Survival kits aren’t just for Rambo-types slogging through inhospitable third-world jungles or remote patches of no-man’s-land. They are for everybody and should be carried on every outdoor excursion. Even if you never need the kit in an emergency situation, you’ll feel more confident carrying it, and you’ll find that it can be downright handy in a number of scenarios. Here’s a basic list of gear to get you started. After that, you can customize the kit for your own terrain and conditions.

Shelter Items
For its size, weight, and cost, it’s hard to beat a space blanket as a shelter item. Originally developed for astronauts, this wind- and waterproof sheet reflects much of your body heat back toward you. While it’s far from snuggly, it can be a real life saver. A small emergency poncho or a large trash bag can also provide shelter from wind and rain, thereby keeping you warmer. Shelter is typically your top survival priority, so be prepared to provide for this critical need.

Water Disinfection Gear
You simply cannot live without water. And you’ll wish you had already died if you contract a raging case of dysentery while in the wild. These are the reasons that water gathering and disinfection is your second survival priority. A survival straw and iodine tablets are lightweight and small and will disinfect your water adequately. If you carry your survival kit in a large water bottle, you already have a container in which to disinfect and transport water.

Fire Starters
Butane lighters are a great choice, and a box of waterproof or “survival” matches are a nice backup. Ferrocerium rods (aka spark rods) are a good backup to your backup, and while they light a number of materials on fire, please realize that they aren’t capable of lighting everything on fire.

Medical Gear
Survival situations are often accompanied (or caused) by medical emergencies, meaning that first aid equipment is another important part of your survival kit. Dressings, gauze, antiseptic, antibiotic ointment, burn gel, and even superglue have a place in your medical module. Bring medicines, bandages, band-aids, and whatever else you have room for. You never know what you’re going to need. At a minimum, carry the gear to cover traumatic injuries and everyday ills.

Signaling Equipment
This group consists of the signal mirrors, signal whistles, and even your mobile phone. These tools communicate your distress and attract attention. Go big, go loud, and go home!

Your kit should contain duct tape, a multi-tool, cordage, a compass, and any other outdoor tools you suspect you’d need. A back-up knife is a great tool to add to your survival kit, as is a tool that can saw wood and bone.

What do you pack in your outdoor survival kit? Please share your wisdom in the comments.


To read more from Tim MacWelch, follow him on Twitter (@TimMacWelch) and purchase his survival manuals, including the latest: How to Survive Anything