The Essentials Required for Survival in the Wilderness
The Essentials Required for Survival in the Wilderness

Safety in the wilderness means being prepared for survival under nearly any conditions.  Let's start this article by looking at a more in-depth list of some items you may want to carry.

Keep in mind as you study these items that it is by no means a comprehensive list for your trip into the wilderness. Some of the supplies listed in this article, as well as a lot of information, are the bare necessities you will need. Depending on your destination, you might need additional supplies and gear.

The Safety and Survival Essentials You Need to Pack

You may already be familiar with some of the items listed above, as well as why they are so important to have in the wilderness. Even so, let's take a look at the uses of items.

About The Essential Supplies

You should always carry survival and medical supplies with you whenever you venture into the wilderness. While some resources you can find online will tell you to pack as lightly as you can, you want to pack in order to be safe no matter the situation. Never skimp on medical or survival gear or supplies just to pack as lightly as possible. There is a reason they are referred to as essential supplies by any trusted resource on wilderness safety and survival.

Putting Together a Survival and Medical Kit

The list covered in the tables above is by no means a comprehensive list of supplies you might need. You might even decide you do not need all included in the list. They are important enough to repeat again.

These essential supplies are:

Navigational items, such as maps, compasses, and even GPS. That said, keep in mind that batteries in a GPS may die after a period of time. Maps and compasses do not take up much space and are always accessible.

Lighting. Always bring a flashlight or headlamp, along with extra batteries. You may not plan to be in the wilderness after dark, but you want to be prepared just in case.

First Aid. You should always pack a first aid kit, along with personal medications, anti-sting and allergy medications, sunscreen, and insect repellant.

Tools. Tools such as knives, pocket knives, pocket saws, and even a tool kit do not take up a lot of space, but are important to have when you need them.

Communication devices, such as signal mirrors, cell phones, whistles, and paper and pencils.

Extra clothes. Depending the climate, you may need to back a base layer, middle layer, outer layer, and head covering in addition to gloves.

Tools to start a fire, such as matches stored in a waterproof container and something to help start fires.

Water. Always pack a water container, as well as a water purification system of some sort. If the unthinkable would happen and you would get lost, you will need safe drinking water.

Food. Pack high-energy food items, such as energy bars.

Shelter. Packing a poncho or tarp can protect you from the rain. A sleeping bag, ground pad, or space blanket provide overnight sleeping accommodations.

These are the bare minimum. You should carry more depending on your plans and destination.

The survival and medical kits that you create should meet your needs under any situation or condition. What is more, you should put together more than one kit. You should have a large kit for your pack, a medium-sized one for your CamelBak, and a small one that you can keep on you.  The idea is that you should have the necessary supplies with you, even if you get separated from your equipment.

Creating a Survival Plan

Every year, you see search and rescue missions featured in the news. Someone gets lost in the wilderness either in a car that breaks down, while camping, or during a hike or climb. If you find yourself in trouble in the wilderness, your actions will help determine the outcome. However, the amount of time it takes for you to be found and rescued can also directly impact the outcome.

Always let a trusted friend or family member know exactly where you are going, how long you will be gone, what equipment you have on hand, and when they should expect you to return. You cannot file your trip with the authorities or sheriff's department, but a trusted friend or family member can in the event that you do not return when expected.

Below is an example of the form, along with the information to be included, that you should fill out and give to a trusted friend or family member before departing on your trip.

Keep in mind that the authorities to be contacted are the ones with jurisdiction in the area where you will be. Contacting the authorities in your hometown or the hometown of the friend or relative is fine. They may be willing to relay the information to the appropriate jurisdiction. However, it's best to contact the authorities who will be local to where you are so the search can begin immediately.

What to Do If Trouble Strikes

Leaving a predeparture plan with a friend or loved one is the first step in helping to keep you safe if trouble should strike while you are in the wilderness. If you're traveling with a group, you can decide to leave this information with one person, or everyone in the group can leave it with a person they choose. The important thing is to have someone watching for your return. If you're late returning, that person can get help for you.

Don't ever assume everything will go smoothly, and there is not a need for a predeparture plan. The smallest hiccup in your trip could put you in need of help. You could become injured or ill. You could get lost or stranded. Trouble could come in many forms. Hope for the best for your trip, but always prepare for the worst.

If the trouble you experience strands you, be prepared to feel fear, isolation, and loneliness - even if you are with a group. In a survival situation, it's important you recognize those feelings and not let those feelings impact the decisions you make.

Listed below are some steps you should take when trouble strikes:

- Size up your situation. If you are suddenly stranded or injured, get to a safe and comfortable place. Doing this will boost your confidence and help alleviate some fears.

- If you are lost, get to an open area where trees won't obscure the rescue crew's view of you. Do not move around a lot. Try to stay put. Search and rescue teams will have a harder time finding you if you are constantly on the move.

- Try to figure out where you are using a compass or maps. If are lost, figuring out where you are (once you are safe and comfortable) may allow you to find your own way.

- Try to figure out ways to improve your situation. Doing so may not only help you, but being proactive can also help alleviate fear and panic.

- If you are ill or injured, conserve your health and strength.

- If you are with a group, assign everyone tasks according to each person's ability and strengths. Keeping the group organized and establishing tasks keeps everyone's morale up - and keeps panic at bay. 

- Remember the safety and survival training you receivedand any others that you take. Hunger can lead to bad decision making. Do not be afraid to try new foods, and make sure you and everyone in your group stays fed and hydrated.

  Selecting the Right Gear

The type of gear that you select for your trip can make things either easier or harder for you. You want to select gear that is appropriate for the environment you will be entering. However, the weight and cost of the gear will also play a factor. Always try to select gear that can have more than one purpose when you are in the wilderness. For example, a space blanket has a silver side and an orange side. Because of that, it can also be used for signaling. What is more, it can be used to collect water or even as a shelter.

This articlewill focus on the type of gear you might need, as well as tips to help you select the gear appropriate for you. That said, it is not meant to be a comprehensive list.. Depending on your destination, you may want to add additional gear.

About Backpacks

There are two main type of backpacks you will want to consider. The external frame backpack is typically used in hot weather since it allows air to flow between the bag and your back. It is also the better choice for on-trail hikes and level terrain. When you pack an external frame backpack - or any backpack to be used on-trail - put the heavier items on top. This puts the weight on your hips, making it easier to carry.

The internal frame backpack is better for colder weather, off-trail hikes, and more uneven terrain. You will want to pack this type of bag with the lighter stuff on top and the heavier stuff close to the back. This way, the weight is carried by your back and shoulders.

Choose a backpack whose size matches its intended use. If you are just taking an overnight trip into the wilderness, you should do fine with 3,000 to 5,000 cubic inches. However, for longer trips, you will want 5,000 cubic inches or more. Make sure the backpack fits the length of your back. The one you choose should have thick padding on the shoulders and waist.

The Camelbak

The camelbak is a bag that carries water. It has a hose that protrudes from the bag. You can place the hose over your shoulder for instant access to hydration.You can place the camelbak on top of your backpack. Most camelbacks hold 100 ounches of water.

Different Types of Shelter Gear

Even if you are only making a day trip into the wilderness, it may still be a good idea to pack some sort of shelter in case of inclimate weather - or if you should get lost. The type of shelter you pack will depend on the weight you are willing to carry, the durability you desire, and if it will be just for you or several people.


Tents are the most obvious kind of shelter used in the wilderness. Typically, tents are made of nylon and have aluminum poles. Nylon is a durable material, and the poles give the tent more durability and strength when it is set up. If you choose to pack a tent, you will want to pick an appropriate size. You will also want to consider the weight it will add when packed with the other gear on your back. In addition, it is important to consider the climates for which you will use the tent. A three-season tent are lighter. They have mesh panels for ventilation, which makes them ideal for warmer weather and climates. On the other hand, a four-season tent will be heavier. The panels are solid, and the poles are stronger. These tents are better suited for colder weather and climates.

Bivouac Bag

In addition to a tent, you might also choose a bivouac bag. Bivouac bags are more lightweight shelters. They are made from waterproof and breathable fabrics, such as Gore-Text or Tetra-Tex, with a nylon floor. A wire hoop is sewn in toward the head area of the bag to give you a little space while inside it. These types of bags are typically three-season bags and made as shelter for only one person.

Sleeping Bags

Sleeping bags can be packed in addition to a tent or other type of shelter - or as the only type of shelter you pack. Your destination and the length of your trip may help you decide whether to pack a tent or bivouac bag along with a sleeping bag.The type of sleeping bag you select will depend on your destination. Different sleeping bags have different types of designs, loft insulation, and construction.


When it comes to insulation, sleeping bags either use down or a synthetic material. Down is lightweight and also compressible. However, it does not maintain its loft or insulating abilities when it becomes wet. It is also more costly. Synthetic material maintains its loft and insulating abilities when wet, but it is heavier and does not compress as well as down.


Although different sleeping bags offer different designs, the best design that you can choose is the mummy style. The mummy style has a tapered hood that can be tightened around your face, leaving yourself a hole just big enough to breathe. If you are in a warmer climate, you can leave your head out of the bag and use the tapered hood as a pillow. When buying this type of bag, make sure the foot of the bag is circular and insulated. In addition, there should be insulated baffles behind the side zippers.


There are three different kinds of sleeping back construction: slant tube, offset quilt, and square box. If you are looking for comfort and insulation, the offset quilt and slant tube will be your best choices. That said, as with all gear, you will also want to factor in the weight of the bag, as well as the compressibility.

Sleeping Pads

A sleeping pad is also known as a ground pad, sleeping mat, or roll mat. It is typically used with a sleeping back to add padding and more insulation. Sleeping pads either are made with closed-cell or open-cell foam. While closed-cell foam pads offer more insulation, they are bulkier. Open-cell foam pads are usually self inflating pads. Because of this, they take up less space when packed with other gear.


Ponchos, also known as tarps, can be used for clothing, shelter, signaling, and water collection. Because a poncho has so many uses, it is a piece of gear that you may want to bring on all your trips into the wilderness.

Fleece or Quilted Blankets

A fleece or quilted blanket adds extra warmth when combined with your sleeping bag. While a fleece blanket is warmer, as well as more comfortable and durable, than wool, it does not compress as easily or repel wind as well. Consider a poncho liner, such as the Advanced Infantry Thinsulate Poncho Liner. It is a lightweight quilted blanket that is perfect for general or survival needs. It can serve as a sleeping bag when used in combination with a poncho.

Emergency All-Weather Blankets

Although you can buy a flimsy foil emergency blanket and save a little money, it is best to use a more durable, waterproof all-weather blanket. These types of blankets will reflect moisture and help you retain over 80% of your body's heat.They also feature a hood and inside hand pocket. Although they take up more space when compressed than a foil blanket, they also have multiple uses, such as a poncho, shelter, or signalling device.

Knives, Saws, and Axes

A folding pocket knife is the perfect piece of gear that can be used for most of the cutting you will do while in the wilderness. It can be used for cutting line, creating an improvised shelter, skinning game, or making a fire. You will also need a larger fixed-blade knife for bigger cutting needs, such as cutting larger firewood or branches. When you purchase a knife, stick with a simple blade. It is the most effective.

You should always attach your knife to a lanyard that attaches to your body. Make sure that the lanyard is long enough that you have six inches to spare when you hold the knife over your head with your arm completely extended. This way, you have full use of the knife even though it is attached to your body.

Always make sure you keep your blades oiled and dry. By keeping blades oiled, you protect the joint. Keeping your blades oiled and dry help to prevent rust. You should also keep your blades clean. To clean a blade, use a rag. Wipe it from the backside. Never clean a blade on your pants or other pieces of clothing. Not only do you risk cutting yourself, you are simply tranferring the dirt into the pores of your clothes.

Always keep your blades sharp. It makes your knives easier to use. It also reduces the chance of injury simply because it takes more force and pressure to use a knife with a dull blade. There are two methods you can use to sharpen blades. The first is a push and pull method.

To use the push and pull method, push and pull the blade against a flat sharpening stone in a slicing fashion. Start with the base of the blade on the long edge of the stone. Pull it across the length. Sharpen both sides of the blade, but be sure to push both sides of the blade in the same manner and the same amount of times so you get an even angle.

To use the circular method, move the blade across a circular sharpening stone.The knife should be moved in a circular pattern across the stone, starting with the base of the blade. Remember to sharpen both sides of the blade the same amount of times and using the same pattern.

You may also want to carry a Pocket Chain Saw or Sven Saw if you are going into colder climates. These are excellent tools for breaking bigger pieces of wood into smaller sizes. In addition, an ax allows you to fell trees, split wood, and cut poles.

Felling Trees

Feeling a tree means to cut it down. You always want to fell a tree in the direction in which it naturally leans. This means you want the tree to fall in the direction in which it is already leaning. To do this, make a wedge cut on the side in which it is leaning. Make this wedge cut as close to the ground as possible. Next, make a second cut on the opposite side. This cut should be slightly higher than the first.

Just in case the tree does not fall in the direction you want, make sure you have an escape plan.

Cutting Poles

To cut a pole, hold the pole in one hand. It should be placed on - and perpendicular to - a log. Hold the ax in your other hand and make swinging, downward motions.

Splitting Poles

To split a pole, hold the pole in one hand and the ax in the other. Make sure the pole and ax are parallel. The sharp side of the ax should be at the far end of the pole, as well as on top of the pole. Next, swing the pole and ax together. Strike them on top and perpendicular to a log.

Backpacking Stoves

Backpacking stoves are either canister or liquid fuel style. The canister stoves use either propane, butane, or isobutane cartridges for fuel. The common liquid fuel stoves use white gas and kerosene. When selecting a stove, you will want to consider the weight of the stove, as well as the altitude and temperature of your destination.

Additional Gear You May Need

Listed below is some additional gear you may need for your trip into the wilderness. If you pack gear that requires batteries, make sure to protect them from the elements and moisture by wrapping them in insulating material, then placing them in a waterproof bag.

Additional gear that you might need includes:

1.     Cooking pots

2.     Headlamps

3.     GPS

4.     Altimeter to determine altitude

5.     Snowshoes

6.     Sleds

7.     Mountaineering poles

8.     Avalanche transceiver

9.     Clinometers

10. Snow shovel

11. Ice ax

12. Mountaineering and Nordic skis

13. Nylon anchors to help anchor tents in the desert

14. Personal flotation device