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10 Things to Pack to Survive Any Wilderness

Updated on December 27, 2009

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 knife

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.

Duct tape

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.

Bear Spray

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.

A whistle

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.


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    • profile image

      sophia 5 years ago helped w/ a project in school....;)

    • profile image

      grapes 5 years ago

      really helped a lot thank you

    • profile image

      Grapes 5 years ago

      you need to/ add food

    • profile image

      Jacob Y. 6 years ago

      I do think you would need a thermal blanket and a heavy jacket the rest of the stuff would be great to have if you were stranded.

    • profile image

      johny 6 years ago

      everyone is talking about the woods how about trying to survive in the desert of arizona i grew up out here and have done it in the summer for 30 straight days the woods are nothing compared to desert all i had was a knife trying to find water was the hardest thing to do food comes easy

    • profile image

      Tyler H. 6 years ago

      Well... This didn't help I'm stuck with a bear and I'm down a cliff with wet feet, and no knife!

    • profile image

      Ben 6 years ago

      This is complete bull. Yeah it's good stuff, but what about when you are limited? Who says you are going to be able to have bear spray? If a bear came up, it could be your meal for the night. Stop being so stupid. Think of things like bow strings. And a water purification system? Get real now, not modern. I'm very sure that a lot of people have most of this gear, besides the water purification system. Instead of teaching kids how to use devices, teach them how to naturally purify water. Dig a whole 2 feet away from a stream, ditch, pond, lake, river, and/or creek. The water is purer, and isn't near as dirty. If you have NOTHING, you can survive off drinking a little bit at a time, with a lower chance of catching a parasite. And that's not all. If you have your fire starter, you can collect that water, put it through a filter you can naturally make with bark, rocks, sand, and charcoal if you have it. Put it through it in another container, have your fire going, and bring the water to a hard boil. You're missing things like fishing line, baits, lures, and if anything you can use a stick for a rod, or a random can that you find? It's good to have those "basic, but important tools" but it's also to have extra. If you are carrying any survival pack, why would you only consider packing ten items to "try" to survive off of a little bit. Instead if anything happens, make a shelter, keep catching, hunting, scavenging, and trapping food. Think of snare wire? Do you have any idea how small snare wire is? You could sneak that into any kit. Think real man. Bear spray? Come on now. Stand up to the bear, yell, and it will go. If you're in the woods, normally anyone makes a walking stick, make a sharp end on it, and prepare for when it happens. Because if anything you will kill it, or wound it. Either way it will get the hint. If you have a knife go for the neck, and the heart. Some people may not get bear spray, why not recommend pepper spray, I mean you can make that with peppermint oil. Think of bringing, or making a weapon that can shoot for a range. You can hunt. A good thing would be fishing because it's a easy lay back kind of thing. You could set up traps, scavenge around for berries and mushrooms, then make a nice seat, and camp. And sit there and enjoy your time fishing instead of worrying yourself to death. Why don't you get a compass and map? Yeah you recommended Compass/GPS. Really? A GPS? How reliable is that when you run out of a battery? ITS NOT. Keep a compass and travel in one direction for a while, then another, then another until you end up at a road. If you're meaning survival as in OMG I'VE BEEN LOST FOR LIKE 2 HOURS, you can kinda figure out where a road was. You're being to simple for yourself. I'm pretty sure you have a lot more intellect than when you posted this. And if anything, you could pack a freakin tarp to make a tent. I would honestly make a shelter with the elements around, it's always best and longer lasting. There is mud, sticks, leaves, grasses and grains. You can eat plenty of weeds that just grow in your yard. And many you can turn into a tea. Go above and beyond with it. Because you can really get somewhere only having fishing line and a lighter, and a container to heat water in, you can get A LONG way with just that, if you know your surroundings and things you can do to clean the area around. Otherwise hide your place as long as you can. If it's a 2012 type deal, capture them before they capture you and tell them your not going to hurt them, you just can't trust people on first sight. Form a group, and scavenge for more supplies than you had. There is enough gas, a such thing as a siphon, and space for many other things. Good luck everyone, I'm sure I gave out some ideas. btw I'm only 15, at least I know enough already.

    • profile image

      baily 6 years ago

      I am going to the Florida EverGlades this helped thanks:)

    • profile image

      beast 7 years ago

      well...technicly you would need more than just that to actually "survive"...but for a few days or maybe one, this list is goood enough

    • H.Kephart profile image

      H.Kephart 7 years ago from United States

      Good stuff Sir. Knife and firestarter I carry everywhere, city or in the backwoods. Former USAF crash firefighter. The socks comment is so true. Feet, hands, neck, and balls: four pairs of socks covers them alls.

    • profile image

      kayla lords 7 years ago


    • profile image

      Dakota 7 years ago

      my name is dakota sorrell im 15 and im not bragging or trying to be mean but you people don't know nothing about living in the woods. yes i have lived in the woods for weeks at sometimes,why well cause i wanted to and ive grown up in the woods. so if u need any real help ask me

    • profile image

      Tgwalker 7 years ago

      What about a flashlight

    • profile image

      SAL 7 years ago


    • profile image 7 years ago

      this is my email: anyone can email me!! ill email u back ps i am sooo hot!

    • profile image

      SAL  7 years ago

      So you don't need a knife ore a ligther.

    • profile image

      SAL 7 years ago

      yes you are right but, I have added a stone ax of a flat stone and braided roots + some heated resin. You can also create fire without ligther, with a split a stick and dig a small hole in it with a sharp stone. and take a stick and slip it so that it becomes a ball shape, then you take a root or something that is like a thread and pull it over the stick and drag back and forth ps. it takes some time;) really it's not that hard.

    • profile image 7 years ago

      true! always pack food!

    • profile image

      bubby 7 years ago

      i think that u should always pack food

    • profile image

      westerngirl 7 years ago

      No offense to all, but the Native American had none of this fancy stuff and managed to survive quite well. :P Realistically, as we are sooooo used to our modern way of life, you would need a good knife (K-bar if possible) and waterproof matches. Congratulations on a well done article. :)

    • profile image

      oldfart1000 7 years ago

      Old fart don't need nothin. All he needs is himself!

    • profile image

      Storyteller 7 years ago

      I think you would need coats and blankets just in case and tents and stuff like that

    • noelr profile image

      Noel Rodriguez 7 years ago from New York

      Thank you for your comments Sal. In reality, for those well versed in survival, the most essential item is the knife. With a good knife one can survive. Fire can be achieved by other means (other than a lighter). And some will say that a survivalist should be able to make his own knife in the wild. But like Dan said so rightly, the rest of us need more to survive.

    • profile image

      Dan 7 years ago

      Yea McGuyver only needs 2 things, but the rest of the world needs more

    • profile image

      SAL 7 years ago

      actually you only need two things: Knife and Lighter \ fire ... that's all you need because you can make anything you need, just use your brain;) ps. hot resin can be used as glue;) have a nice trip: D

    • profile image

      rajnish 8 years ago

      very well done. Are you a scout cause your good? anyways I hope you don't mind me using some items for a project

    • profile image

      blahh 8 years ago

      good. :)


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