The deeper you travel into the wilderness and backcountry, the more prepared you have to be. Your skills and mindset have to be strong—and your survival kit needs to be well-stocked, because it could very well mean the difference between life and death.
The wilderness survival kit that I’ve outlined below is designed for survival situations that you might be faced with in remote wilderness areas—off-the-grid locations that are far away from civilization, and help. It is best to put together your own survival kit instead of buying an all-in-one kit. The reason being that most store-bought kits include stuff that you’re never going to need. Assembling your own survival kit—especially one this big—will certainly cost you more. But when the shit really hits the fan in the backcountry, anything less could cost you a whole lot more.
The S.O.L. All-Season Space Blanket. Amazon
Emergency Space Blanket
This can be used for warmth, waterproofing a shelter, collecting rainwater, or reflecting heat. Select a high-quality blanket, which won’t tear as easily as the cheap ones.
Bring about 15 feet, mainly to use in shelter building. The inner strands can be used for trapping, fishing line, and in the construction of a gill net.
Coghlan’s Fire Sticks Amazon
They’re dependable and cheap. Bring a couple.
Magnesium Fire Start with Flint Striker
Upgrade and get one with a good handle and ample magnesium.
Opt for a medium to large ferrocerium rod. Many of the ideal-size ferro rods are only available as a straight shaft. Before heading out, consider making a grip for it out of epoxy putty and drilling a hole through it for a lanyard.
Fire Starter and Tinder
Coghlan’s Fire Sticks work great, but you can make your own tinder with cotton balls dunked in Vaseline and stored inside a Ziploc bag.
Water-purifying tablets make water safe to drink, and they don’t take up much space in your kit. Amazon
Keep a small amount folded and secured in a cardboard sheath. It can be used for cooking, boiling water, signaling, and reflecting heat.
Water Purification Tablets
Read the instructions before buying and choose tablets that activate in a half-hour or less.
Communication Tools and Signaling Devices
Satellite messengers, like a Garmin inReach, can bring peace-of-mind in the backcountry. Garmin
Pencil and Waterproof Notebook
Pack this so you can leave a note for search-and-rescue teams.
This is a satellite texting device that also has a personal locator beacon (PLB). It might not fit in your small survival pack but it can be kept in a pocket and tethered to your belt. A Sat. phone is better for communicating but it doesn’t have a PLB and is too large to carry in your pocket. Newer models have a basic GPS component as well.
I pack a Tru Flare Pen Launcher with whistling flare cartridges. The pen launcher can also fire smaller flares and bear banger cartridges too.
The Fox 40 Classic Whistle. Amazon
Fox 40 Whistle
The noise you can make with this whistle can help get you found—and it can also help deter predators.
Colored Smoke Signal
In the North, it’s always light in summer. These conditions deplete the effectiveness of flares—plus, most aerial searches are conducted in daylight hours. Because of this, colored smoke should be your first choice for signaling in northern areas. Get them at a marine supply store.
Use this to signal planes or personnel on the ground.
Food Gathering Supplies
Survival Fishing Kit
Your backcountry tackle box should include the following:
- Line: Keep it on a small spool to so you can hand-line and reel in more easily, or affix it to a stick to make a crude rod.
- Hooks: Keep these in a folded piece of cardboard wrapped with duct tape.
- Small split shot and sinkers.
- Small metal spoon: Wrap the treble hook with duct tape.
- Four curly tail grubs
Go for 22- to 24-gauge wire. It’s useful in building shelters and making general repairs—and it can be twisted and set to snare game.
Bring about four emergency rounds.
Suunto MC-2 Compass Amazon
Go with something on the higher end. Your life may depend on this thing.
Bring a full roll.
I like a 1:250,000-scale map that covers a broad area. Fold it up tightly and wrap it in plastic wrap and duct tape. This could be an invaluable resource if you have to walk long distances to safety.
Small flashlight and AAA batteries.
Works as an extra light source, and doubles as a fire-starting aid.
Bags and Storage
A fanny pack serves as a great survival bag for excursions away from your base camp. Amazon
Small Roll-Top Dry Bags
These will offer double waterproofing for your kit, and will also give you an extra bag to collect water and store foraged food.
This can be used to patch dry bags and containers but has many other uses in a survival situation.
Large Ziploc Bag
I used this to keep small items organized. It can also double as a foraging sack.
Heavy-Duty Fanny Pack
This comes into play when you’re on the move in the wilderness and you can’t (or don’t need to) carry the entire survival kit. Wait, you think fanny packs are uncool? Then just think of it as an on-the-go survival pack.
You can forgo one of the small dry bags, and take your survival kit one step further by packing all of the items that you want to keep dry into a waterproof metal cylinder. This will also give you something you can use for boiling water and cooking.
Blades and Other Survival Tools
Belt Knife and Multitool
To be clear, these aren’t things that you should keep tucked inside the survival kit; rather, they should always be on your belt so they’re there when you need them. For the belt knife, you want a large knife that will allow you to baton a log and whittle out its dry center for tinder when it’s sopping wet and you’re bordering on hypothermia. For the multitool, choose one that has the following: an awl with an eye hole in it, a saw, a non-serrated blade, a fully serrated blade, a file—and a beer-bottle opener for when you get out of the woods safe and sound.