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10 Things to Pack to Survive Any Wilderness
From the Boy Scouts I learned to always be prepared. The Marine Corps taught me to improvise and adapt to any situation. Surviving an unfortunate trip into the wilderness can be managed in the same way. First be prepared. The items listed here are vital for any extended excursion into the wilderness. Any one of them could save your life. Not having them can be the difference between surviving and dying.
A good survival knife is the most important piece of survival equipment you can carry. It will provide personal safety, it can be used to build shelter, dress game or prepare any foods you may get your hands on. You can build other tools with a good survival knife like a fishing spear or a throwing club or snares to catch small game.
The perfect survival knife should have a blade of 4 to 6 inches in length and have a full tang, meaning that the blade extends into the handle as one single piece. Longer blade make the knife difficult to handle and sometimes impractical to use. Avoid hollow handle knives or knives with compass on the handle as these features weaken the durability of the knife. Nothing is worse than having the handle brake off at in importune moment. Also try to avoid the “Rambo” type of knife, they look cool but they’re usually too large to handle many of the uses needed by a survival knife. Check out the Marine Corps K-bar or almost any knife made by SOG knives.
Fire starting Equipment
Packing waterproof matches or lighters is always a great idea but in an emergency (if you fall in the drink or get caught in a storm or a flash flood and lighters tend to brake down) it’s always wise to carry a fire starting device such as a Magnesium fire starter from Campmor or the Aurora fire starter. You don’t have to worry about them getting wet or braking down. Carry one and you’ll always carry fire with you.
Water purification system
Having potable water is vital for survival. Dehydration or drinking contaminated water will kill you faster than lack of nutrition. Carrying a simple water purification system such as the Aquasafestraw (a simple device that allow you to drink water through a straw-like device from any river, pond, or lake) or water purification tablets can save your life or the life of those around you. They cost almost nothing and take little or no space in you pack.
First Aid Kit
Any minor injury in the wilderness can become life threatening if not treated properly and promptly. Having a great first aid kit can save your life. First aid kits can range from the extensive, such as ADVENTURE MEDICAL KITS Comprehensive First Aid Kit which can treat General care, Sting/bite/burn care, Wound care, Cut/scrape care, Blister care, Medications, CPR and bleeding and Fractures and sprains, to the more compact, yet still very effective, REI Backpacker First Aid Kit. If you want your first aid kit to save your life ensure you pack more than band aids and head ache medicine.
How can duct tape save your life? You can secure a splint on a broken leg or arm. You can waterproof a bandage on a laceration. You can secure a bandage on you torso fast and tightly. You can repair tents, sleeping bags, packs, clothing, footwear and almost anything with duct tape.
It can be used to secure plastic bags around your feet to protect them from water and to prevent the bags from sliding into your boots, or to cover heels or sensitive spots on your feet to prevent blisters. You can insert your sleeping bag into a garbage bag and tape the bags together to keep dry or for extra heat. The uses are limited only by your imagination. Bring a roll of duct tape it could save your life.
Extra Pair of Socks
If you don’t think a dry pair of socks can’t save your life you haven’t humped enough. Taking care of your feet is priority one if you get lost and need to walk yourself out. A bad blister can limit your mobility or force you to be stranded in the worse places, turning what is normally considered an annoyance into a life threatening crisis. Keeping your feet dry (from water or sweat) will prevent blisters and fungus infections. Stop every few hours and air out your feet. Rotate your socks and let the replaced one air dry as you walk so you always have a dry pair. Keep a plastic bag to keep you extra pair of socks dry in case of rain.
If you’re walking your way out of the woods you may have to cover plenty of territory and in doing so you may come across a bear. You never want to encounter a bear but if you do you might as well be prepared. Bear spay is extremely effective in repelling bear attacks. Don not confuse this product with regular mace or law enforcement pepper spray make sure the can says, "for deterring attacks by bears", such as Guard Alaska Bear Pepper Spray, or UDAP Magnum Bear Spray. These sprays have an effective range of 15 to 30 feet, keeping the bear well at bay, and can be used in any temperature hot or cold.
A compass/GPS system
Going into the wilderness without a compass or GPS system is like going into the wilderness without a knife. Foolish. It doesn’t matter if you’re going for an hour hike, a day hike or a week of camping, always bring a compass, or GPS system and a map of the area. Even if you don’t know how to use a compass or GPS system (which we definitely recommend you learn to do) having either one will keep you from walking in circles. Knowing the general direction in which you traveled will give you the general direction to get back. Lowrance Endura has three fantastic touch screen GPS handhelds for the outdoor enthusiast.
We’ve all heard stories of lost hikers, disoriented campers, or severely injured wilderness enthusiast who were just “missed” by the searching parties (either extending their ordeal or resulting in death) because the searchers could not ‘see’ them. A constant blowing of a whistle in the wild means only one thing, HELP, and it carries for miles and miles. Even if you’re injured and have tucked yourself away under some trees or rocks for shelter, searchers can still locate you by sound alone. Avoid bringing an air horn, they are loud but can eventually run out of air and can be confused or ignored because is not a clear signal of distress. The constant sound of a whistle in the woods always means the same thing, someone is in trouble. Such a small and innocuous item can be a life saver when you need to call for help.
A mirror/reflective device to signal rescuers
Rescuers not only come by foot, they often come by plane or helicopters. The distance and engine noise will keep them from hearing your calls for help, but a handheld mirror or reflective devise can take care of that in an instant. Starflash Survival Signal Mirror is so reflective that its reflection can be seen up to 10 miles away allowing you to signal planes, helicopters or boats.
If I had to add anything else to this list it would be a good 50 yards of 550 paracord. You never know when you’ll need to tie something together or have to pull yourself down or up a cliff. The 1/8th of an inch thick cord can hold up to 550 pounds and can be used for snares, bows, fishing line, tourniquets, and a million more uses. Paracord is as versatile in the wilderness as duct tape.
Being prepared is more than half of the battle of survival. Keeping a positive mental attitude and thinking yourself out of the problem is the rest. Anyone can survive an unfortunate trip into the wilderness if you’re prepared and keep your mind in the business of surviving the experience.