Pack For Your Life

This gear got our expert through two nights and three days in freezing temperatures. It's his standard kit for a solo wilderness hunt. What do you carry?

[BRACKET "The Daypack"]
Click Here to see Inside the Day Pack
1. ** Pack All my gear (including medical kit and neck knife) weighs just 41/4 pounds and would fit in a fanny pack, but I prefer a daypack with a suspension system. **2. Compass I use a baseplate compass for map-and-compass navigation. Not shown is the bubble compass I pin to my jacket. 3.Garbage Bags, 4 The lowly trash bag is the epitome of versatility. Spread them flat to make a dry bed or work space, use as emergency hip boots or tarp shelters, or fill with snow to melt for drinking water. 4. Cord, 30 Feet Parachute (550) cord is the standard survival cord. The inside strands are very strong and can be put to many uses, such as emergency fishing line. 5. Water Bottle A wide-mouthed Nalgene bottle is next to unbreakable and less likely to freeze than a bottle with a narrow neck. Mine is wrapped with duct tape for making general repairs. 6. Foam Pad Weighing but an ounce, a 20-inch square cut from an old closed-cell-foam sleeping pad makes a comfortable seat and insulates you from cold ground. 7. Folding Saw A locking 10-inch blade cuts firewood logs and stringers for shelter quickly. Puny saws on multiblade knives can't compare. 8. Snare Wire I use 26- or 28-gauge galvanized wire for trapping small game. 9. Headlamp In a survival situation, a light's longevity is more important than its power of illumination. I prefer LED models. 10.Marking Tape Ten feet or so of orange marking tape weighs nothing and comes in handy for marking trails and tying to knives and saws so you won't lose them in powder snow. 11. Map A 7.5-series USGS quad covers an area roughly 6 by 8 miles. Fifteen-minute maps offer less detail but cover more country, showing distant peaks and other landmarks that can orient you if you're lost. I use both. 12.Signal Mirror I carry a very small one but have never used it. 13. Tarp My 7x8-foot tarp is cut from a roll of 3-mil-thick clear plastic sheeting, which I reinforce at the corners and midpoints along the sides with duct tape before attaching grommets. 14. Tinfoil Squares, 2 Tinfoil makes a handy lid cover for a metal cup, a wrap for cooking game, or a dry platform to build fire.

[NEXT "The Medical Kit"] [BRACKET "The Medical Kit"]
Click Here to see the Medical Kit
1.Matches, Lighter, and Candle I mix strike-anywhere wooden matches in with the windproof-waterproof matches for insurance, because the latter require a chemical reaction with the abrasive strip on the box to light. A lighter is a backup fire starter. For lighting kindling bundles or damp twigs, the enduring flame of a candle works better than a match. 2.Lip Balm Chapped lips aren't an emergency, but they sure hurt. 3. Blister Pads, 4.Moleskin, and 5. Bandages These keep hotspots from turning into blisters and can dress wounds. 6.Pill Container I carry aspirin and a stronger painkilling pill in case I break a leg and need to crawl to safety. I wrap the bottle with bandage tape. 7.Kleenex and 8. Handiwipes Both work as TP and also for washing hands after dressing game. 9.Surgical Gloves Gloves keep your hands clean when field dressing game, but more important, they grip your knife more securely than bloody fingers, so you are less likely to cut yourself. 10. Water Purification Tablets A filter pump is too heavy for day hunts. Chlorine or iodine tablets work fine. 11. Mini Maglite To back up my headlamp, I pack a Mini Maglite. I secure a spare bulb to the body with turns of electrical tape, which can also be used for many other purposes.

[NEXT "The Neck Knife"]

<[BRACKET "The Neck Knife"]
Click Here to see the Neck Knife
1.Neck Knife with 2.Tinder Canister, 3.Magnesium and Steel, and 4. Whistle This is my first line of defense and the most important piece of survival gear I carry. With it, I can start fire, signal for help, and whittle everything necessary for living in the wild. The tinder canister, filled with waxed cotton and steel wool, is duct-taped to the knife sheath. The magnesium-and-steel tool is attached by a lanyard and rubber bands, and the knife sheath is on a breakaway cord. With this around my neck, there's no risk of being without survival gear if I become separated from my pack.

What I Wish I'd Brought
During my survival hunt, I jotted a list of items I wish I'd brought, listed in order of importance.

  • Paperback novel Two restless 14-hour nights without even the song of coyotes for company-your mind goes places I don't recommend visiting.
  • An extra sandwich I didn't need to lose 6 pounds.
  • Metal cup It would have made getting water easier.
  • More cartridges I carried a dozen, but in a real survival situation, signaling for help and subsistence hunting would have used them up quickly.
  • Toothbrush By the end, my breath would have knocked a buzzard off a gut pile.
  • Sunglasses Although I didn't need them on this trip, I have gone snow-blind before. It's an ounce of prevention I usually remember to carry.