Tips: Start Out with the Right Equipment for Your Survival Kit

Shared with permission of Leon from

Posted on April 1st, 2010 by Leon in Survival Equipment

by Leon Pantenburg

You don’t have any wilderness experience, but you want some. The plan is to get out there in the seldom-traveled areas, and explore some of those wild, open spaces that appeal to your sense of adventure. So what do you take along to make sure you get back?  Where in that urban wilderness maze of outdoor stores, catalogs, websites and eBay will you find the gear you need?

These are basic navigation tools: compass, emergency whistle, map and GPS. They are a very important part of your Ten Essentials.

First – welcome!  More people need to use our national forests, parks and campgrounds. Let’s give kids the chance to take a hike, or go out and enjoy the beauty of nature, instead of playing a video game! If we all practice leave-no-trace camping, hiking and wilderness use, there will always be is plenty of space out there for all of us. Hopefully, you will  join us to pick up the trash left by thoughtless jerks! (End of  lecture!)

One of the most common questions from wilderness newcomers  is: “What gear will I need?”

And that’s a really good question! Walk through any sporting goods store and you’ll notice a bewildering array of gear, stuff, doo-dads, knick-nacks and junk. The buyer must decide which is which.

Depending on what store it is, and the salesperson, you could end up buying some very expensive – and unnecessary – items. In some stores, the salespeople work on commission and push high-priced gear. Or you might end up with a clerk who is covering the counter for somebody at lunch and doesn’t know anything about the outdoors or what you should buy. And if you don’t know either,  then your budget might be shot before you get to those items you really do  need.

So, here’s where to start. The Boy Scouts of America have been preaching the gospel of survival common sense for 100 years. Who actually coined the term “Ten Essentials” is probably unknown. But there is no question that a facsimile of  this basic list is the basis of all emergency preparedness kits. Get your Ten Essentials first.

Here is a list of the Boy Scout Outdoor Essentials, and product suggestions. I already own all this gear, or have used it. Many of the suggestions below have been arrived upon after several years of different uses. Look at these ideas, and then decide what will work best for you.

  • Knife: Frosts Carbon Clipper Utility Knife (The best knife is up to your personal preference, but you must have some sort of cutting edge along. The only survival knife you have is the one you have along!)
  • First Aid kit: Coleman Base Camp First Aid Kit (A first aid kit should go along on every outing, even if you never use it.)
  • Extra clothing: (This will depend, of course, on the climate, time of year and where you are. Clothing needs for my high desert area are much different than for those people in the tropics.)
  • Rain gear: ( You have two choices for protection from the rain: rainsuit or poncho. I use both, depending on the circumstances.  I hiked the John Muir Trail with a poncho for rain protection. It rained nine days straight! The poncho kept me dry, even though I was expending a lot of energy to hike. I prefer a rainsuit while hunting or fishing, because it won’t flap in the wind, and a rainsuit offers better protection while sitting or standing for long periods of time. Decide what’s best for your needs. FROGG TOGGS PRO ACTION RAINSUIT KHA 3XL Raingear PRO ACTION RAINSUIT BRN3XL- PA102-04-3XLSea to Summit Ultra-Sil Tarp-Poncho
  • Water bottle:  Platy Soft Bottle with HyperFlow Cap (Water is an absolute necessity. I generally carry a Nalgene or other rigid water bottle to drink out of. 32oz Nalgene BPA Free Water Bottle
    In my pack, I’ll carry several soft bottles to replenish my Nalgene. The soft bottle are protected in the pack, and

    This combination of water bottles works well, The rigid Nalgene in the middle is used for drinking and the Platypus soft bottles are used to store extra water in the pack.

    when empty, can be rolled up. The softies  weight virtually nothing, and  take up hardly any space. And if you find a water source, and need to re-supply, you’ll have ample containers along. Make sure to include some system of chemical purification Polar Pure Water Disinfectant
    or a water filter. MSR SweetWater Microfilter (Gray/Red)
    I’m not a big fan of the water bladder systems, for no really good reason, but they are great for kids because the drinking tube encourages drinking. And the novelty of  using a bladder water system will keep them well-hydrated until the newness wears off!) CamelBak Skeeter Kid’s Hydration Pack

  • Flashlight or headlamp: (I field-dressed a deer shortly after darkness fell  one evening, holding my mini-maglite in my teeth. It was pretty gross – talk about drooling on your gear… Anyway, ever since that experience I carry a good headlamp. A headlamp leaves your hands free if you are spelunking, end up walking out to the car in the dark, scrambling over rocks etc. Besides, if the lamp is on your head, chances are less that it might be dropped and broken.) Black Diamond Spot Headlamp
  • Trail food: (This is another personal preference. I like to make most of my own, because of my inherent cheapness and a Depression-era mentality inherited from my Dad. But in all my packs, I have several Clif bars, Clifbar Builders Protein Bar – 12 Pack, some jerky, sardines, and hardtack.  The gourmet food comes from the Dutch oven. Lodge Logic 8-qt. Camp Dutch Oven with Lid – Black The emergency food is fuel.)
  • Matches and firestarter (or other methods of ignition – you should have several different types) Firesteel Army Black Color, Genuine Issue Magnesium Survival Fire Starter
  • Sun protection (Sunscreen is an item that needs to be in every survival kit, regardless if you’re in the arctic or the tropics. I carry the tube type, because it is less messy to apply). Bullfrog Quik Stick SPF 36 Sunblock – 0.46 oz.
  • Map and compass (A GPS is also useful, but not without a map and compass! Always include spare batteries for your GPS!) Suunto M-3DL Compass

This is the bare bones list, and you should expand and add categories to fit your individual needs. For example, my Ten Essentials includes some method of shelter, such as a tarp, garbage bag, bivey sack etc., and I always carry at least 50 feet of parachute cord or light rope, 50-Ft 550 Parachute Cord Military 7-Strand Camping Survival – COLOR MAY VARY, and four aluminum tent stakes. Coghlan’s 8046 Aluminum Tent Peg

Neither the scouts, nor I, recommend including fishing gear as a survival tool! Many of the items, such as  the Frost knife, first aid kit and Clif  bars, have multiple memberships in my different  specialized survival kits. Another necessisty is the proper size spare batteries for any device that is battery-powered. Energizer Batteries. It’s a good idea to get battery-operated items that all use the same size.

This sheath knife with a 3-1/2 inch blade is a good choice for your Ten Essentials. Several feet of duct tape wrapped around the sheath is an added tool.

Your outdoor essentials list can also vary seasonally. I always include a snow shovel Black Diamond Deploy 7 Shovel
and  insulite pad on my winter showshoe treks.Coleman Rest Easy Camp Pad
My summer and winter extra clothing choices would also be different. An extra stocking cap is always a good thing to have along, but in the summer, a broad-brimmed hat for sun protection is a necessity.

Some items you shouldn’t cut costs on are boots or hiking shoes; a sleeping bag, and a reliable shelter.

Use this Outdoor Essentials list to form the basis for your own survival kit, then read and research to get new ideas. Your survival kit, if it’s anything like mine,  will probably end up being an evolving project. After every outing, think about what you used, what you didn’t need, and what you wished you had. Then adjust accordingly.

The best survival kit or gear in the world is worthless  if you don’t know how to use it, and just having a survival kit won’t save you. In fact, it might give you a false sense of confidence that could be deadly!

Start your wilderness preparation by reading a credible survival book, or taking a class from a competant instructor. Be very wary of any survival-related internet blog or website. Just because someone has a website, doesn’t mean they know anything! Don’t get your survival training off a prime-time survival “reality” show.

The book I recommend to everyone who ever ventures off the pavement is my hands-down favorite, go-to survival manual:  Peter Kummerfeldt’s “Surviving A Wilderness Emergency.”  To develop the absolutely critical survival mindset, read Ben Sherwood’s “The Survivors Club.”

Then practice with your equipment. Learn how to make a fire, or pitch your shelter in your backyard. Try out your sleeping bag on a chilly night on the deck to make sure it’s going to be warm enough. Make your mistakes at home, so you won’t in the backcountry, where a screw-up can kill you.

And let this be your mantra: “My survival kit won’t save me. My equipment or gear can’t save me. I will save me.“ And  include common sense with every outing!

Suggested Reading:

For more survival common sense information and tips, click on the highlighted words:

  • STOP: Use this exercise to reduce stress and focus your thoughts.
  • Write a note to let people know where you went, before you left.
  • Dress with the right fabrics.
  • Have a plan to make a tarp shelter

*Author Bio*

ABOUT LEON: Since 1991, Leon has been an assistant scoutmaster with Boy Scout Troop 18 in Bend, and a wilderness skills  trainer for the Boy Scouts’ Fremont  District.  Leon earned a second degree black belt in Taekwondo, and competed in his last tournament (sparring and form) at age 49. He is an enthusiastic Bluegrass mandolin picker, two-time finalist in the International Dutch Oven Society’s World Championships, and a freelance writer for the Bulletin newspaper in Bend, Or.

The Author

Rich Fleetwood

Rich is the founder of SurvivalRing, now in it's 24th year, author of multimedia CDs and DVDs, loves the outdoors, his family, his geeky skill-set, and lives in rural southern Wyoming, just below the continental divide (long story, that...). Always ready to help others, he shares what he learns on multiple blogs, many social sites, and more. With a background in preparedness and survival skills, training with county, state, and national organizations, and skills in all areas of media and on air experience in live radio and television, Rich is always thinking about the "big picture", when it comes to helping individuals and families prepare for life's little surprises.

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