List of Wilderness Survival Tools
This is meant to be a list of tools and supplies that are useful in a survival situation. This is not a compact list of the few most critical things that you might pack in a mini survival kit. This is a big list of all of the different things you might want in a survival situation. This does overlap with regular camping or hiking gear but is not meant to be a list of general camping equipment. We are specifically focusing on things that are important for survival.
All of these things are important. Some are more important than others. Depending on the circumstances, the importance of any one tool can go up or down dramatically. For example, if you are in the desert, water suddenly becomes the most important thing to have. If you are stuck out in a snowy environment, in the freezing cold, suddenly warm clothing becomes way more important. Always consider the specific circumstances.
These are some of the more important tools to have at your disposal in a survival situation. Most survival skills will hinge on the use of a cutting tool in one way or another. These can even supplement other things such as fire building tools if you have the skill to use them properly. For example, a knife can be used to notch wood in just the right way to allow for building a fire without matches or a lighter.
- Multi-tool - These are generally really small and offer a ton of functionality. There is no reason not to have one. It is actually a pretty good idea to carry one of these all the time, not just outdoors.
- Fixed-blade knife - You are going to want a fixed blade knife in addition to your multi tool. Having a fixed blade will allow you to put more pressure on the blade without breaking it. You could go with a bowie or the kukri but don’t want to carry that much you could just carry a smaller fixed blade to complement your multi-tool.
- Bowie Knife - This is really easy to carry around and will help you do a lot of stuff. You can use it as a normally knife but it is also great for cutting branches and stuff. It kind of overlaps with some of the functionality of a hatchet. It is just a super versatile tool that is great to have with you.
- Large kukri knife - This serves basically the same purpose as the bowie knife but is shaped a little differently. It has many of the same advantages and is also really popular. Carrying both would mean extra, unnecessary weight. I would say just pick the one you personally like the most.
- Hatchet - Hatchets are really useful outdoors. They are also pretty versatile. They weight a little more than the large knives listed above and take up more space. They do provide more leverage when chopping things though. If you can carry one, it doesn’t hurt to have.
Fire Building Tools
Having something to start a fire with is critical. It may be less critical if you know how to start a fire with what you find on the ground outside (IF you have the skills) but it is still really important. Fire building is a core wilderness survival skill. Fire starting tools are either the most or second most important type of tool to carry.
- Bow and drill - These are used for the bow and drill method of starting a fire. You can carry a pre-built set. You could just as well carry a lighter though. A bow and drill is usually constructed on the spot in the woods when you don’t have a lighter or matches.
- Flint and steel - This one is actually super useful. It has some advantages over carrying matches or a lighter. It is really compact. There are fewer moving parts. It isn’t expended like a pack of matches. It doesn’t matter if it gets cold. It is pretty easy to dry off. It lasts a long time and you don’t have to wonder if it still works.
- Lighter - This is usually my tool of choice when building fires. A flame is easier than a spark and it seems more practical than matches. Usually people will tell you that matches are better. I’ve actually heard that butane doesn’t vaporize below 0C/32F. You can get around this by warming it up in your armpit. They can get wet but work fine after drying off. Also, they could be accidentally discharged while stored.
- Matches - These are the most standard fire starting tool. They don’t require special skills to use and are considered reliable. They are more traditional than a lighter.
- Bag of tinder - This can save you a lot of time. It is compact and doesn’t weigh very much. It is way easier to prepare ahead of time.
- Candles - Yep, regular old fashioned wax candles can be helpful. You can light these once and keep the flame alive long enough to do other things like get a fire started.
Clothing and Warmth
The cloths you wear can have a big impact on how well you do. Depending on the environment, your cloths can mean the difference between life and death. Wear the appropriate things for the situation. Know the advantages and disadvantages of each item of clothing. Do you want synthetic or natural? Should you pick something made of wool, cotton, or polyester? These all make a huge difference.
- Large rain poncho - We can't say enough about this. It is small and doesn’t weigh much. You can wear it to keep dry (and alive). You can use it to collect water. It can be used as a component to construct a makeshift shelter.
- Extra warm clothing - It doesn’t hurt to have an extra pair of warm cloths in case what you are wearing gets wet. If you fall in the water or forget to bring a poncho for the rain, an extra pair of cloths can be a lifesaver.
- Wool clothing - Wool clothing can still help keep you warm when it is wet.
- Wool blanket - These are great for keeping warm.
- Emergency blanket - These are a super low-weight, compact blanket. They are heat reflective. They are waterproof and windproof. The are used to keep people warm but can also be used for shade in a high heat environment like a desert. They generally come in a small pack. They are commonly used for first aid and survival. They are also called a mylar blankets as well as a bunch of other names.
Food and Water
Food and water really important if you like staying alive. In general, you can survive three days without water and three weeks without food. Obviously, water is a priority. Remember, just because you can theoretically last a certain amount of time without food or water doesn’t mean that you will. You are also not going to be functioning 100% if you are starving or severely dehydrated.
- Water Purification Pump Filter - You can only carry so much water. With this you can purify more as you need it. This is great to have as you can just keep filtering water and don’t need to expend tablets. The filter won’t last forever though. You will eventually need to replace the filter.
- Water Purification Tablets - These are really convenient. A big bottle of these could last you awhile. They are less complicated than a pump but somewhat less flexible.
- Iodine - This is commonly used to purify water making it safe to drink. It is technically poisonous but mostly considered OK if you only have small amounts. You can use iodine tablets or an iodine solution. It is really convenient. It might be easier than using a pump filter or boiling but personally I don’t like the idea of consuming iodine. It's safe, I just prefer not to if I have another option. It is good to carry some as an alternative just in case.
- Grapefruit Seed Extract - This is another substance that can be used to purify water. It is an alternative to Iodine.
- Dried Food - Dried foods can be carried and will last for a while without going bad. The more you carry with you the longer you will be able to last before acquiring more food.
- MRE - Meal ready to eat - these are generally long lasting vacuum packed meal kits. Each is meant to be a full meal all packaged together.
- Mountain House Meals - This is a company that provides freeze dried foods and meals specifically designed for camping and emergency preparedness. Carrying some of their freeze dried foods with you can make your time in the wilderness a whole lot more comfortable. Don’t get too comfortable though. You still need to know how to find food for yourself in the wilderness.
- Canteen - You are going to need to store your water in something. This is designed specifically for that purpose. Depending on the material they may also be used to boil water.
- Large stainless steel cup - It helps to have something to drink out of but a steel cup provides more functionality than just a drinking vessel. It can be used to heat water or drinks over a fire. This is especially helpful if you need to boil water to purify it. A cup is smaller than pot and is easier to include in a small pack. Having something that is easy to carry and can help with water purification is really nice. Make sure it doesn’t have a vacuum sealed wall and that it doesn’t contain plastic parts. Titanium works great too.
- Small stainless steel cooking pot - This is what you are going to use to purify water most of the time. If you have one, use it to purify more water at a time than you could with a cup. It is also great for cooking food and making coffee.
- Fishing line - Fishing line is really helpful for food acquisition. There are other ways to catch fish but if you have line and hooks this will make catching fish easier. Depending on where you are fish may be one of the easiest and most effective sources of food available.
- Fishing lures - Bring some lures or for a compact kit just some hooks. A few hooks combined with whatever bait you can find can put food on your plate.
Regular Important Stuff
There are many other tools that don’t necessarily fit into one of the categories above. Some of them are still very important and shouldn’t be overlooked. None of these should be overlooked especially the first aid kit.
- Handheld flashlight - A regular flashlight is really handy to have outdoors. You can get things done in the dark a lot easier if you have a flashlight. Not having to fumble around can save you a lot of trouble. This is slightly less of an advantage once you’ve got a fire going. Try to imagine trying to get a fire started in complete darkness. Being able to see the tinder you are igniting and preparing is a game changer.
- Headlamp - You want this for the same reasons you would want a normal flashlight. This can be strapped to your head so it can be more convenient leaving your hands free to prepare tinder and stuff like that.
- Extra batteries - Your batteries will only last so long. Having extras will give you that much more functional time with your devices. Normally, these are just going to be used to power your flashlight but are also great for other devices you bring along like your GPS.
- Emergency whistle - Personally, i wouldn’t view this as the most critical thing that I want to have in the woods. It could be used to signal people to your location and can be pretty useful for that. If you happen to be lost out at sea in a life raft, a whistle becomes way more important. It could mean the difference between life and death. It is small and cheap so why not throw it in your pack?
- Lensatic compass - This is also called the military compass. It has been standard in the US army since WW2. It generally has a round lense encased in metal or plastic. It looks more like what you normally think of when you think of a generic compass. These are way cooler than the base plate compass. They take up more space and weigh more though.
- Base plate compass - This is basically a flat piece of glass or plexiglass with a compass built in. They also generally work totally fine. They weigh less and are more compact than the lensatic compass.
- Map of location - A map is still really good to have even if you also have a GPS. A GPS can run out of battery power. Your map will not run out of battery power. A map is also harder to damage.
- GPS - So long as you have battery power this is going to help you find your way just about anywhere you want to go. If you have one of these in working order you can avoid being lost and make your life a lot easier. A GPS is incredibly useful but suffers from the one huge disadvantage of needing batteries to function. You can solve this with a mini solar charger.
- Mini Solar Charger - If you have space, bring one of these. It can keep electronics functioning indefinitely. Your batteries will run out relatively quickly and when that happens your electronics will become dead weight.
- Ziploc bags - You can use these to keep things dry and organized. These are great for small things like your fishing line and hooks. They are also good for keeping matches dry. It doesn’t hurt to stuff one of these with some tinder or other fire starters like lint, etc.
- First aid kit - Last but definitely not least is your first aid kit. This is an important thing to have. Injuries can cost you your life. Even something relatively minor, if not treated, can become infected. Yes we always want to keep things compact but we also don’t want to skimp on something that can save your life in an emergency. Exactly what to put in your first aid kit for maximum efficiency and maximum effectiveness is an entire topic in and of itself.