Searcher's Safety and Hiking Gear Guide

Proper planning and preparation is necessary anytime you venture into the great outdoors. Starting off with a Fenn Treasure hunting gear list is a great way of helping you to prepare, while also helping to make your trip safer and more enjoyable. When you plan your search, plan to go only in the summer and early fall. Mr. Fenn has strongly advised not to search in the Winter and much of the snow remains at high elevations well into Spring.  Also remember, as I illustrated in my book, there is a strong urge to push yourself to climb a little higher and be like Indiana Jones - DON'T. Common sense is easily lost when hunting for gold and precious gems, so be aware of gold fever or as I like to refer to it as - Fenn Fever and what it can do to your mind. The treasure is not in a dangerous place and Forrest took two trips carrying 22 lbs from his car to his secret spot. Considering Mr. Fenn is nearly 87 years of age and he still believes he might be able to retrieve the chest, plus by his own admission he can't walk more than 50 yards without having to sit down, tells you it is fairly close to a road. 


I have 28 years of SAR experience and I have taken a week long mountain survival course in the middle of January, plus I require an annual safety equipment certification, so I have some tips I feel are important to follow. The gear you need to carry will vary according to the type of treasure hunt you've planned: the length of your hike, the time of year, as well as your destination and the terrain you'll be traveling over. If you are coming from a sea level or low elevations take a 2-3 days to acclimatize to high elevations. Drink plenty of water as dehydration in higher elevations is common. Take plenty of breaks as your energy level will deplete quickly when at high elevations. NEVER HIKE ALONE and if you insist, then cary an Iridium Satellite phone/tracking device or 406 PLB that provides a means of communicating when out of cellphone range. Leave a detailed itinerary complete with timings and checkpoints with someone who is responsible and check in with them several times a day. That way SAR can rescue you quickly and eliminate a time consuming search, should you become lost or injuried.

Treasure hunters should always be prepared for a wide range of temperatures and weather conditions while hiking in the Rocky Mountain's. Temperatures in the mountains typically fluctuate as weather patterns change, especially at the higher elevations. Get a briefing from a local park ranger or visitor information on the local weather conditions, but remember the weather changes rapidly in the Rockies.  During the summer months, daytime temperatures can reach well into the 80s; however, overnight lows can drop below zero, and snow can fall anytime when hiking higher elevations. You should automatically expect temperatures to be at least 10 to 15 degrees cooler in the higher elevations at any given time of the year. Plan to leave early in the morning and return by early afternoon before the thunderstorms build.

Hunting for Forrest Fenn's treasure should not take you more than a few hundred meters from the nearest road and since Forrest said the treasure it not under water, there is NO NEED TO CROSS A RIVER ON FOOT OR FLOAT A RAFT DOWN A RIVER , just use a bridge. If you are on a scenery hike or any extended hike, it's best to prepare for a variety of conditions and pack accordingly. Dress in layers and always carry rain-gear in your pack. DO NOT ALLOW YOURSELF TO SWEAT and remove a layer of clothing when you get warm, as wet clothing will accelerate hypothermia. Although not an exhaustive list, the following day hiking gear list is a good starting point before heading out on your next Fenn treasure hunt to help ensure that you'll have all the essentials. You may want to add or remove items based on expected conditions and your personal needs. 

 Required Gear

Backpack, day pack or fanny pack

* Supportive footwear designed for the length and terrain of your hike 

* Extra socks (see REIs guide for choosing socks)

* Base layer (polypropylene)

* Mid / Heavy-weight fleece or pile jacket 

* Rain / wind shells (jacket and pants) 

* Wool or fleece hat 

* Balaclava

* Gloves (Forrest advising wearing gloves to retrieve the chest as well)

* Water: full canteen(s), water bottle(s) or hydration pack 

* Extra food: high energy snacks or candy. (Id you get lost do not eat for the first 24 hours, drinking is recommended)

Trail Map and/or Guidebook

* Compass (with the knowledge of how to use it)

* Emergency Space Blanket (smaller than a wallet)

Emergency bivvy sac

* Waterproof matches / fire starter 

* Pocket knife 

* Flashlight or headlamp with new batteries 

* Fox 40 Whistle (in case you got lost) 

* Small mirror (in case you got lost)

* A few yards of cord

* Watch 

* First aid kit (see below) 

* Personal medications 

* Moleskin (for blisters) 

* Insect repellent 

* Sun protection (sunglasses, sunscreen, lip balm) 

* Baseball style hat / Wide-brimmed hat (to protect from sun) 

* A few zip-lock plastic bags 

* Napkins 

* Toilet paper (in a plastic bag) 

* Money / ID

* Many of the items above can be purchased from REI.

 Suggested / Optional Gear


* Satellite tracking and emergency device: 406 PLB/Delorme In-Reach/Solar Data Field Tracker 2100 (with extra batteries)
Trekking poles

* Water Filter / Water purification tablets

* GPS (with extra batteries)/

* Notebook with pencil / pen 

* Camera (film / fully charged battery) 

* Binoculars 

* Cell phone (though likely won't have coverage in backcountry)

* Feminine products

* Gaiters 

* Knee Support 

* Bandana 

 Basic First Aid Kit

Some examples of items for your First Aid kit are listed below. Customize your kit according to your personal needs. Be sure you're familiar with everything in your kit and remember to keep items up-to-date and replenished. It's also important to keep your first aid kit in a waterproof container. I strongly recommend that you take a First Aid and or CPR course, and make sure that you keep current on these skills. (Adventure Medical Kits sells a variety of first aid kits specifically designed for hikers such as the one on the left) 

* Personal medications 

* Roll bandages 

* Triangular bandages

* Ace bandages 

* Butterfly bandages

* Sterile compresses

* Adhesive tape 

* Sterile gauze pads

* Antiseptic wipes

* Miscellaneous band aids

* Twine 

* Tweezers 

* Safety pins 

* Scissors 

* Thermometer 

* Latex gloves 

* Tissues 

* Plastic Bags 

* Antibacterial soap / wipes

* Eye drops 

* Burn ointment 

* Sunburn lotion

* Disinfectant cream 

* Decongestant and antihistamine tablets

* Anti-acids 

* Antibiotic cream

* Aspirin / ibuprofen 

* Hydrogen peroxide 

* Diarrhea medication 

* Hydrocortisone cream 

* Poison Ivy cream / cleansers

* Bee sting kit 

* Snake bite kit 

* Heat / cold packs 

* Personal information / contact person

* First aid manual

REI sells a variety of first aid kits for camping, hiking and backpacking, including a variety of options from Adventure Medical Kits

Remember, just because you are well equipped doesn't mean you should take on more risk. Heed common sense.


Carry enough gear to get you through the night, SAR will not appear the minute you require their assistance. There will be a several hour delay from the time you are overdue until the time SAR arrives on scene and they will often not be able to search at night. PLBs and Iridium phones/trackers will speed up the SAR reaction time, but do not depend on your cellphone in the Rockies as they are often out of range and if you slip into water they will not work unless it is in a water proof container. Read more about PLB and Satellite based tracking and alerting here.


For further tips see

© 2015 by The Wolf