Did you know the average person can survive up to 3 weeks without food… but only 3 days without water and 3 hours outside of their core body temperature?
Knowing this, what to include on your survival kit list and carry in your kit can literally mean the difference between life and death in just a few critical minutes or hours.
The good news is, you can greatly increase your chance of survival…if you have the right supplies with you (and know how to use them).
In this post, we’ll explore 13 important survival items you’ll need to help you come out alive on the other end of disaster or should you get lost in the wilderness.
In theory, the more critical survival items you carry with you, the easier it will be to survive…
However, the flip-side to that is the more items you include on your survival kit list, the more bulk/weight you add to your person. Obviously, you can’t carry every wilderness survival tool you come across as it would quickly become impossible to transport them all. In fact, depending on the season and situation you’re in, you may not even need every item either.
But that said, there are some core survival essentials that you should always have available in your survival kit.
Here’s my take on 13 important survival items you need to pack (including a couple really important bonus items to consider):
1. FIRE STARTER
Starting a fire in the wilderness is one of the most important things you need to be able to do if you’re to survive the cold, fight off hungry predators and cook yourself a meal. If you’re reading this, you probably already know you must be equipped with necessary fire starting skills and have a means of starting the fire. This is where a trusty fire starter becomes the number one critical survival item to have on you at all times.In fact, I recommend having at least three ways of starting a fire in your survival kit. You should not take chances with fire starters. I carry matches, a bic lighter and a striker. Supplement this by packing some tinder and other lighting aids such as InstaFire Fire Starter, too. I carry all my fire starters in waterproof containers and store them separately and within easy access in my kit.
2. SURVIVAL KNIFE
Chances are, you will need to do a lot of cutting chores in a true survival situation, and a good, reliable survival knife will be a perfect fit. Choose a high-quality survival knife or a multi-purpose tool with a knife. Your survival knife should be able to skin your hunt, cut strings, and sharpen sticks among other uses. The ideal survival knife must be strong and razor sharp to cut through the toughest materials with ease.The same principle of redundancy applies here as well. “Where there’s two, there’s one — where there’s one, there’s none.” Should your knife fail you or you lose it, you’ll definitely want a reliable backup. Check out the Ka-Bar Becker BK2 for a great, full tang knife that will last.
3. MAP & COMPASS
You should not rely solely on GPS when in a survival situation, but also carry with you a local map and compass to help navigate your way back to safety.It is good to have both a road map and a topography map on you just in case. These are lightweight and easy to pack, so there is really no reason not to carry these with you in your survival kit.
Having a map and a compass is one thing, however, you must also take the necessary steps to know how to read and navigate maps and use a compass. There are trainings and courses that can teach you the basics of these skills so you can practice on your own.
In case you don’t have a compass, Suunto makes a great one.
4. FIRST AID KIT
If you think you may need to head into the wilderness at a moment’s notice, be sure to have a first-aid kit on your person at all times.A first aid kit is a critical item that should be accessible at all times. Having a dedicated first aid kit for your vehicles is also a good idea.
General first aid kits can be a good place to start but be sure to supplement them with such items as pressure dressings to stop the bleeding in the event that injury may occur.
Adventure Medical Kits are a great place to start. Include a first aid pocket manual and familiarize yourself with it, especially if you aren’t formally trained or experienced.
5. A BOW SAW
A bow saw, as simple as it is, can make a survival situation on a cold night easier for you. Be sure to choose a durable, lightweight metal framed saw.
A bow saw can help you cut through logs and make firewood. It can also help you cut down big branches to make a shelter that your survival knife may have difficulty doing alone. If you manage to shoot a deer or big game, you will need to build a strong fire to roast your meat.
A bow saw not only gives you enough firewood, but also helps you set the fireplace for cooking your hunt.
6. PROPER CLOTHING
When you head into the wild, even on a hot sunny day, you need to plan to dress for the worst.
Hypothermia kills more people in the wild than any other cause. The cold of the night must not be countered with fire alone, but also proper clothing. Always layer your clothes, remembering to wear loose, layered clothing with wool as your under layer.
Stay away from cotton as a general rule. It retains moisture which makes it less insulating, harder to dry out and heavier on the body. This has been known to lead to hypothermia, pneumonia, etc. Clothes made out of synthetic and wool materials are recommended for this very reason.
7. EMERGENCY SURVIVAL WHISTLE
8. SIGNAL/HYGIENE MIRROR
There are heartbreaking stories where search helicopters have passed over lost people too weak to signal. A signal mirror or heliograph should be carried with you. Storing it in your first aid kit is a good way to protect it from damage and locate it easily. These lightweight, compact tools can reflect light at long distances signaling people far away of your distress.
10. WATER / WATER FILTRATION
I said at the beginning of this article the average person cannot survive more than 72 hours without drinking water. Add to that, you need to plan on drinking at least 1 gallon of water per day. Even a few sips of clean water can mean the difference between life and death, but you want to be in peak performance when it counts, and that much water is too heavy to carry for anyone.Now, you can probably find some water in the wild, but it might also make you extremely sick coming straight from the source without proper filtration. Having a survival water filter with you can help a lot.Water filters are important regardless, but especially handy when on an expedition with a group of friends as you will go through water very quickly.