Building An Effective Wilderness Survival Kit

Article written By R. Maxine Lundquist

Whether you are hiking or camping, an effective survival kit is something you should carry with you at all times. No one ever intends to get lost; it’s something that happens to you for some unforeseen reason. Sometimes it’s because people have travelled beyond established boundaries. Sometimes the family dog runs off into the bush and, following, the owner suddenly realizes he has no idea where he is. Looking for someone else who is lost can result in losing one’s bearings. There are more ways of getting lost than you can count.

You can buy a wilderness survival kit, but you can also make an excellent one yourself. A kit needs to have items that are essential for keeping core body temperature warm, signalling for help, and be something you cannot readily make in the wilderness. Each item also needs to be not only useable on it’s own but effective in combination with the other items in the kit as well. So here are some esssentials to pack:

  • Survival knife–This is the essential tool in your survival kit. With a good survival knife you can make everything else in your kit if you don’t have it. It should be a fixed-blade knife with about a 4.5″-6″ blade–that size is easy to carry around and will do grunt work like processing firewood and is also good for finer work like cleaning fish and cutting cord. It should also be made of high-carbon steel, which will spark when struck against quartz or flint, so you are able to start fires if you don’t have a fire-starter with you. See “Choosing A Good Camping Knife” for tips on choosing a good survival knife. One tip for survival knives–pick one that doesn’t have an anti-rust coating, which will make it more difficult to get a spark. They are a little more work maintenance-wise, but worth it when you’re lost in the wilderness trying to start a fire.
  • Firestarting device–Almost as important as a knife is something that will enable you to start a fire readily. You can find firestarters all over the place nowadays, but for survival interests your best bet is something that combines easy spark making abilities with some sort of accelerant. There is a product on the market called the Mini Inferno firestarter, and they are simple to find online and buy, but the video at the top of the page will teach you how to make your own, if you want to save yourself some money. Also, get yourself a good magnesium starter with a ferrocerium rod. Don’t stint on this–cheaper magnesium starters will have rods that separate from the magnesium block, and if you lose the rod you lose ability to make a fire easily.
  • Cord–About 75-100 feet of strong, multi-ply cord is a must have in any survival kit. Multi-ply cord can be separated into smaller fibers for line or tinder, and the obvious variety of situations in which you need cord speaks for itself as far as necessity is concerned. Paracord is a good choice because it’s readily available in a variety of applications for carrying it around–they are constructed as bracelets, belts, and any manner of items, making it very handy indeed. But some survivalists prefer 3-ply tarred mariners line because it grips well when making knots and you can get it in high-tensile strength form. The absolute best idea would be to wear a paracord bracelet or belt and put the mariners line in the kit.
  • Waterproof Container–A waterproof contain that you can keep most or all of your supplies in will not only keep everything dry, it will enable you to scoop earth instead of using your hands and get drinking water. Make sure it’s made of stainless steel and you can also use it to boil water in and make charred materials for firestarter. Your container should be sealable. That way you can carry water with you if you need to.
  • Cotton bandanna–A couple of these can help you make a sling, protective head gear, carry smaller items, even signal for help if they’re brightly colored. If you make sure they’re all cotton they’ll char well when burnt for making firestarter.
  • Emergency bivvy–An emergency bivvy folds up small, taking little space in a wilderness survival pack, and can be crucial for keeping core body temperature up. It can double as a sleep-sack and water-proof shelter. No kit should be without one.
  • Emergency blanket–Although a bivvy is technically an emergency blanket, an extra one for the express purpose of using as a medical aid should be added. They fold so small that one or two can be put in a kit without taking up much space or adding any significant weight. They are highly reflective, making them a good emergency help-signal and their prime advantage, that of reflecting back body heat, can’t be ignored. You can even use one as a heat reflector behind you in an emergency shelter with a fire in front.
  • Water purification tablets–These should always be carried. Should the unthinkable happen and you cannot make a fire, you can still drink water. In extremely hot or cold condition the human body can lose more than 3 liters of water a day due to evaporation. If you lose water and can’t replace it you run the risk of dehydration, delirium and collapse. Water is a must.
  • Food tablets–Although food tablets are not as crucial as water or fire they can sometimes be the difference between life and death in long-term situations of a week or more. We cover Survival Food Tablets in the article “Wilderness Survival Gear–Amazing Stuff” (#3 on the list), so we won’t go into it here, but needless to say they are a great idea and don’t take up much room.

There are other things you can add to a survival kit that are great–duct tape, protein bars, fishing and medical gear–and they will all do their part to help you survive in the wilderness. Just don’t forget the ones listed, is all I’m suggesting. They are more than good ideas. They are crucial to wilderness survival.



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