Surviving in the wilderness is not a joke. Nature is no respecter of persons and doesn’t do any of us any favors. While nature is very generous in providing us with an abundance of things that we need, it is just as quick to take our life, if we do not follow the rules.
That’s why it’s always important to be prepared when going into the wilderness. I don’t care if you’re just going for a short walk in the woods, you could fall into a stream, breaking your leg and getting wet all at the same time. Once the sun went down, you would be at risk of hypothermia. That simple walk in the woods could easily turn into a death sentence, under the wrong circumstances.
I’m a cautious person by nature, with an incredibly good, natural sense of direction. But that doesn’t mean I can’t get lost in the woods. It’s happened to me twice; both times from listening to members of my party who were sure they knew where we were, even though they didn’t have any idea.
When something like that happens, your very survival could be dependent on carrying the right equipment with you. While it is possible to get by without these items, in each case you would need to know how to make something to perform that function, out of what you can find. Personally, I’d rather make sure I’m carrying these things with me.
A Good Knife
A knife is the single most important piece of survival equipment you can find. Not only does it allow you to hunt and protect yourself, it can also be used to make a number of other things that you will need. For this reason, it’s worth spending the money on a good knife, so that you can depend on it.
For survival purposes you really don’t want a folding knife, but rather a fixed blade one. Make sure that it is “full tang,” which means that the blade extends all the way through the handle. That way, it can’t break easily. Good steel is important too, so that the knife will hold an edge.
Fire is probably one of mankind’s greatest inventions, as we use it for so many things. In a survival situation it can provide you with warmth, light and a means of signaling for rescue. It is also needed for cooking any food you find, as well as being able to be used for purifying water.
Most survival instructors will tell you that you should have two primary and two secondary fire starters in a survival kit. I don’t go quite that far. But what I don’t expect in quantity, I make up for in quality. I’d rather have good, reliable fire starters, so that I don’t need to depend on my secondary ones. So, I carry a stormproof butane lighter as my primary fires starter and a BlastMatch as my secondary.
Cell Phone and Solar Charger
The modern smart phone can be an incredibly useful survival tool, if you use it right. That requires preparing the cell phone, by making sure that it has survival books and information downloaded and in storage. You should also check that you have a usable GPS and topographical maps of wherever you are going to be.
But the most important use of your smart phone is to let people know where you are going and when you expect to get back. That way, if you don’t show up, they can call for help. So can you, assuming you have any signal to use. If your signal is low, you might still be able to text.
One problem that smart phones is that the batteries don’t last long enough. This is easily solved by carrying a solar charger with you. Most have a built-in battery, allowing you to store a full charge for your phone. With a solar charger, you can continue using your phone long after the battery would otherwise be out. However, you probably won’t be able to use it 24/7.
No matter where you are, you can’t trust the water to be clean. That beautiful clear mountain stream bubbling past you can be filled with a variety of microscopic pathogens that would make you sick at the least and could kill you at the worst. You just never know who has been using that as their personal latrine, upstream of you.
A good water filter will remove 99% or more of the pathogens from the water, making it safe to drink. If you buy one that will work in conjunction with your water bottle, you will have a way of filtering and carrying water with you.
Aluminum Water Bottle or Canteen
Hopefully there will be water wherever you are; but you can’t always count on that. So you should always carry along at least a liter of purified water with you. If you carry that in an aluminum water bottle, you’ll have something that can be put in the fire. That way, if your water filter breaks, you can still purify water.
A Warm Jacket
This is one that people forget all the time. Even if it’s warm during the daytime, it can get very cool at night. Many cases of hypothermia happen because of that, especially if the individual gets wet just before nightfall. Take a seasonally appropriate warm jacket along, even if you don’t think you’ll need it.
It’s also a good idea to take a pair of good leather gloves and a hat. You can lose as much as 25% of your body heat through the top of your head. So the fastest way to warm up is putting on a hat. Gloves are important not only to protect your fingers from frostbite, but also to protect your hands from rocks, thorns and other things that might cut them up.
Rain Poncho, Tarp, or Space Blanket
There are many ways of making a shelter out of the materials you can find in the wild. But it’s easier to do, if you have a shelter with you. It might take an hour or more to construct a debris hut, but it only takes 10 minutes to string up a tarp to make a shelter.
A rain poncho makes an excellent tarp as well, with the added benefit of being able to be used as what it is, just in case it rains. For my bug out bag, I have both. But for the survival kit I carry with me, I count on my rain poncho to perform double duty as a shelter.
A good rope can help you to do lots of things. But most rope is hard to carry along for a day’s outing, just because of the bulk. However, paracord is designed to be light, compact and still very strong. The common military paracord that is sold for survival uses is also referred to as “550 cord” because it is rated at being able to hold 550 pounds. If you compare that to the other rope you can find in the hardware store, you’ll see that it is stronger than other cordage that’s much bigger in diameter.
Last but not least, the old standby of a compass is still worth carrying. While you might even have a compass app on your phone, a physical compass is better. You phone’s compass will stop working if the GPS system goes out, which could happen in the event of an EMP attack. But that EMP won’t stop a physical compass from doing its job.
Even if you don’t have a topographical map of the area you are in, a compass can help you get out. Simply pick a direction and keep walking in a straight line. That’s where the compass helps. You’ll eventually hit some sign of civilization if you can keep yourself from walking around in circles.