I'm sure you've all noticed that every soldier carries vital identification information around their neck in the form of a set of dog tags. Easily discoverable in an emergency, these typically contain information such as rank, serial number, SSN/blood, and religious preference.
Well, in my opinion anyone that spends an extended amount of time in the back country, whether alone or as part of a group, should also carry some form of easily accessible identification upon their person. I don't have the latest statistics but it's safe to say that a lot of people who go backpacking or hiking will end up lost, get badly injured, and possible die. Carrying ID tags around your neck can not only help readily identify you, it can help save your life in an emergency situation.
An easy way to do this is to simply purchase a custom set of military style dog tags imprinted with your information on them. There are literally hundreds of sites that can do that for you for a couple of bucks. But here are some other DIY options that I've played with over the years to achieve the same result. If military-style dog tags aren't for you then maybe some of these options will work.
Plastic Key Fob ID Tags
For less than a dollar ($1.00) at my local harbor Freight store, I was able to purchase a pack of 12 brightly colored key chain tags. Obviously these are nowhere near as strong or durable as metal dog tags, but for occasional use while backpacking or hiking they make perfect DIY plastic ID tags.
Here is an orange colored set that I inserted some dummy identification information into to show they might look. With a short length of Kelty Triptease these make an excellent substitute for metal dog tags and they weigh less :-)
Road ID Bracelets
For Christmas this year I bought Road ID bracelets for my wife and myself. These are a little more expensive that some of the other options, but the quality of the finished product is exceptional and their customer service is second to none in my opinion. My bracelet shown below is the "Sport" model and goes with me whenever I go running. Road ID also has a premium version that included a subscription to a secure online database that can be accessed by an emergency care giver via a unique code on the back of the bracelet name plate.
Military Memorial Bracelets
Another nice metal alternative to dog tags is the military style memorial bracelet. These are usually made out of aluminum and custom engraved with the information of your choice. Unlike dog tags which are stamped, these are deeply engraved to allow a smooth inner surface that is comfortable to wear.
Warning: I managed to remove a considerable chunk of flesh from my right wrist while wearing this bracelet. I was practicing some sparring punches and forearm strikes on a heavy bag in my garage, when I accidentally caught the bracelet on the bag and had it gouge into my flesh. It wasn't pretty at all. Hopefully you won't be as careless as I was.
These are just some options that I've tried over the years as I said. I particularly like the bright colored plastic key fob ID for children who seem to appreciate the extra splash of color. Do you typically carry emergency ID on your when you go into the back country?
Brian is a Charlotte based backpacker, gear junkie, runner, and CrossFit(er). Originally from Southampton, England, Brian has lived in the US for over 20 years, finally settling in North Carolina. He spends as much time backpacking as his busy work schedule and family life will allow.