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Wilderness Survival Essentials

Whether you’re planning a casual hike or want to camp out in the woods for a week, prepare as much as possible for any issue that may occur.

While you don’t need to skip out on all of life’s luxuries while “roughing it,” there are some essentials you can’t do without in your wilderness survival kits – should the worst happen.

Even if you’re in a well-camped area, you never know what may happen in the wild, so it’s always better to prepare for the worst and hope for the best.

With that in mind, let’s go over 10 essential items you should keep in your bag or backpack for wilderness survival.

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Wilderness Emergency Essentials

While the particulars vary depending on your preferences or individual needs, what’s most important is that you bring something that qualifies as one of these essentials.

Ideally, whatever you bring should be rated for camping or wilderness survival so that it’s more beneficial to have with you.

For example, you could bring a butter knife with you while camping, but that will not help you cut rope or whittle a stick.

Another thing to keep in mind is that these are all essentials.

So, don’t pay too much attention to each item’s ranking on our list as number 1 and number 10 will both be important.

Wilderness Preparedness Essentials

Emergency Disaster Lighting

In cities, light pollution is such a problem that we never really get to experience true darkness at night.

There is always light coming from somewhere, whether a streetlamp, neon sign, or a car’s headlights.

When you first get out into nature and see how dark it can really get without a constant glow, you will understand how important it is to have a good flashlight on you at all times.

This is especially true when the moon isn’t out or it’s cloudy.

Possible Items: flashlight, lantern, headlamp

No matter what, bring multiple sources of light with you so you can do activities at night.

If all you have is a single flashlight, you’ll be severely limited in where you can go without the risk of stumbling, falling, or hurting yourself in the process.

A campfire is a great source of illumination, but it has limited range and doesn’t provide sufficient lighting for most activities.

Batteries are another thing you’ll need to remember.

Bring spares regardless of how long you will be outdoors, as you never know if you will need them.

As far as lanterns are concerned, you can either get a gas or electric model.

We highly suggest electric since it is much less of a fire hazard and significantly quieter.

We also list headlamps here because they can be incredibly useful while out in the woods.

Having both hands free gives you the ability to carry wood, hold onto supplies, or do any number of things that would be impossible or especially difficult while holding a flashlight or lantern in one hand.

Overall, a headlamp is not necessary, but it’s good to have.

There are many compact, lightweight headlamps on the market that use bright LEDs to illuminate your path.

Survival Knife

If you are serious about the outdoors, then you know how valuable a knife can be while out on the trail.

No matter what you’re trying to do, having a knife by your side makes most tasks easier.

That being said, you want a knife that is both robust and sharp.

Otherwise, it won’t do you much good.

Here are some examples of what you can do with a knife, besides whittling or carving wood.

• Cutting rope
• Creating bandages
• Defending yourself from animals
• Starting fires
• Building tools
• Building shelter
• Cutting cloth

Overall, you will find plenty of uses for your knife while out and about.

This is especially true if you’re in a survival situation and don’t have food or shelter readily available.

A knife can cut branches to make a lean-to, carve sticks to use as spears, or kill an animal that’s caught in a trap.

In short, a decent camping knife could save your life if the circumstances required it.

Another thing to think about is whether you want to bring multiple blades.

Saws and axes are always handy while camping since you can chop wood for your fire.

If you don’t have any wood or you run out, then you’ll need something a bit more substantial than a knife.

In the end, however, saws and axes are really only for cutting wood. If you don’t need to do that while you’re out on the trail, then don’t bring the extra weight.

Survival Rope / Cord

When you’re camping, and especially if you’re out backpacking, you will find that rope or paracord is invaluable for your survival and comfort.

Even if your shelter comes with its own assembly equipment, having some rope handy will make your life much easier overall.

You can do so many different things with rope.

Best of all, the rope is reusable and customizable.

Here are some great things that rope allows you to do.

• Building emergency shelter
• Hoisting food away from wildlife
• Tying stuff to your bag
• Creating handles
• Tying poles together
• Making splints or bandages for first aid
• Climbing
• Hunting traps
• Fishing line
• Repairing your tent

Overall, it’s always better to have rope on hand no matter where you go.

You might get through your whole trip without needing it, but it’s better to have it and not use it than not have it and need it.

Best of all, you can find paracord bracelets that you can wear, so you don’t add a lot of extra weight.

It’s important to note that paracord stretches when wet.

You can use that to your advantage and tie something off when the cord is damp so it becomes even tighter when it dries.

Then, wet it again and you can pry it off easier.

Emergency First Aid Kit

Even if you’re extra careful while on your camping or backpacking trip, things happen all the time.

Whether it’s a splinter or a scrape, it’s imperative that you treat all wounds immediately so they don’t get infected.

Plenty of people have succumbed to infection or diseases because they had a mild cut that wasn’t treated.

So, don’t leave anything to chance.

Ideally, your first aid kit should contain the following:

• Bandages
• Antiseptic ointment
• Gauze
• Rubbing alcohol (wet naps are fine)
• Gloves

If it comes with extras, such as tweezers or pain medication, then you are ultimately better off.

Make sure and keep your kit in a waterproof package if it isn’t in one already.

If it rains or you wind up falling in a lake, the materials inside must stay dry or they can become ruined.

Disaster Proof Firestarter

No matter what happens on your camping trip, one thing that will be an absolute necessity is fire.

If you want to stay warm or cook food, then you will need fire and should have some method of creating it from scratch.

Here are some primary examples of firestarters you should have in your bag.

• Waterproof matches
• Flint
• Tinder (if possible)
• Lighter

When purchasing matches, get ones that are rated for the outdoors.

A standard matchbook will be too flimsy and the matches will burn out before you can get your fire really going.

The best ones will have a long, thick handle so you can hold it up to your tinder until it ignites.

If the matches are too short, you will go through several of them before your fire gets going.

Keep in mind that you will need small bits of wood to get the flame started, so stock up on tinder and kindling.

Big logs are perfect for keeping a fire going through the night, but they won’t do anything to get it started.

Your flammable tinder material must also stay dry at all times.

Emergency Supply Map / Navigation

Out in the wild, we can’t rely on a GPS or phone signal to point us in the right direction.

You may have to depend on a map and compass to find your way.

If you don’t know how to read them, make sure to learn before heading off into the woods.

If you are adamant about using technology to orient yourself, rely on something stable like a satellite phone or a camping GPS.

Smartphones or mobile devices aren’t built for survival situations, so don’t assume that they will work.

Also, if you drop your phone, it may malfunction and break, so you need something a bit more robust that can take a beating.

If you bring a map and compass, make sure it’s for the particular area in which you’re hiking or camping.

Once you get there, orient yourself as soon as possible.

If you can, navigate your way to the campsite on the map so that you know how you came in.

That way, you can find your way out if necessary.

The more you utilize the map and orient yourself, the less chance you have of getting lost.

Finally, learn how to figure out directions from the location of the sun.

We all know that it rises in the east and sets in the west.

Orient yourself geo-directionally via the sun if all else fails.

Emergency Water

It only takes about three to four days to die of dehydration.

So, if you plan on staying out in the wild for more than a couple of hours, you need to drink lots of water.

On average, a human needs about a gallon of water per day.

This is especially true if you are doing physical activity like hiking or canoeing.

Bring as much extra water as you can carry and find places to fill up your canteen.

If you are in a survival situation and need to find clean potable water, rivers and streams are your best bet as running water stays cleaner than stagnant water.

Keep a filter or purification tablets on hand so you don’t get sick.

If you don’t have any, you can use your clothing as a makeshift filter to get all of the big chunks out and remove any substantial life forms that may be living in it.

While it won’t be perfect, it will keep you hydrated until you can find a better source.

Emergency Survival Food

Although you can last a lot longer without food than water, it’s always a good idea to stay well fed on your journey.

To minimize weight, focus on bringing high calorie, prepackaged food.

Protein bars are ideal as they can give you everything you need to stay satiated without weighing you down.

It’s important to note that fresh food will spoil.

Essentially, anything that needs to stay refrigerated should be consumed immediately or stored on ice until cooked.

If you are hunting or fishing on your trip, don’t let the meat sit out for too long or it will rot.

Emergency Safety Clothes

No matter how long your trip is, you will want to change clothes at some point.

Even if you’re backpacking and space is limited in your bag, keep an extra set on-hand just in case.

Extra clothes have other functions as well, including makeshift water filters, makeshift rope or increased comfort while sleeping.

Consider bringing a small container of soap with you so you can wash your clothes while you’re out in the wild.

Have plenty of water for that purpose, or collect relatively clean water from the source, so you aren’t trading hydration for cleanliness.

Emergency Survival Shelter

Finally, don’t be caught in the wilderness without having some kind of shelter.

A tent is by far the most common thing to carry, but even if it’s something as basic as a tarp and a sleeping bag you are much better off than having nothing.

Other items you can use as an emergency shelter include garbage bags, a space blanket or a bivy sack.

Shelter is essential to protect you from the elements while you sleep – no matter where you go.

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