The last weekend when I was coming back home from a trek on Sunday noon, I got a news about this accident that took place. The place was on the way, so instead of choosing to rest at home, I chose to alight at the station closest to the place where this happened and add my ounce of help if it was needed. I know those hills very well, and AFAIK the rescue was not that difficult. When I reached there, I was horrified seeing the people who were there as a rescue team. No preparations at all, Lack of necessary equipment. Later after discussing with them, I came to know that the team was formed out of local cops and Fire-Brigade (Fire station guys) dept. Except for Fire fighters, there was no one who was in a good shape to rescue.

I know this may (rather must) sound absolutely horrible that the most of the part in our country, except for Himalayas, there are no dedicated rescue teams for trekking/mountaineering and other adventure stuff. Its the local hikers who coordinate at the juncture and launch a rescue op.

In that sense, if a team plans for it, what all equipment should a rescue team have with them? I can pick most of the things like a Foldable/portable stretcher, Rope, Climbing equipment, Flashlights, Ready-to-eat food (probably dry fruits), etc.. But may be answers here would help to jot down a concrete list.

  • 6
    Ooh... this is a topic on which books can and have been written. Don't underestimate the importance of organization, skills, and training! Also, how close to civilization will your team be operating, and in what terrain?
    – requiem
    Jul 17, 2014 at 7:10

3 Answers 3


Below is the bare minimum list of gear I would require anyone on my team to carry during and rescue operation. It does not include any of the numerous pieces of rope equipment that members of the rope team would cary in addition to the basic equipment ( only specific team members that have completed extensive training are qualified to be involved in any of the rope operations ) and, it is just equipment. Having the right equipment makes no guarantee of the training and skills needed to cary out a rescue operation. The worst thing you could possibly do is attempt a rescue without the skills and training needed and end up injuring or killing yourself in the process.

That said, enjoy:

  • Weather appropriate top and bottom base layer
  • Weather appropriate top and bottom outer layer
  • Waterproof breathable coat with hood ( brightly colored )
  • Weather appropriate gloves
  • Lug sole boots, gaiters
  • Climbing Helmet
  • 3 pairs of weather appropriate socks
  • Extra sweater
  • Compass with mirror and declination adjustment
  • GPS Device(s)
  • VHF and UHF radio
  • Waterproof notepad and pen
  • Area maps
  • Fixed blade knife
  • Heavy duty survival blanket
  • Survey tape
  • Whistle
  • Fire starters
  • 2 pieces of 20 foot 1" tubular webbing
  • 50 feet of 500 pound nylon cord
  • Storm proof wooden matches
  • Waterproof match holder
  • Minimum 24 hour supply of food and snacks
  • Eye protection
  • Nylon tarp
  • Headlamps, extra batteries
  • Spare flashlight
  • Minimum 3 liters of water
  • Wood saw
  • 2 plastic bags
  • Duct tape
  • Metal cup or small pot
  • Trekking poles
  • First aid kit with ace wrap/israeli bandage, heat and ice packs, trauma pads and tape
  • Weather appropriate snow gear
  • A backpack that fits you and can hold all of this gear.
  • Do you have a particular source for this information? I don't disagree with it, but is this something you came up with off the top of your head or is it based on another list somewhere?
    – nhinkle
    Jul 18, 2014 at 15:26
  • This is sourced from the real list we use whenever we enter the field, even for training ( I can email it if you want, I just don't know if I have permission to make the document public ). Jul 18, 2014 at 20:17

To be honest, the most important thing a Rescue Team needs to have is plenty of manpower (and womanpower!) with training and experience (speaking as a member of a UK Cave Rescue Team).

  • 5
    Lots of training, had a friend who did Human Remains training with dogs. A well trained dog is a good addition to a search as well (so long as they also have a well trained handler!)
    – Aravona
    Jul 17, 2014 at 11:21
  • 2
    Cave...rescue...shudder :)
    – user2766
    Jul 17, 2014 at 12:26

In addition to personal equipment appropriate to the terrain and conditions there are some rescue specific basics which should be easy to provide, this is more geared to providing support to the main search and rescue effort than actually going out at the sharp end yourself. Obviously a lot of search and rescue kit and training is quite specific but the support logistics are more generic and can be just as important :

  • Shelter : this should be easy to erect around a casualty in any terrain so things like tarps and blankets are preferable to tents.
  • Medical : even if you don't have proper medics, basics like field dressings could make all the difference.
  • Communications : the ability to communicate the location of casualties quickly is very important in getting them treated and evacuated. This requires good communications both inside the rescue team and with the outside world. This need not be hugely sophisticated but things like procedures for RV points and packs of flares and chemical lights can greatly help air and vehicle rescue. Communications can also include keeping up to date with weather forecasts and keeping track of who is doing what in the overall operation.
  • Evacuation gear : here it is important to say that the decision to evacuate on foot vs waiting for better equipped help is a critical one, especially where the casualty has traumatic injures but there will be circumstances where it has to be done. Here a proper collapsible splint stretcher is idea but the knowledge to
    improvise something from a tarp cut poles and rope is a lot better than nothing. Also if you are evacuating a casualty on foot every extra person who can help will significantly contribute to the rescue as carrying a casualty over rough terrain for any distance is exhausting and the original search team may already be tired by this point in the operation.
  • Organisation : in all emergencies command and control is always a big problem as you often have several different groups or organisations trying to cooperate and confusion can be as big an enemy as weather or terrain. even so taking on simple organisational jobs like keeping a list of names of who is involved an logging them in and out of base camp can make a big difference. Equally setting up an HQ with a table and some maps of the area. Often bad situations are made worse by skilled and well intentioned people acting at crossed-purposes

Another very important consideration is that an ad-hoc rescue team don't become casualties themselves. While passers by may be keen to help the rescue leaders need to take responsibility for their safety as well and at the very least they should be competent, fit and equipped to carry out any tasks assigned to them. Similarly individually going off on their own may do more harm than good and a rescue organiser should establish proper channels of control and communication from the start.

As an extension of this lightweight high visibility vests, torches and chemical lights and IR markers are a very useful (and inexpensive) part of centralised rescue kit as well as the more obvious portable radios etc.

Similarly setting up a temporary base with shelter and hot food and drink for rescue workers is a big asset and this can be a very useful role for volunteers of uncertain experience.

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