Going into a remote area of the woods? What if you get lost? A survival kit can be something as simple as a whistle and a pack of matches, or as complex as a pack of hunting, fishing, and shelter supplies. The key to building a good survival kit is to only pack items that you’re familiar with and know how to use. For example, having a set of fishhooks & lines are only useful if you’re around water and know how to fish!
I’ve been known to over-pack items like this, and I usually get a good laugh from my friends (at my expense) when they see some of my “emergency” items. The same principle applies to knives. Having a large knife and sharpening stone might not be necessary for a weekend outing to the KOA campgrounds. Keep this in mind, when putting together your kit.
A survival kit should be a stand-alone pack or container meant for one purpose: keep you alive in the event that you’re stuck in a remote area. Before you start packing up your survival items, ask yourself this question: What is the primary danger? Cold injuries (frostbite, hypothermia)? Heat injuries (sunburn, heatstroke)? No water supply (dehydration)?
Dangers like starvation and animal attacks are serious, but the more imminent dangers are usually heatstroke, hypothermia, and dehydration. Do some homework on the area that you’re going into and pack your survival items accordingly.
Recommended Survival Kit Items
Lighter, waterproof matches, flint, or a magnifying glass could all qualify. Fire can save your life. It can be used to boil water for purification; warm you up from the elements; dry your clothes; cook your food; and signal for distress. Being able to start a fire should be high on your survival kit priority list.
Many people pack means to purify water, but neglect to have a container to capture the water?! Pack a small metal cup or other means to collect & boil water. A metal canteen cup with handles is ideal if you have the room in your pack. If you pack iodine tablets for purification, pack the other tablets that remove the iodine taste! If you are in an area where water is sparse, take some time to learn the survival methods of collecting water in dry areas.
Staying out of the elements can help you survive the dangers of frostbite, hypothermia, animals, and the sun’s heat. But your survival items need to be small enough where it doesn’t start taking on a pack of its own! That being said, a small spool of cord and a poncho or foil blanket can be sufficient enough to provide protection from the elements, but small enough to fit in a daypack.
If you’re lost and have to spend the night in the woods, a fire can be a very effective signaling method. If you are separated from your group during the day, a whistle can be a very effective survival kit item, especially for younger kids in the group. Three sharp blasts of the whistle will signal distress. Three gunshots fired as distinct intervals can also be used as a distress signal if you’re out hunting.
Sometimes it’s worth having a small snack in your survival kit…just to calm you down. Something like a granola bar, piece of candy, energy bar or gel, can be useful both as an energy source and a means to relieve stress. Most of us can survive several weeks without food before starvation sets in, so the food is really just a means to stay calm and think clearly. If you’re going to an area where you’ll need to survive for several weeks, living off the land, then hunting and fishing items may be a logical addition to your kit.
If you have a daily prescription, allergy EpiPen, an asthma inhaler, or an insulin needle…make sure it’s with you at all times during your camp or hike! No one who gets lost ever intended to. Most thought that they’d be back to the camp with daylight to spare. Carry a small supply of your medications with you at all times…just in case!
Your kit should be small enough that it doesn’t take up too much space or weigh you down, but large enough that it can save your life. Don’t get caught up with trying to make it all-inclusive. It should be just enough tools to keep you alive. You should definitely always include these in the first part of your camping checklist.