Nine Essential Pieces of Equipment for Wilderness Survival

With the dizzying number of choices in the “wilderness survival” market these days, it’s a real challenge trying to figure out what the most important items are. Do you want to be prepared if you get caught out in the wilderness? Do you want to know how to survive and even thrive in adverse conditions?

Outdoor enthusiasts, from beginners to experts, need to know where to begin, and that means understanding how to assemble a must-have set of equipment for safe survival in remote locations. It’s really a question of life and death!

After doing some deep research online, I was able to narrow the list down to just nine things that experts say are absolute musts for anybody who heads to the great out-of-doors, away from all the trappings of civilization. Mother Nature throws all kinds of weather situations at us, so a trek to remote locations is always a calculated risk even in the best of times.

Price is an Unreliable Guide

There are two key things to know about buying survival equipment, as I learned when shopping for myself. The very first thing I realized was that price is not an accurate indicator of quality. That goes both ways, as a matter of fact: high price tags don’t mean “the best” any more than low prices mean “cheap junk.”

The trick seems to be in finding the best-reviewed stuff, items that have stood the test of time in the marketplace. With that idea as my main guide, I assembled nine things at various price points from several different manufacturers (some companies specialize in just one or two categories).

The List, or “The Big 9”

  1. A knife: At the top of just about every survival list, a standard, fixed-blade knife and sheath serve dozens of purposes: making weapons, cutting rope, making fire-starting equipment, bandage cutting, cutting cloth for tent making and repair, and more. The Amazon Jungle Survival Knife is a versatile, inexpensive option that offers a rugged blade design, a built-in compass and mini-survival kit, a stainless steel blade and a wearable sheath. There’s no need to spend a fortune on a knife. Remember to get a decent folding knife like a Swiss army-type for backup.
  2. Survival guidebook: Part of the survival puzzle is knowledge. One of the best sources of wilderness lore and helpful tips is Greg Davenport’s book, Wilderness Survival (Second Edition). This was one of the first outdoor books I read and it really covers everything. It has tons of illustrations and detailed explanations for core survival skills like signaling, locating water and food, first aid/health, personal safety and protection, and how to keep your sanity when an emergency arises. There’s an awesome section on how to build a lean-to out of rope and a small tarp or plastic bag.
  3. Cord/rope: This is another no-brainer for all survivalists. Paracord ropes like the ones from Paracord Planet, rated 550-lbs or higher, are ideal for hundreds of basic tasks like fishing, tent repair/maintenance, climbing, making hunting traps, fastening your gear to your pack, and dozens of other uses. Less than $20 buys as much rope as you will need.
  4. Water container/bottle: No explanation needed on this one. Avoid those “camelback”-type water sacks that go on your back. They are good for casual hiking, but don’t work well when you need to carry a big pack of gear. Try a standard wide-mouth water bottle with a hydro flask handle. Cost is under $20 for something that will last many years.
  5. Compass and signal mirror: Knowing where you are and where you’re headed is important in the outdoors, especially when you’re off the beaten path. And being able to signal for help is an absolute necessity. The Helenbac signal mirror gets the job done and costs less than $10. Likewise, the Eyeskey military compass is a reliable compass for under $20 that will last for decades if properly maintained. To complete the compass/signal trifecta, don’t forget to pack a good, loud whistle for emergencies. Heimdall offers a two-pack of safety/survival whistles for under $10. Being able to call for help and find your way out of the deep woods is vital if you become lost.
  6. Backpack: Redrock makes a very high-quality pack that does it all, and costs less than $40. The trick for getting a good pack is finding one that can accommodate all your gear, with a little room to spare. There is no reason to spend big on a giant pack that will tire you out. Shop smart. Know how much room all your stuff takes up, and buy accordingly. The suggested pack above might be too small or too large for your needs, so plan ahead.
  7. Emergency tent: The Survivor X shelter tube tent costs about $10 and has all the essentials for staying dry and warm in adverse conditions.
  8. Emergency sleeping bag: The Mylar bags on the market today are ideal for staying warm. Mylar is a wonderful fabric because it takes up almost no space when packed, but can really keep a body warm, even in extremely cold temperatures. Cost is minimal as well, usually under $20 for a functional, reliable bag.
  9. Honorable mention: a)A small first-aid kit that you can buy at any big-box store for under $10 is a good addition to your gear collection. b)Garbage bags are also multi-purpose items that take up almost no pack space and can be used to build a simple lean-to or create a makeshift rain poncho if things get wet and sloppy. The ability to keep yourself and your gear dry is of paramount importance, and sometimes a thing as simple as a garbage bag makes the difference. c)Finally, it is a good idea to bring along one or two changes of clothes in case your primary stuff gets damaged or wet. If you need to hike long distances, a dry pair of socks and a fresh shirt or pair of pants are worth their weight in gold. And why not take a friend along if you plan to do a long hike. “Friends” aren’t considered equipment of course, but two hikers are always safer than one.

What’s Your List Look Like?

If you have different favorites, or think the list should be shorter or longer for whatever reason, we’d like to hear about it! Hit us up on our Facebook page or leave a comment below and share your survival equipment tips for all to see and learn from.

We’re most interested in pinpointing the very best, and the most essential things that outdoor survivalists need as a basic starting point for supplies.

Living safely and comfortably in the wilderness can be the challenge of a lifetime. It can also be invigorating, empowering and just plain fun. Knowing about the “tools of the trade” is a vital part of the game.

There’s really no need to face dangerous situations unprepared. It makes sense to plan now for any outdoor scenario that might come along. That way, you’ll have the peace of mind that experienced survivalists enjoy when the unexpected happens.

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