you may not be able to yell at all.

A whistle is an easy and lightweight item to carry that can potentially safe your life. Even if you don’t have much energy, its generally pretty easy to make a loud sound with a whistle.

The sound of a whistle is unmistakable to most people, and anyone within hearing distance of your location will immediately know you’re in danger and will come to aid you if willing and able.

Blaze Orange

Although mostly used by hunters for safety, blaze orange is an excellent signaling device if needed.

Blaze orange stands out very well outdoors in contrast with the earth tones of natural areas. This is especially true in the low light hours of dawn and dusk.

All you’ll need is a simple blaze orange hat or piece of clothing, and you’ll be visible from great distances.


A flashlight is another item you’re already planning on packing, so having it for a signal device is even more reason to always have one on you.

It won’t always be daytime in an emergency, so you’ll need a light source to find your way around and make your self visible. Many flashlights also have a strobe feature, which will signal to others in the area that can see it that something may be wrong.

Satellite Messenger

If you plan on heading out into the remote backcountry for a hiking or camping trip, you should seriously consider getting a satellite messaging or calling device.

Since these devices use satellites to deliver messages or make calls, you won’t have to rely on internet access or cell service, something that’s completely absent in most remote hiking and camping areas.

Most satellite messaging devices also have an S.O.S feature that will send a message to search and rescue teams in the area. Make sure to only use this feature if you find yourself in a life-threatening situation because search and rescue requires a lot of resources and will cost you a lot of money later on.

Air Horn

Packing an air horn is optional, but it can be another reliable means to signal for help if the situation calls for it.

Air horns are much louder than whistles, so you’ll be able to signal people with sound much further than you would otherwise.

Although not a must have, air horns are especially useful in marine environments, If you’re planning a canoe trip or boat camping trip, an air horn is a must have.

Flares or Flare Gun

Flares or a flare gun are not absolutely necessary, but few signal devices send a clearer message.

While you should rely on the other items in this list for essential signaling devices, in the right situation flares can make a huge difference.

A flare puts out a very bright light and can be seen from really far away, but they should be used sparingly. Flares can be dangerous to users and cause harmful forest fires, so they should be reserved as a last resort.


You simply can’t control everything in the outdoors. Dangerous situations like getting lost, dehydrated, injured, or disoriented can and do happen.

The first step to getting out of dangerous situation is the be as prepared as you can and avoid them altogether. Unfortunately, that may not always be enough.

Make sure you always have a variety of signaling devices with you when camping and hiking because you can never predict when things may go wrong.

Remember to only use these signals if it’s a truly life threating situation, and if you do, stay where you are. There’s no sense in signaling for help if people can’t find you because you moved away from your signal.

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