The Best Survival Kit for Off-the-Grid Adventures

When you travel into the backcountry, it’s important to be prepared to stay alive if things go wrong. Here is the essential survival gear you’ll need

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.

Related: How to Assemble the Ultimate Bug Out Kit

Shelter Supplies

The S.O.L. All-Season Space Blanket. Amazon

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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.

Parachute Cord

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.

Related: The Right Para Cord for the Job

Fire-Starting Tools

Coghlan’s Fire Sticks Amazon

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Bic Lighter

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.

Ferro Rod

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.

Related: How to Start a Fire in the Rain

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 Supplies

Water-purifying tablets make water safe to drink, and they don’t take up much space in your kit. Amazon

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Tinfoil

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.

Related: The Ultimate Guide to Finding and Purifying Water

Communication Tools and Signaling Devices

Satellite messengers, like a Garmin inReach, can bring peace-of-mind in the backcountry. Garmin

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Pencil and Waterproof Notebook

Pack this so you can leave a note for search-and-rescue teams.

Garmin inReach Mini

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.

Whistling Flares

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

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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.

Signal Mirror

Use this to signal planes or personnel on the ground.

Related: How to Use a Signal Mirror

Food Gathering Supplies

A small Williams Warbler Spoon.
A small Williams Warbler Spoon is a valuable piece of tackle in the backcountry. Cabela’s

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

Snare Wire

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.

Ammunition

Bring about four emergency rounds.

Navigation Tools

Suunto MC-2 Compass Amazon

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Orienteering-Style Compass

Go with something on the higher end. Your life may depend on this thing.

Flagging Tape

Bring a full roll.

Topographic Map

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.

Related: 5 Map and Compass Skills Every Outdoorsman Should Know

Illumination

Small flashlight and AAA batteries.

Candle

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

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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.

Duct Tape

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.

Metal Pot

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

AK47 fixed-blade knife.
You need a stout fixed-blade knife that’s strong enough to baton wood. Amazon

Small Folding Saw

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.

Related: 11 Essential Survival Knife Skills