The first thing you’ll need before packing a survival kit is the location of where you’re headed. From there you will have a better idea of what you will need, as there is no point in bringing a poncho to the desert. A good way to start to think about what you might need is to ask yourself:
I get lost in the wilderness what would I need to survive?
This simple question will allow you to anticipate everything that you might need. That together with some research and you should be going in the right direction.
This list can be used as a guide to make your own kit so that you can get together everything you might need in case of an emergency situation. You may not need everything on this list, but it is better to be over-prepared rather than underprepared.
There is a lot of information on the internet about survival kits, but it can be difficult to tell what are necessities and what are luxuries. That’s why we’ve compiled this list of common wilderness survival items that should help you survive if you get stranded in the backcountry.
This list is only a guideline, for every situation and circumstance is different. You should tweak this list to best suit the particular environment and circumstances.
Survival Gear You Need in Your Bag
We have broken down you basic wilderness survival gear into some categories that might help to better understand everything you might need.
- First Aid
In a survival situation, water is your highest priority, period. Three days (maybe a bit longer) without it and you’re a goner. Being able to turn undrinkable, soiled water into potable, life-giving water is one of the closest things we’ll get to magic in our age.
Having a high quality water filter will save you from being dependent on having to lug around a bunch of water and will boost your survival chances considerably.
I. Survivor Filter PRO
If you are looking to go far away from civilization or you want to be prepared for when things go south, ultimately you will have to depend on natural water sources. When you’re out in the wild for days on end your relationship with water changes considerably, you’ll see how precious it is and you’ll most likely develop a resourceful water management system. In many parts of the world you might not come across a drinking source for a few days and when you do it might not be the most appealing (think animal waterhole).
A good water filter will not only let you drink from any water source but will also allow you to fill up your reserves, keeping you alive for a few more days (that’s all that matters).
The Survivor Filter PRO is a pumpable state-of-the-art water filter that is easy to use and can handle huge quantities of water (100,000L/ 26,400Gal) before replacing the filter. It also boasts the smallest filter rating (0.01 micron) on the portable filter market thanks to its triple filter system – which is enough to get rid of viruses too. Although the pump pressure can be a bit slow, its worth the wait.
Water Purification Tablets
Before the technological advancements of high quality, portable water filters, purification tablets were the go-to method of providing clean drinking water. Water purification tablets are made of chemicals (usually in the form of iodine or chlorine) that kill harmful microorganisms in water bodies without posing any danger (at least for short-term usage). There are many different chemical compositions each with its unique pros and cons.
II. Katadyn Micropur MP1 Purification Tablets
The main things you want to look out for are residual taste, purification time and efficiency. Using water purification tablets will require that you have two containers on that go at once. One for purifying your water and one for water yet to be purified as it usually takes around 30 min to kill everything in there. Although if you get the Survival Filter PRO you may never need tablets, although they’re so small, it’s always good to have a backup.
Katadyn MICROPUR MP1 Water Purification Tablets is a great choice fas they are cost-effective, leave very little after taste and get the job done fast.
Right after water, fire is the next most important resource you will need to master in the wilderness. Not only is it a necessity for cooking food, keeping you warm, but also for keeping predators at bay, and for signaling for help if you are stranded. It’s not an exaggeration to say that without fire your chances of survival drop drastically especially in colder climates if you find yourself without proper clothes or shelter.
III. UST Strikeforce
This is why a reliable means of starting fire is a must when heading out to the backcountry. For the short term a few matchboxes may suffice, though they can get wet, and if you’re hiking in a place that rains or are going on a long hiking trip then you probably should consider other backup options. Some swear by good quality lighters, but good luck finding a butane refill out in the wild.
Our recommendation is either ferrocerium, magnesium or flint fire starters. They are small, lightweight and completely invulnerable to the fickleness of the weather. They take a little while to get used to because you’re working with embers rather than a direct flame but a good fire starter will be making you fires for years. Make sure you practice a few times before you head out, as its always important you know how to use your equipment before push comes to shove.
The UST Strikeforce certainly ticks all the right boxes. It is flint-based, produces great embers even when wet and provides up to 4000 strikes. Weighing 3.7oz (105g) it’s not the lightest model we’ve come across but the great build quality and amount of strikes you get is worth it.
Unless you are a die-hard survivalist and want to make a shelter out of the forest foor, you’re going to need a reliable tent. A tent is your home on the road. A good tent provides more than just shelter, it gives you warmth from the elements and also protection from animals.
IV. Snugpak Ionosphere
There are many factors when choosing a tent that suits all your needs, these include pack weight, required functionality, temperature, weather and fauna. This tent here is more of an emergency-style tent used in situations where you might be stranded, as its not your typical backpacking tent.
A tent capable of handling almost anything you throw at it is the Snugpak Ionosphere. A one-man tent yet it is quiet spacious, boasting great weatherproofing, exceptionally lightweight and it even comes with a handy repair kit. This tent is a go-to survival partner.
We cover the art of finding the perfect tent for your needs in the Best Survival Tent.
4. First aid & Emergency Gear
First aid kit
Even if it sits idle in your backpack for months on end, never go out into a survival situation without a first-aid kit. When the inevitable accident happens and you’re miles from civilization you want to know you can patch either yourself or someone else up.
V. Surviveware Survival First Aid Kit
Often the biggest problems start as the smallest cut; infections can spread quickly and really cause trouble and even can have life-threatening consequences. There are many unexpected situations that you can find yourself in, any number of which can go wrong.
With a full-spec survival kit you’ll be covered. Just make sure you learn what everything does before you’re forced to use it.
The Surviveware Survival First Aid Kit is the complete package, a real portable hospital. You’ll be wondering how they even fit so many medical items into such a (relatively) small space. It also contains other extra tools like a: multitool, knife, tactical flashlight etc. Solo survivalists might want to look at more lightweight options but this is a great option for those traveling in pairs or groups.
Emergency Survival Whistle
Whistles are an effective self-defense tool in the wilderness as well in the city. They serve as distress signals in case you inadvertently wander off-trail and away from the rest of your group. Whistles can also alert wild animals of your approach and encourage them to slink off before your arrival or even scare them away when they get too close.
VI. TI-EDC Emergency Whistle
It’s never a bad idea to have an emergency whistle on hand. They can be used in many situations from warring off predators like bears and mountain lions but also can be used if you get lost from your hiking group. The distress call is man-made so anyone that hears it will know that someone is in danger.
The ultra-lightweight and durable TI-EDC Emergency Whistle is our top choice. With the handy keychain attachment, it’s easy to keep on your person and likely you will not even notice it until the time comes when it save you.
Out in nature, your body’s internal temperatures can rise or drop very suddenly. This is where space blankets, named after the insulating material used on spacecraft, come in. They are able to either reflect the external heat off you or your own heat back at you, meaning they protect you from extreme cases of body-temperature fluctuations.
VII. Bearhard 3.0 Emergency Blanket
Trying to survive cold nights without adequate protection and chances are you will not last long. If you don’t die of exposure, there is hypothermia and exhaustion that can really affect your ability to function. These extremely lightweight and compact blankets will also double up either as an extra layer of bedding in case of an unexpectedly cold night or as a tent footprint to protect the tent from a wet floor.
The Bearhard 3.0 emergency blanket is several steps above the regular space blankets that you’ll find in first aid kits. It’s a sturdy emergency tarp that can also act as a space blanket, although a bit on the heavy side it’s better than having a paper-thin one. The fact that it is super compact makes up for it.
We’ve become so accustomed to living our lives with artificial light on demand that we often don’t realise how daunting it is when you’re completely surrounded by impenetrable darkness. Not only does it significantly reduce your capabilities, it has a habit of playing tricks on the mind.
VIII. Life+Gear Stormproof Crank Light
No matter how short you plan your trip, a trusty light source is a must, even if you think you won’t need it. We personally prefer the hands-free option of head torches but we understand that flashlights have the upper hand in survival situations. The biggest advantage of these is the ability to fit a dynamo on it that makes light out of your energy and can act as a charger for your devices too.
In recent years flashlights have come a long way and the Life+Gear Stormproof Crank Light is a perfect example of great tech at work. Featuring an efficient crank, a 480mAh battery pack, a powerful adjustable light, and even a built-in radio to keep you up to date in serious survival situations. On top of this, it’s stormproof and has great build quality. With this thing in your kit, you’ll be slicing through the darkness.
A multi-tool will help you perform a variety of tasks in the wild such as chopping and crafting wood, preparing food, fixing broken gear, and even popping open a bottle of bubbly to celebrate your survival ;).
IX. Surge Heavy Duty Survival Multitool
There are many who prefer a good quality blade yet multi-tools and knives have their separate uses and we recommend having both. The blade in a multi-tool quite often can’t stand up to the wear and tear that a proper knife can, in the same way that a knife can’t help with sawing, opening, pulling, twisting like a multi tool can.
If you’re looking for the best name in multitools, Leatherman should be way up there. They make multi-tools that are a Pandora’s box for survivalists. The Surge Heavy Duty Survival Multitool packs a modest 21 tools in it and is so incredibly well made that Leatherman offers a 25-year warranty on it and all their tools.
Ropes are extremely important parts of preppers and survivalists’ armoire. Many of the more crafty survivalists will learn to make it out of surrounding natural materials but if they had something better around, like paracord, it would be a no-brainer to use it.
X. 1/4″ ParaMax Paracord
Paracord is like rope but made with extremely high strength to weight ratio nylon used by the army and even astronauts. When it comes to survival situations, rope is one of those tools that have a thousand uses. This is why we recommend you never head out without a few meters of paracord. You never know when you’re going to have to string some of your surroundings together for your survival needs, even if it’s as simple as making a pair of sandals or setting up a rain tarp.
Offering well-built and great value-for-money paracords, you really cannot go wrong with Paracord Planet. You want something that is able to handle your weight when moving (non-static load weight), we recommend at least ¼” like this 1/4″ ParaMax with 1200lbs tensile strength.
If you take care of your feet, your feet will take care of you. It’s such a crucial part of outdoor safety and for those who don’t know, there are many factors to consider.
This is why we’ve covered it in a lot more detail here Best Survival Boots to Explore the Wilderness. But if you want just one pair of boots that we would say will get you there and back again then we have a pair for you.
XI. Salomon Quest 4D 2 GTX Hiking boot
In an unknown survival situation, your highest priorities in a boot are going to be comfort and the ability to stand the test of time (unless you’re extremely handy – you can’t get new shoes in the wild). This will ensure that your feet are letting you take you where you need to go.
The Salomon Quest 4D 2 GTX Hiking boot has been one of the best-selling hiking boots over the last few years and for good reason. It is lightweight and extremely comfortable while the superior build makes it extremely durable. All this makes it a great all-around choice for your ability to survive whatever nature throws at you.
People tend to ignore maps outrightly or play down their importance when packing supplies for their trip. This may be down to the fact that they consider the event of getting lost pretty unlikely. In reality, if you can estimate that you’ll stay in a particular area, it would be wise to have a topographic map of it. If the unlikely situation of getting completely lost becomes a reality, maps might just save your life.
XII. National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map
Besides, not only is knowing how to read a map a pretty cool skill, maps will give you a comprehensive outlook of the area, most importantly indicating where potential water sources might be. Aim to get a weatherproof one as reading from soggy, disintegrating paper is never fun.
It’s best to procure maps, like National Geographic’s range of hiking maps, for your intended destination from your trip advisor or nearby hiking store. Make sure you get at least a 1:100,000 resolution, anything more than that won’t give you the details you need when you’re on foot.
Having a compass is something that you are going to want in most wilderness situations. Though like most survival skills you are going to want to know how to use it before you go out into the backcountry. It does seem easy enough, though it can be tricky to find north.
XIII. Sharp Survival Compass
We are so used to knowing where we are at any given time that we likely do not even know North from South. Society’s over-reliance on tech has made us all pretty clueless when it comes to directions. A compass is a rudimentary yet absolutely essential element when prepping your your kit.
The Sharp Survival Compass is an old-fashioned, reliable model with a premium feel that comes from its copper material which we really like over most of the other plastic ones out there. Compasses may feel outdated but it is one of those pieces of gear that you don’t really want to do without. Knowing where you are is one of those life and death type of questions.
Check Out Our Complete List of Survival Compasses
Wilderness Survival Kit List
While the 13 items we went through are a start to creating your survival kit, it may not be complete. Here are a list of 25 items that can be thrown in your bag.
- Fire Starter
- Water Purifier/Filter
- Trauma Kit (Bandages, gauze pads)
- First Aid Kit (Antiseptic wipes, tweezers)
- Compass and Map
- Blanket and Emergency Blanket
- Knife or multi-tool
- Emergency Poncho
- Extra Clothes (hat, gloves)
- Tools for shelter building
- Matches in a waterproof container
- Mirror & Signal Mirror
- Tarp or emergency blanket
- Sunscreen and lip balm
- Easy to carry food(Trail mix, beef jerky or protein bars _
- Emergency whistle
- Extra socks
- Nylon cord or rope
- Flashlight, headlamp or glow stick
- Signal Mirror
- Survival/Camping shovel
- Bear spray
- Fishing line/hooks
- Magnifying glass
This is by no means a complete list. As everyone has their preferences and there are so many tools out there especially now. While many of them are redundant, there are a few techie tools that may just make survival just a bit easier. That being said we are purists and prefer old-fashioned tools.
How to Make a Wilderness Survival Kit
Now that we have a rough idea of the type of gear you might want to consider, now it’s time to see what right for you. Building a wilderness survival kit will be different for each person and in each scenario.
Here are some questions that will help you evaluate your needs before you start the process of putting together an “ultimate” wilderness survival kit:
- What will my environment be like?
- Where will I be? (ex. deep jungle vs. forest)
- How cold/hot is it likely to get?
- How many days will I be away?
- What types of animals will be where I am going?
- Will there be any local food sources? (lakes for fish, edible plants, small game etc.)
Preparation is all about asking the right questions. If you don’t ask the right questions you will be unable to prepare yourself for what may come. By answering these questions you will be able to better plan for any future scenarios that you might face.
Preparation is key.
When you have an idea of the type of terrain, weather, conditions you might face you will have a better idea of gear you should bring. Making a survival kit can be done at home or you can buy pre-made survival kits depending on what you are looking for.
FAQ: Questions that Come up About Survival Kits
1. How many people will be sharing the wilderness survival kit?
How many people will determine the size of your kit. If you are planning to go on a trip with a group of 5 you will likely need less of some items and more of others, in comparison if you were going solo.
2. How experienced are you in the outdoors?
Assessing your own outdoor and survival skills is an important aspect of preparation. Ego check yourself so that you don’t go into the wild with a big head. Going without proper gear just because you think you are some Bear Grylls will only cause trouble. As even the most skilled mountaineers and hikers get lost and die due to their own self-delusion.
"One thing that mother nature teaches you - how to be humble."
3. What type of emergencies are you likely to face?
The type of emergencies you are likely to face will vary depending on the environment, time of year, location etc… If you going into the mountains then things like losing the trail or twisting an ankle might be some scenarios to prepare for. In those situations, you might want to be sure and bring a compass, some aspirin and ankle wraps, for example. Or if you are going into the jungle you might want to prepare yourself for snake bites and torrential rain and would more likely want to bring a heavy-duty poncho and snake bit kit.
Packing a survival kit is an important and often overlooked step when heading outdoors. We’ve compiled this list to help you get started on thinking about what items may be necessary for your next trip. We suggest you do your research before you head on out to be sure you have got all your basics covered. So the question is – what’s in your wilderness survival kit?