Emergency Identification – Dog Tags

Dog Tags

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.

Color Key Fobs

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.

Home-made UL Dog 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.

My Road ID

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.

Military ID Bracelet

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?

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  • JJ_Mathes

    Brian-using the key fob is great idea!  I’ve been using a similar idea for as long as I’ve been backpacking and even longer for kayaking. Using a laser printer I printed the info on both sides of brightly colored paper for visibility, then laminated, punched a hole with paper punch then threaded with the lanyard I wear around my neck with whistle and LED light. It has all the important info on one side, name/DOB/blood type/allergies/meds/etc. On the other side emergency contacts with phone numbers.

    It’s about the size of a dog tag.

    • http://www.briangreen.net Brian Green

      JJ, I like the sound of your method too especially the lamination to protect the printed info. I used some clear packing tape on either side of the paper print out. I did much the same thing though with a quick template for the plastic dog tag labels. The key fob idea was just a simple low-tech solution with extra robustness.

  • JERMM

    Brian-using the key fob is great idea!  I’ve been using a similar idea for as long as I’ve been backpacking and even longer for kayaking. Using a laser printer I printed the info on both sides of brightly colored paper for visibility, then laminated, punched a hole with paper punch then threaded with the lanyard I wear around my neck with whistle and LED light. It has all the important info on one side, name/DOB/blood type/allergies/meds/etc. On the other side emergency contacts with phone numbers.

    It’s about the size of a dog tag.

  • Banjopickin

    When I started seriously solo backpacking a few years ago my family made me a set of plastic dog tags.  I wear them mountain biking, hiking, fishing, basically whenever im out doing something sem-dangerous.  It makes me feel better knowing if I take a fall or something happens all that info is there for anyone that needs it.  Everyone should carry some kind of ID with this vital info on it wether its just a piece of paper or some Sharpie written on your pack… Peace of mind is priceless especially for your family…

    btw…I hear ya Brian…representing Union County…im from Waxhaw. Not too many trails down here tho :(

    • http://www.briangreen.net Brian Green

      Banjopickin, that’s too funny that you’re just around the corner from me. Not too many good trails here either. I typically have to drive at least 3 hours to hit the mountains. Luckily the AT is only 3 hours away from us. Thanks for you comments, I hope you’ll stay and be a regular contributor.

  • Banjopickin

    When I started seriously solo backpacking a few years ago my family made me a set of plastic dog tags.  I wear them mountain biking, hiking, fishing, basically whenever im out doing something sem-dangerous.  It makes me feel better knowing if I take a fall or something happens all that info is there for anyone that needs it.  Everyone should carry some kind of ID with this vital info on it wether its just a piece of paper or some Sharpie written on your pack… Peace of mind is priceless especially for your family…

    btw…I hear ya Brian…representing Union County…im from Waxhaw. Not too many trails down here tho :(

  • http://www.briangreen.net/ Brian Green

    JJ, I like the sound of your method too especially the lamination to protect the printed info. I used some clear packing tape on either side of the paper print out. I did much the same thing though with a quick template for the plastic dog tag labels. The key fob idea was just a simple low-tech solution with extra robustness.

  • http://www.briangreen.net/ Brian Green

    Banjopickin, that’s too funny that you’re just around the corner from me. Not too many good trails here either. I typically have to drive at least 3 hours to hit the mountains. Luckily the AT is only 3 hours away from us. Thanks for you comments, I hope you’ll stay and be a regular contributor.

  • Matthew Pittman

    Even tho I’m not in the State Guard anymore, I still wear dogtags, tho not the military standard ones.  Mine is a Russian-made religious tag, that I had my basic info engraved on the back (full name, blood type, allergies), so that I’ve got some type of ID *on* me if I lose my wallet for whatever reason. (I had this engraved at a shoppe in the mall, and when I picked it up, the guy who worked there said he should have charged me above their regular fee, as it was much harder than normal stainless.)  I’ve also gone to my local army-navy store and had regular US tags stamped with that same info for my car keys, and some for my dogs too, with last name and house and cell phone numbers, in case they run off (one, a male, likes running the neighborhood when he smells a female in heat, driving me crazy chasing him down).  Personally, I don’t carry anything with me that has my SSN on it, lest it get lost and fall into the hands of a ID thief.

    • http://www.briangreen.net Brian Green

      Definitely agree about NOT including or sharing your SSN, there’s really no need. The tags pictured are quite old and my current ones do not contain my SSN :-)

  • Matthew Pittman

    Even tho I’m not in the State Guard anymore, I still wear dogtags, tho not the military standard ones.  Mine is a Russian-made religious tag, that I had my basic info engraved on the back (full name, blood type, allergies), so that I’ve got some type of ID *on* me if I lose my wallet for whatever reason. (I had this engraved at a shoppe in the mall, and when I picked it up, the guy who worked there said he should have charged me above their regular fee, as it was much harder than normal stainless.)  I’ve also gone to my local army-navy store and had regular US tags stamped with that same info for my car keys, and some for my dogs too, with last name and house and cell phone numbers, in case they run off (one, a male, likes running the neighborhood when he smells a female in heat, driving me crazy chasing him down).  Personally, I don’t carry anything with me that has my SSN on it, lest it get lost and fall into the hands of a ID thief.

  • http://www.briangreen.net/ Brian Green

    Definitely agree about NOT including or sharing your SSN, there’s really no need. The tags pictured are quite old and my current ones do not contain my SSN :-)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1847169238 Ken Jones

    I bought an ID from DMV.  It’s just like my drivers license, but says that it’s an ID only.  You aren’t allowed to have more than one drivers license in SC.  I don’t know about other states.  I bought the ID so I don’t have to worry about losing the DL. 

    I don’t have any major health issues, so I don’t have to detail anything.  Simply knowing who I am is probably the most important thing.

    I don’t like anything around my neck, especially the hair pulling ball chains.  Keeping the card on me is what I do.

    Also, if I have an encounter with a cop I can present a state-issued ID.  Cops are always suspicious of folks who don’t carry ID.  At least know your DL number by heart.

    Good article.  I do think I’ll break out the labeling machine and add ICE phone numbers to the back of my ID, though.

    • http://www.briangreen.net Brian Green

      Ken, thanks for mentioning about the DMV ID option. I had completely forgotten that they provided that as a service. I agree that a state issued ID is much more widely accepted by officials.

      I also feel your pain with the hair-pulling metal ball necklaces, I typically scrap them in favor of some cord. I lose the break-away function, but it is so much more comfortable.

      For those unfamiliar with the acronym “ICE” it means “In Case of Emergency” and is a program that enables first responders, such as paramedics, firefighters, and police officers, to identify victims and contact their next of kin to obtain important medical information. Read more about ICE here >>

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=586858864 Marty Gosling

        Brian,  Simple solution to the hair pulling ball chains.  Cut a length of parachord, remove the string guts and put the beaded chain through the empty parachord casing. Voila! You now have a comfortable covered necklace.  Leave a bit of the beaded chain exposed in front where the tag hangs just in case you need to break the chain. 
         
        (Tip: When removing the insides of the parachord, carefully leave one string inside the casing.  Tie it onto one end of the beaded chain and then pull the string with chain attached out the other end.  If you cut the parachord a few inches longer than the beaded chain it makes it much easier to hold on to the tail end of the string while you are tying the other end onto the beaded chain.  You can cut it to size later.)

        • http://www.briangreen.net Brian Green

          That’s awesome Marty! Thanks for sharing. I know what I’m going to do now…

    • http://www.kq7a.com Jack Woods

      Better than a state ID card is a passport card. You can get one in addition to any state ID or DL and it serves the same purpose, it’ll even get you on a flight. If you travel internationally, you can’t use the passport card, but if you lose your passport, there’s no better backup ID to show the embassy than your passport card. 

      • http://www.briangreen.net Brian Green

        At $55 that’s pretty pricey for a passport device that only lets you travel in and out of the US borders, no international travel.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1847169238 Ken Jones

    I bought an ID from DMV.  It’s just like my drivers license, but says that it’s an ID only.  You aren’t allowed to have more than one drivers license in SC.  I don’t know about other states.  I bought the ID so I don’t have to worry about losing the DL. 

    I don’t have any major health issues, so I don’t have to detail anything.  Simply knowing who I am is probably the most important thing.

    I don’t like anything around my neck, especially the hair pulling ball chains.  Keeping the card on me is what I do.

    Also, if I have an encounter with a cop I can present a state-issued ID.  Cops are always suspicious of folks who don’t carry ID.  At least know your DL number by heart.

    Good article.  I do think I’ll break out the labeling machine and add ICE phone numbers to the back of my ID, though.

  • http://www.briangreen.net/ Brian Green

    Ken, thanks for mentioning about the DMV ID option. I had completely forgotten that they provided that as a service. I agree that a state issued ID is much more widely accepted by officials.

    I also feel your pain with the hair-pulling metal ball necklaces, I typically scrap them in favor of some cord. I lose the break-away function, but it is so much more comfortable.

    For those unfamiliar with the acronym “ICE” it means “In Case of Emergency” and is a program that enables first responders, such as paramedics, firefighters, and police officers, to identify victims and contact their next of kin to obtain important medical information. Read more about ICE here >>

  • http://www.brianlhoward.blogspot.com Brian H.

    Good suggestions. I photocopied my Driver’s License and Health Insurance Card on orange cardstock to stash in my bicycle saddle bag. I’ve got my other vitals inside my helmet.  I think I’ll had the key fobs you mentioned to my daypack/camping stuff, too.  

  • http://www.brianlhoward.blogspot.com/ Brian H.

    Good suggestions. I photocopied my Driver’s License and Health Insurance Card on orange cardstock to stash in my bicycle saddle bag. I’ve got my other vitals inside my helmet.  I think I’ll had the key fobs you mentioned to my daypack/camping stuff, too.  

  • http://www.back-packer.org Steve

    Reminds me to the time in the german army – i had to wear those tags around my neck and it was very uncomfortable. maybe you should choose the bracelet option instead…

    • http://www.briangreen.net Brian Green

      The bracelet option is a very handy one for sure. There are also more comfortable necklace options too.

  • http://www.back-packer.org/ Steve

    Reminds me to the time in the german army – i had to wear those tags around my neck and it was very uncomfortable. maybe you should choose the bracelet option instead…

  • http://www.briangreen.net/ Brian Green

    The bracelet option is a very handy one for sure. There are also more comfortable necklace options too.

  • http://wegetoutside.wordpress.com/ Cal

    I had never actually thought much about wearing ID in the backcountry.  After I read your post I ordered a set of dog tags for myself and for my significant other (since we are both avid outdoors people).  You never know what could happen.

    I feel kind of sheepish that I’d never given it much thought in the past, heh.  Thanks for bringing attention to an often over-looked aspect of safety in the great outdoors.

    – Cal

    • http://www.briangreen.net Brian Green

      Cal, no need to feel sheepish about it. This is a learning curve for all of us, me especially. I’m always learning and adjusting, that’s what makes it so much fun. It’s a journey.

      I hadn’t thought much about ID until recently. My wife asked what ID I carried on my trips and I had to admit that I really didn’t carry anything. Then all the news about the 127-hours story hit us and it was game over. I WAS TOLD TO WEAR ID – and it makes perfect sense.

      It’s not all about doom and gloom, it’s just common sense. Glad my post made you think about it and take action. I also appreciate you telling us all and sharing. The comments make the blog, not the other way round :-)

  • http://wegetoutside.wordpress.com/ Cal

    I had never actually thought much about wearing ID in the backcountry.  After I read your post I ordered a set of dog tags for myself and for my significant other (since we are both avid outdoors people).  You never know what could happen.

    I feel kind of sheepish that I’d never given it much thought in the past, heh.  Thanks for bringing attention to an often over-looked aspect of safety in the great outdoors.

    - Cal

  • http://www.briangreen.net/ Brian Green

    Cal, no need to feel sheepish about it. This is a learning curve for all of us, me especially. I’m always learning and adjusting, that’s what makes it so much fun. It’s a journey.

    I hadn’t thought much about ID until recently. My wife asked what ID I carried on my trips and I had to admit that I really didn’t carry anything. Then all the news about the 127-hours story hit us and it was game over. I WAS TOLD TO WEAR ID – and it makes perfect sense.

    It’s not all about doom and gloom, it’s just common sense. Glad my post made you think about it and take action. I also appreciate you telling us all and sharing. The comments make the blog, not the other way round :-)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=586858864 Marty Gosling

    Brian,  Simple solution to the hair pulling ball chains.  Cut a length of parachord, remove the string guts and put the beaded chain through the empty parachord casing. Voila! You now have a comfortable covered necklace.  Leave a bit of the beaded chain exposed in front where the tag hangs just in case you need to break the chain. 
     
    (Tip: When removing the insides of the parachord, carefully leave one string inside the casing.  Tie it onto one end of the beaded chain and then pull the string with chain attached out the other end.  If you cut the parachord a few inches longer than the beaded chair it makes it much easier to hold on to the tail end of the string while you are tying the other end onto the beaded chain.  You can cut it to size later.)

  • http://www.briangreen.net/ Brian Green

    That’s awesome Marty! Thanks for sharing. I know what I’m going to do now…

  • Jack

    http://www.tags4id.com is a great service.  Small, one-time fee.  Got em for the whole family.  The kids and I wear then all the time.

  • salma salmi

    I like your sound method ,especially too lamination the printed path …..I appreciate  you telling us all and sharing..
    custom credit cards

  • http://www.facebook.com/jackq7a Jack Woods

    Better than a state ID card is a passport card. You can get one in addition to any state ID or DL and it serves the same purpose, it’ll even get you on a flight. If you travel internationally, you can’t use the passport card, but if you lose your passport, there’s no better backup ID to show the embassy than your passport card. 

  • http://dogtag-depot.com/ Dog tags

    My dog wears a bolo necklace; which is thin and light, with the smallest round tag I could find. it’s an option for pet guardians who feel their pet may feel uncomfortable with a collar indoors. he doesn’t even know it’s on him and it’s very safe. Great post all the way. :)

     

  • http://dogtag-depot.com/ Dog tags

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    my dog wears a bolo necklace; which is
    thin and light, with the smallest round tag I could find. it’s an
    option for pet guardians who feel their pet may feel uncomfortable
    with a collar indoors. he doesn’t even know it’s on him and it’s very
    safe.Great post all the way. :)

     

  • Val

    I just keep one of my expired driver’s licenses in my backpack – :-)

    • http://www.briangreen.net Brian Green

      That’s an easy way to do it :) Thanks!

  • Val

    I just keep one of my expired driver’s licenses in my backpack – :-)

  • http://www.briangreen.net/ Brian Green

    That’s an easy way to do it :) Thanks!

  • fotogirl

    Road ID is the option I have chosen. My husband rides his bike a lot by himself and Road ID goes wherever he goes. After checking out the Road ID site, some of the stories there will convince you to never go anywhere without ID of some kind. There’s several options for how you want to wear it. I’ve also used the Sharpie and written my cell # directly on his reflective vest.

  • fotogirl

    Road ID is the option I have chosen. My husband rides his bike a lot by himself and Road ID goes wherever he goes. After checking out the Road ID site, some of the stories there will convince you to never go anywhere without ID of some kind. There’s several options for how you want to wear it. I’ve also used the Sharpie and written my cell # directly on his reflective vest.