If you’ve got an outdoors trip coming up, hopefully you’ve thought about what you’ll need to bring along. Paddles for kayaking, good boots for hiking, and so on. But have you considered what you’ll need if something, or everything, goes wrong? Will you be able to make a fire, find clean water, signal for help, and keep warm at night?
If not, you need to have a wilderness survival kit with you. The good news is that you can build one yourself without spending a fortune. Here’s what you’ll need:
Start with the most important tool you can have – a multi-tool, such as a Swiss Army Knife or a Leatherman. Pliers, screwdrivers, a saw blade, a bottle opener and more, all in a tiny, lightweight package. A good knife is crucial as well, with a four to six inch blade, a solid handle and a non-slip grip.
The outdoors can be a dangerous place, so make sure you’ve got a first aid kit. It doesn’t need to have everything, but basic medications, splints, trauma dressings and gauze are all musts.
Finding potable water comes before eating; you can survive three weeks without food, but only three days without drinking. If you find a stream or a lake, make sure to purify the water. For your kit, the surest and most lightweight method is to have some purification tablets in your pack.
That’s not to say that eating isn’t important; you need to keep your energy up if you’re going to build a shelter and get rescued. There’s plenty to eat in the wild (humans got along just fine before the arrival of supermarkets), such as rodents, bugs, weeds and acorns. But even if you’re prepared to tap into your hunting and gathering instincts, bring along some energy bars.
Don’t forget a cooking tin- in the event you catch a fish or a squirrel, you don’t want to eat it raw. It doesn’t need to be big, just large enough to hold some boiling water.
When it comes to building a fire, there are three ways to go. Waterproof matches, lighters, and magnesium bars all have their pros and cons. Since all three are light and compact, and considering just how important it is to have a fire to keep warm and signal for help, it’s wise to have all three on hand.
It will get cold at night, and the best way to conserve body heat is with a survival blanket. During the day, you can use its reflective material to signal for help, spread it out to catch rainwater or to keep your stuff dry if it starts to rain.
You’ll want to have some rope with you, and the best choice is parachute cord. Thin but strong, you can use it for a multitude of purposes, from holding your shelter together to fishing line. Super strong (550 pound test strength), it’s made of seven nylon strands woven together, so you can break it open and tie those end to end if you’re short on length.
If you’re lost in the wild, it’s usually best to sit tight, keep visible and stay alive until the cavalry gets there. But if you end up having to move, know where you’re going. The simplest way to do that is with a GPS. There are lots of affordable options on the market, so it’s best to have one along. But make sure you know how to use a compass and have one with you, since you never know when the GPS will break or lose its signal.
If you don’t want to splurge on a special signal mirror, grab one from a makeup kit or pick one up at a pharmacy for a dollar. It can reflect light and make your position clear to a search party up to 100 miles away.
As you may remember from the end of Titanic, even a person too weak to speak can be heard from afar with a whistle. Like the mirror, you don’t need a fancy version, just one that makes noise.
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