Essential Gear for Wilderness Survival

Essential gear for Wilderness Survival

Photo by Robert Ritchie on Unsplash

Do you worry about what could go wrong when camping or hiking in the wilderness? With essential survival gear, you can be prepared for any emergency or natural disaster no matter where you are.

Being prepared to survive in the wilderness is about the right mindset, the right skills, and the right gear. Whether you are going on a hike with the family, backpacking alone, hunting, cross-country skiing, or any other wilderness activity, you should always carry an emergency survival kit. You never know when you may need it. 

Survival Gear List

What should go in a wilderness survival kit? Let’s start with the basics. If you are a hiker, camper, or hunter, hopefully, you have heard of the ten essentials. These are the 10 survival items that you should always carry with you into the wilderness even if you only plan to do a short hike. They are actually ten categories rather than ten individual items. For example, you need navigation, but there are many options such as a paper map and compass or a GPS device. 

Ten (10) Essentials

10 Survival Essentials:

  1. Navigation
  2. Light source (e.g. headlamp)
  3. Sun protection (e.g. sunscreen)
  4. First aid
  5. Knife or multi-tool
  6. Fire-starter (e.g. matches)
  7. Shelter (e.g. emergency bivy)
  8. Extra food
  9. Extra water
  10. Extra clothes

How to Pack Your Survival Kit Items

The ten essentials are generally agreed upon in the outdoor recreation community to be the most important survival items. When packing your outdoor survival kit, keep in mind that you may need to survive in the wilderness for days before rescue can arrive. Always pack more food and water than you think you will need. Also, include warm clothing layers in your bag if there is a chance of the temperature dropping at night in case you need to spend the night in the backcountry unexpectedly. 

In climbing, there is an adage that redundancy is key. This is also true for wilderness safety in general. Consider bringing more than one item from each of the ten essentials categories if possible. Instead of debating over the pros and cons of bringing a paper map versus a GPS device, bring both. If you lose or damage one, you have a backup navigation method. Choose small, lightweight items when possible so that you can ensure redundancy without overloading your pack. 

Must-Have Survival Gear

The list below is a general guide for wilderness survival gear. The exact survival tools and equipment you should purchase depends on a variety of factors including, but not limited to:

  • The type of outdoor activity you are doing
  • The climate of the area
  • The terrain of the area
  • How difficult rescue would be if needed

Water Filtration System

A way to acquire drinkable water is arguably the most important survival tool. There are many methods of water purification on the market. If you want something very lightweight and portable, go with the Sawyer Squeeze. It’s a small piece that you can attach to a standard Smart Water bottle to drink directly from. Alternatively, you can squeeze the water through the filter into another container making this tiny water filtration system highly versatile. Also, in the spirit of redundancy, consider adding a small bottle of iodine tablets to your survival pack.

Fire Starter

Being able to start and sustain a fire is advantageous to wilderness survival in many ways. It can provide light, protection, and warmth. You can also boil water as another water purification method or cook food once you have a sustained fire. Lastly, fire can be used to signal for help if you are lost or in need of rescue. The Alpha Fire Starter from Trail Wolf is lightweight and allows you to start a fire quickly and effortlessly in any weather conditions.

Trail Wolf Alpha Fire Starter

Power Source

If you are assembling a bug-out bag or an “if shit hits the fan” (SHTF) bag, you should prepare for losing power whether you are in the wilderness or not. That means you need an alternative power source. For short-term emergencies, a power bank will work. Anker PowerCore power banks are durable and reliable. They come in various sizes, and the bigger the power bank, the more charging power it will likely have. For a long-term power supply, consider a portable solar panel


A headlamp is the best light source to use in the wilderness because you can always keep your hands free. Look for a headlamp that has a long life span per charge and has a red light option. The red light will come in handy if you need to hunt at night or navigate by the stars. To ensure your headlamp will have power when you need it, consider one that is dual-powered via USB charger and batteries so that you have options. We recommend the COAST TPH25R headlamp. With a USB rechargeable headlamp, you can charge it using your portable power source. 

Satellite Communicator

In the 21st century, a satellite communicator is a vital part of any hiking survival kit. While past satellite phones were heavy and expensive, modern satellite communicators have come a long way. They often serve as a GPS and personal locator beacon. We recommend the Garmin InReach Mini for its versatility and compact design. I wouldn’t go into the wilderness without mine. You can even use it to check the weather forecast and text your family in areas with no cell phone coverage. 

You should never rely on a satellite communicator for rescue. The other supplies you pack in your outdoor survival kit need to keep you alive long enough to self-rescue or for help to arrive which could take days to weeks. However, when used responsibly, this technology saves lives. 

Waterproof Supplies

Staying dry is key to wilderness survival. You will want a rain jacket or emergency poncho in your bug-out bag. Another waterproof piece of survivalist gear to buy is a dry sack. They come in various sizes and can protect your other gear during rain, flooding, or river crossing. We recommend Sea to Summit dry bags for their ultra-light design and high-quality construction. 


While rope is not on the ten essentials list, it maybe should be. It’s certainly on my survival kit list. There are too many uses to name, but here are a few:

  • Fishing and setting animal traps
  • Hang your food out of reach from bears
  • Making a tourniquet or splint
  • Hauling heavy objects
  • Building a shelter

Paracord is the preferable type of rope for wilderness survival kits because of its weight to strength ratio. The most common Paracord, Type III, has a breaking strength of 550 pounds. That’s some strong little rope! 

While we are talking about rope, make sure to practice some basic knots to level up your wilderness survival skills. 

Wilderness Survival Tips

Ideally, you will never need to use some of your outdoor survival gear. However, that means it’s important to check your gear regularly to see if there is anything that needs to be cleaned or updated. Medicines, water, and non-perishable foods can expire and may need to be replaced. Don’t wait until you use something to replace it. Keep everything ready for an emergency at any time. 

More survival kit tips:

  • Consider different scenarios such as wildfire, flooding, broken ankle, etc., and think about how you will handle them ahead of time. 
  • Test all gear and survival supplies as soon as possible. You want to be able to use your survival gear quickly and confidently in an emergency, so take time to become familiar with it. 
  • Create redundancy whenever possible. This includes carrying extra batteries and patches/duct tape for fixing gear and clothes in the wilderness if needed.

Wrap-Up on Survival Gear

Essential survival gear for the wilderness aligns with the ten essentials for hiking. Whether you need to survive in the woods for a day or long term, it’s possible with the right survival skills and supplies. Make sure you have what you need to secure safe drinking water, food, and shelter. Your survival kit should also have first aid to mend minor injuries in the wilderness and tools to self-rescue if needed. There is no such thing as being too prepared when prepping essentials for wilderness survival.

Leave a comment

All comments are moderated before being published