I reached out to these 20 outdoor experts to ask them “What 3 survival gear items do you always take into the field?” Almost all of them had a hard time narrowing their answers to just three items, but I was interested what type of “core” items might be common between them all.
There were some amazing responses. Some of them completely changed the way I look at survival gear. Read on to see the responses!
Dr. Joe Alton of www.doomandbloom.net
- Israeli Battle Dressing (IBD): marketed in the U.S. as “The Emergency Bandage”, this is an item developed by the Israeli Army that serves as both a wound and compression dressing, and perhaps even a tourniquet in a pinch. It’s a dressing attached to what is best described as an ace wrap with a hinge and fastener. Wrap around the hinge and pull the opposite way to get pressure onto a wound that might be bleeding. Every turn gives a little more pressure, with a max of 30 pounds. This versatile dressing is also excellent to fasten a splint into position. Here’s a link on how to use one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S2_EU1T-o-g
- Antiseptics: Clearly, the majority of wounds you’ll incur in the wild will be dirty. Quick action to clean the wound with antiseptics like betadine, alcohol, or benzalkonium chloride (BZK), along with standard adhesive bandages (band-aids) or cut-out moleskin as a shield will keep a blister or wound from becoming infected and prevent a major issue in the backcountry.
- Disposable cold packs: Many injuries on a wilderness hike, besides blisters, will be sprains and strains. A sprain is when a ligament is damaged, a strain when a muscle or tendon is affected. Decreasing swelling and pain with cold packs or ice can make a big difference in situations where physical exertion is involved.
Editor’s Note: I was blown away by “Dr. Bones'” detailed response. It’s changed the way I think of wilderness first aid. He also had this to add: “Other items that I consider essential from a medical standpoint include a means to sterilize water, various meds (especially for pain), a tourniquet, and additional gauze or other dressings. Everything mentioned is lightweight and wouldn’t take up much space in a backpack.”
Simple Man of www.backwoodssurvivalblog.com
- A Very Sturdy Knife (preferably a Kukri, It’s a tool that can do pretty much anything that a knife can do for you as well as chopping down saplings and branches to help gather firewood and clear a path through the foliage)
- Fire Starter (Cotton balls soaked with hand sanitizer, waterproof/windproof matches, and a magnesium striker as a last option)
- Rope (The uses are more than can possibly be named. I actually use a piece of rope as a belt, looped through my pants, so I don’t have to worry about a way to carry it.)
JJ Johnson of www.realitysurvival.com
- A Knife
- A way to start fire (usually a ferro rod)
- A 1 liter stainless steel water bottle or camelback and water filter or iodine pills.
Editor’s Note: JJ wanted me to be sure to add this: “I personally don’t recommend going into the wild with anything else than a full survival kit/daypack. You should carry everything with you that you would need for at least an overnight stay. So that list of gear could vary greatly depending on the environment, climate, terrain, etc. But of I had to narrow it down to three it would likely be those three in a generic “wilderness survival” setting.”
Jamie Thompson of www.survivalx.com
- A good quality knife
- A large stainless steel camping cup
- A BIC lighter
Heather Balogh of www.justacoloradogal.com
- A Leatherman
- An emergency solar blanket
- Some type of fire starter
Bryan Hansel of www.paddlinglight.com
- First aid kit (with enough supplies to cover the most common problems a WFR would encounter)
- A way to start a fire (I usually carry two lighters and a Light My Fire Swedish FireSteel 2.0. If I had to choose either or, I’d pick the Swedish FireSteel 2.0)
- A knife
Editor’s Note: I’m pretty interested in the differences of kayak and wilderness gear. Bryan also said: “I always also carry a map and compass, emergency shelter, multiple signalling devices (VHF, mirror, whistle), rope and a way to purify water, kayak rescue gear (tow rope, pump, paddle float), extra clothing, etc…” He also mentioned a much more detailed post about his “Ditch Kit” that can be found here.
Chris Townsend of www.christownsendoutdoors.com
- Bivy Bag
Sian Lewis of thegirloutdoors.co.uk
- A Compass
- A WaterToGo filter bottle
- A Bivy bag
Camping With Style | www.campingwithstyle.co.uk
- GPS enabled smartphone and long range walkie talkies: “I figure if I fall or got lost on my own, even with no phone signal, I could still pick someone up, somewhere on my walkie talkie and figure out where I was using my phones GPS function”
- Survival Kit: (includes things like matches that work in the rain, fishing line and hook, heat reflective foil blanket a saw, compass etc that all fits into a little tin)
- LifeStaw Go: “I never go walking without it and it means i don’t have to carry loads of bottled water with me.”
Editor’s Note: Having known people that got lost in blizzards or in areas they’d known for decades, I think the first option is often understated. I personally carry a Garmin Rino that combines a GPS/Radio into one unit that can send and poll locations of people in your group.
David E. Dirks of dirksoutdoors.wordpress.com
- Razor sharp Hunting knife
- Waterproof matches
- Emergency blanket
Robert Richardson of offgridsurvival.com
- A Knife (Most common: SOG Seal Pup Elite and the Benchmade 162 Bushcrafter)
- A Way to Make Fire (Often 2 BIC lighters and a magnesium bar backup)
- A Way to Filter Water (Often a Katadyn pocket microfilter with a steel canteen)
Editor’s Note: Robert wanted to clarify the following: “What I take really depends on a number of things; environmental conditions, my familiarity with the area, what I plan on doing when I’m out in the field, etc.. So the gear I take is really going to vary depending on the situations.” Quite a few responders had similar thoughts, but as the author of The Ultimate Situational Survival Guide I think the changing nature of his gear deserves a mention.
Bernie Carr of apartmentprepper.com
- Swiss Army Knife: “A multi tool that has 3 knives, screwdriver, scissors”
- Matches: “I like to have a way to generate fire if needed”
- Flashlight/Taser: “I’ve used the flashlight multiple times; I also like to have a way to protect myself just in case.”
Brendan Leonard of www.semi-rad.com
- Krazy Glue / Duct Tape
- Space Blanket
Jay of prepforshtf.com
- A Full Tang Knife: “With a knife I can make shelters, fishing hooks, snares and spears. I can also process tinder for fires and prepare game.”
- Ferrocerium Rod: “We all know that a ferrocerium rod makes fire and with fire I have heat as well as protection from predators and insects. I also have a way to make containers and boil water and cook game.”
- Paracord: “Paracord has hundreds of uses from shelters, to fishing line, snares and even nets. I also have a way to make fire should something happen to my ferrocerium rod.”
Michael Lanza of thebigoutside.com
- First Aid Kit (often very light)
Candice Walsh of www.candicedoestheworld.com
- My iPhone: For note taking, photography, GPS usage, etc.
- An eBook Reader: I’m a big reader! And this lightens the load.
- Sun lotion: I’m a ginger! I burn in the winter. Haha.
Editor’s Note: Candice spends more time surviving the concrete jungle of the world. There are some important carry overs. I’ve been told that small entertainment items like a deck of cards can make huge differences in morale, and help take a person’s mind off of the negative experience.
Howard of preparednessadvice.com
- A Sharp Knife
- A Fire Starter
- A Water Filter
Simon Willis of simon-willis.blogspot.com
- Spare Warm Clothing
- Marine VHF Radio
- Personal Locator Beacon
Editor’s Note: As sea kayaking is a bit outside of my wheelhouse I was happy when Simon included a video that demonstrates the use of the above equipment. It’s a VERY high quality video that goes as far as showing the difference in visibility of kayakers from helicopters with and without flares. The video itself can be found at http://vimeo.com/63677270. More details can be found at http://seakayakwithgordonbrown.com/.
Katie Levyof www.adventure-inspired.com
- Water Purification: (Usually tablets)
- A Small Emergency Kit: (includes a fire starter and first aid items like moleskin)
- A Headlamp