Not if but when the time comes, you should have a few essential items on hand that could be the difference between life and death in a survival situation.
The below list contains only the most vital – or, if you will – necessary ones. You can add to it if you’re willing to carry around more. But remember – the less your backpack weights, the better. No matter how strong you are, and no matter how great your stamina is – you should definitely minimize your energy expenditure during a survival situation.
The most versatile tool you could possibly take with you. You’re going to use it all the time, trust me. And it’s reasonably light and small to boot (or at least should be).
My choice is the Marttiini Full Tang Knife, made of the ultra-reliable stainless Finnish steel:
The next most important tool. Takes up very little space and will enable you to keep yourself dry in your temporary encampment (by digging a circle around it), handle the campfire and do tons of other useful things.
Plus, you could hardly do this with a knife:
My choice is the German Army contract folding shovel:
A strong parachute cord is something you do want to have in a survival situation. Possible applications are countless.
My choice is the 7 string OD olive parachute cord, which hold up to 250 kg (~550 lbs):
To save up on daylight, you should carry a flint to light your fires – you won’t have to start kindling so early. It definitely won’t take up space or slow you down, too…
My choice is the standard army flint:
A very small, waterproof flashlight is also something you should consider. Gives you an upper hand in case of any night-time intruders and also enables you to travel faster during the night in difficult terrain.
My choice is the Fenix E01 pocket flashlight:
Having access to fresh water is crucial. That’s why, upon encountering a fresh water source, you’ll want to store some of it for later, just in case. Water container can also serve as a portable shower solution.
You can learn more about water treatment in the wild here.
My choice is a regular camp shower, which can also be heated by exposure to the Sun:
Some waterproof fabric in a form of e.g. a slicker, to keep your gear, food and clothing dry – is definitely crucial. Getting soaked in the wild can be a real threat and you want to avoid that whenever possible. Get a big one, preferably, as it can serve as a shelter during sleep as well.
My choice is the old Swiss Army slicker, considerably heavier but way more reliable that the newer versions:
I realize that some people believe finding a shelter warm enough for a nap is easy. Well, it isn’t. Sometimes it’s downright impossible, and having something to warm you up through the night will make a huge difference the next day.
My choice is the Hannah Golite Cypress 195P, weighting just over 1 kg and suitable for temperatures below freezing:
Inflated backpacker’s mattresses take up less space than a 0,5 l water bottle and can weight as little as 0,2 kg while keeping you warm and comfortable during sleep, which is of paramount importance.
My choice is the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite mattress:
First Aid Kit
Don’t buy prepackaged First Aid Kits. Build your own instead. Not only will you have better knowledge of what’s actually in it, it will most probably contain more of the necessary things that are too scarce in the prepackaged Kits and less of the useless ones.
My First Aid Kit contains:
- 2 absorbent compress dressings (5 x 9 inches)
- 5 adhesive bandages (assorted sizes)
- 1 adhesive cloth tape (10 yards x 1 inch)
- 2 antibiotic ointment packets (approximately 1 gram)
- 2 antiseptic wipe packets
- 1 packet of aspirin (81 mg)
- 1 blanket (space blanket)
- 1 breathing barrier (with one-way valve)
- 1 instant cold compress
- 2 pair of nonlatex gloves (size: large)
- 2 hydrocortisone ointment packets (approximately 1 gram each)
- small scissors
- 1 roller bandage (3 inches wide)
- 2 sterile gauze pads (3 x 3 inches)
- 2 sterile gauze pads (4 x 4 inches)
Naturally something to put all your gear, clothing and emergency food in is of equal importance as the things listed above. Take time to choose you backpack wisely, according to your physique and capabilities, as well as its expected application – as in, how much stuff will you put inside…
My choice is the old German Army contract backpack, extremely durable and almost completely waterproof even after years of usage:
Something I stressed here before is the fact that no matter how well thought-out your survival gear is, what matters even more – in all situations, always – is your know-how and your physical preparedness. You can’t ever replace that with even the most ingenious of inventions and the most useful of gadgets.
A lot of fitness or gym instructors would tell you that you should fix your diet first, before you even begin training. And they’d be right. Similarly, you should first learn basic survival skills and ready your body for whatever might come, and only then worry about the aforementioned list.
That being said, however, once you find yourself forced into survival, having a well-chosen gear packed and ready can be a real difference.