Before we jump into this topic I would like to define the word “survival”, to me this means being able to stay alive in any potential situation. So with that being said the only way to stay alive is to prepare and plan. I feel like in the planning stage is the most important part because you need to know what region you will be going into, the potential weather, what your trying to survive (a backpacking trip, a large natural disaster, or even the ever so popular zombie apocalypse), and the big one what your skill level is. After the planning is complete then you can start putting together your gear.
First things first you really need to know your skill level. If you aren’t a skilled woodsman (or woods women) you will obviously have to bring more gear with you to stay alive. for example instead of just bringing a magnesium fire starting tool you would need to bring a few methods of fire starting. I would also like to point out that having all the equipment in the world will not keep you alive if you don’t know how to use it.
I like to start my gear selection with things I NEED first:
- Fire starting. I try to have at least two solid methods of fire starting like a magnesium fire starter and some waterproof matches. Also packing some dry tender like dryer lint) from home is a great idea so you don’t have to try to find some when you need it.
- A good knife is an essential tool to carry, every survival scenario I have ever put myself into would have been a lot different had I not had a knife. Also don’t skimp out on this tool spend a little extra to get a good knife it will pay you back trust me. There are a ton of types and brands out there, do some research and get the one that fits you and the application you plan on using it for. I normally carry a pocket knife and also a larger fixed blade knife.
- Water is the most important and yet sometimes the most overlooked. If you go on a small day hike or even an overnight trip how much water do you bring? A bottle or two? maybe a Camelbak®? how long will that really last you? If everything goes as planned maybe it will get you through the trip or maybe it won’t. What if the weather changes dramatically while your out hiking and your beautiful picturesque hike by the river turns into ” Oh no the trail is under water and I can’t get back”? I think you see where I’m going with this, if you throw a few extra items in your backpack you won’t have to worry about not having water. The first thing I would get is a small canteen style cooking cup like the picture below. Its great for boiling water, cooking and its very small and light weight. Next is a life straw®, these things are amazing very small and inexpensive.
- A first aid kit: this is pretty straight forward you already know what your trip is going to consist of from the planning stage of this so pack accordingly. but having just some basic items could save your life.
- Meals Ready to Eat or MRE: These things have come a long way since the first time I tried one, they are actually pretty good and have a very long shelf life. So pick up a few try them out and see what kinds you like then throw one or two into your pack. Having a good meal goes a long way in a survival situation.
- Survival tent/blanket: These are a must, for something that could save your life that are not much bigger then a wallet.
- Maps: once again you already know the areas you will be heading into from your planning, so be prepared. You can find maps for almost anywhere in the world for free online, I like to print the map of the area and then a topographical map of the same area put them back to back then laminate them then there is no worry of them getting destroyed. I would like to point out a few things about map reading, I would say most people are able to read a road map and get to their destination but those same people probably would not be able to read a topo. map in the woods. This is something you need to practice before leaving, also get a compass and learn how to use it.
So at this point you have what you need to stay alive, there is shelter, a blanket to keep warm ( and yes they do work), you have a few ways to make fire, food and water, a knife, and a map. All these items combined take up about half of a backpack. After this you can start packing all the other stuff that you want. Keep in mind when packing that weight is an issue so don’t pack unnecessary stuff, if possible bring multipurpose things like rope/Paracord, duct tape,or a good multi tool.
If you ask anyone who has been in a life or death survival situation: What could I have done differently? I’m sure” being more prepared” would have come out of their mouth at some point. So be prepared, plan accordingly, and practice over and over.