Surviving the Unexpected

The chances that you are going to develop superpowers any time soon are a bit slim. Maybe nonexistent. So, unless your mom dipped you in the river Styx when you were a baby, and your name is Achilles we need to talk.

Picking up your grandpa’s old Swiss army knife and a $10 first aid kit is better than nothing, but it might be a good idea to do a bit more.

What should you have in the ultimate wilderness survival kit?

A bit of clarification here – there is no such thing as ONE perfect survival kit. However, there are a few categories that you will need to check off when you’re putting everything together.

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Protection from the elements

The elements are your biggest enemy when it comes to survival in the wilderness. You can be a great forager and hunter, and even pull a Liam Neeson on a bear, but you have to watch out for the deep freeze and other fun situations.

A space blanket is a must, but what you will do about the sleeping bag and the tent depends on where you’re going and how you’ve tailored your adventure.

First aid

It’s fine to start with a store-bought kit and then top it up with other things. Skip the ones you’ll find in a local drugstore – those are okay for your car or the office desk drawer, but they might not be able to go the distance.

Pick a kit that you can fit into your backpack but still covers the basics – dressing, disinfectants, etc. Then, depending on your situation, top that up with a snake bite kit and your meds – regular therapy, epi pens, inhalers, etc.

A quick tip – drop by your local arts and crafts store and pick up some elastic. A single yard will do. Add that to your kit for slowing down the bleeding of large-ish wounds.


Map and compass

Unless things have changed since the last time I’ve checked, you can’t left-click on random spots to figure out where you are. GPS is great, but unless you carry military-grade equipment with you, I wouldn’t get too reliant on it.

A compass will always show you which way is North, and with a semi-decent map, you’ll be able to navigate your way back home.

Signalling tools

The stupidest thing you can do is to assume that you will never need help. Didn’t you learn anything from the movies? At least learn that cell phones will always die when you need them the most.

Make sure you have a whistle on you, as well as something that can send out a visual signal. A mirror will do in direct sunlight, but safety flares are cheap, pack small and are way more visible.


Other tools

There is a whole mile-long list of other tools you might need during your outing. But there are a few places where you can start – maybe with a fire starter? Smooth, I know.

Anyway, you’ll find both hi-tech and low tech options out there, but I am a fan of refillable fire torches.

Next is a multi-tool. The classic Victorinox Swiss Army Knife comes in more than the classic version you think of straight away, like their RescueTool or the SwissTool X Plus. Or something like the Sheffield Camper 12-in-1 Multi-Tool may prove to be more useful.

A bow saw is a must if you want to cut some wood for that fire. Check out the Agawa Canyon Boreal21 folding saw if you are in the market for a folding model.


While you need to dress properly when you leave the house, make sure that you also have a suitable change of clothes as needed. Even if you don’t mind keeping the same underwear on, pack an extra pair of socks and undershirt. Wet underclothes can lead to hyperthermia, and hyperthermia may lead to chopped off bits and a chopped of life string.

As a general rule, watch out for cotton since it retains moisture and try to stick to synthetic materials and wool.

On the other side of the spectrum, layering is still important. Places that were scorching during the day can become freezing cold in the night.



Just for laughs, you might decide to eat and drink during your outing. Now, you may decide to go full-one one-with-the-nature, and that’s great. But if you are a maverick and pick to pack your food, keep in mind that you will need to both save space and provide yourself with necessary calories.

Dry fruit and meat, nuts, and energy bars are the most efficient way to give you the necessary calories on the go. You won’t have the most balanced diet, but you’ll survive.

When it comes to water, you’ll need enough to last you until the next fresh water source. Once you’re at that source, you will then need a filter. Feel free to skip the filter if you are in a mood for a date with cholera or any other disease. The LifeStraw is super portable, but you have other options out there as well.

Wilderness survival kits packed for tropical climates

In this situation, your biggest enemy is a hurricane. Since our appointments with these lovely storms have become more regular, quite a few decent ready-made kits ar now available.

Bulk up your first aid kit with anti-mosquito stuff, and make sure you have enough water to stay hydrated.

And if you are in a wooded area, a tree tent might be a fun idea.


Wilderness survival kits for desert climates

Get ready to roast during the day and freeze during the night. That means shades, layered clothing, and even space blankets.

You’ll need plenty of water to stay hydrated, a mask or a bandana to protect yourself from dust and sand, and don’t forget that snake bite first aid kit either.

Survival kit suited for wet cold climates

Keeping dry and warm is obviously the theme here. Invest in heavy-duty waterproof everything – because hypothermia is not fun.

Pack an extra space blanket or two. Use one or more to wrap yourself, and use the other to insulate your shelter. And pack at least one extra layer of all your underclothes. If even get damp, change that stuff right away.

Make sure to pick high-fat calorie-dense food. You will need all those calories so your body can do its best at keeping you warm.


Survival kit essentials for areas with no wild food

If no wild food means there are no edible plants or mushrooms, you will have to fish and hunt. Gunpowder doesn’t taste that great, so playing Robin Hood is the next best thing. Compact Folding Survival Bow by Primal Gear Unlimited is a good option.

If no wild food means there are no edible animals, your best tool is an encyclopedic knowledge (or a cheat sheet) of local plant life.

If no wild food means there’s absolutely nothing, you will have to pack your own lunch. If your main source of nutrition is freeze-dried food, pack a kettle or another vessel for boiling water, as well as a fire starter.

The lowest effort version is energy bars. However, be ready to pack a ton of them – on average you might need 6 to 8 of them a day.


Wilderness survival essentials with special considerations

Vegans and vegetarians

While finding vegan and vegetarian food options is not a problem, the same can’t be said for the first aid kits. I can’t guarantee you that nothing in them was tested on animals because it simply is not true. That’s the whole field of medicine for you.

However, I can offer you great vegan alternatives for outdoor wear.


You know you should not skip meals and that you should eat regularly to maintain your blood sugar levels. Make sure to stick to your food plan and schedule as much as possible.

Your insulin is a bigger problem though – you have to keep it cool, right? Easier if you are at established campgrounds with access to ice and coolers. But off the grid? Turn to K-beauty. I can’t find an alternative to this product, but there is this thing called the DKCC Ice Mask. It has a special gel inside that will turn ice cold in cool running water. You can leave it in a stream for a bit then wrap your insulin pens in it.



A camping or hiking trip is not the best time to discover that you have an allergy. The safest bet would be to add an epi-pen to your first aid kit. A panthenol solution or cream can help soothe skin reactions.

But, if you already have numerous allergies, chances are that you may randomly discover a new one. Please see your doctor before you set off and let them tell you what to watch out for.

Organic food

All wild food is organic. But when it comes to pre-packaged stuff, more and more brands are making an effort to either source or release organic lines.

Still, if in doubt, feel free to make your own energy bars and trail mixes.

Survival kits short term VS long term

The only difference in how you will pack a survival kit based on the length of your outing is in the perishables. Basically, food and regular medication.

Your medication is easy – just pack more. The food? Just plan more.

For a longer trip, it would be a lot smarter to hunt, fish, or forage for a good chunk of your food. You will have to pack all the needed tools, but it will all take a lot less space than any extra food.

Depending on the climate, you might have to take an extra insurance policy. If you are in an area where weather changes within a blink of an eye, chances are you will experience more of these changes during a long outing. Make sure to provide adequate clothing and shelter.


What is the most a person should carry in a survival kit?

There is no point in having a perfectly stocked survival kit if it’s weighing you down. An ideal setup allows you to stay mobile and ready for anything, not feeling like you need a buggy to tote everything around.

I’m sorry I can’t tell you an exact weight or number of items that should be in that bag, But what I can tell you is that bag might have to be on your back for hours on end and you should be able to handle it without slowing yourself down and causing injury.

A lot of survival backpacks can hold between 30 to 50 pounds of cargo, so that can be a good starting point. Pay attention to the nature of your trip and your fitness levels, and that will further inform you how much to pack.

What is a bug out bag survival kit?

It’s what it says on the tin – it’s a bag that has everything to help you make it when you have to bug out. Like in any extreme situation where you would have to leave your home within a minute and run to the hills.

It’s your survival kit taken to the next level. Next to the food, first aid, multi-tools, clothes, and shelter, quite often you will have to include a weapon for self-defense.

You can buy a pre-made one, like the Seventy2 Survival System. It pretty much includes all the basics and can fit anywhere. Or you can put one together from scratch based on your location and other needs.


What are the 5 essentials for an emergency kit?

I will raise a few eyebrows, but I find that the emergency, survival, and bug out kits are three different things, even if they have a lot of same elements. An emergency kit is for regular campers to keep in their cars and RVs in the case of an alien invasion. Or some slightly more mundane emergencies.

A first aid kit is a must, and you’ll probably be able to stock a lot more in comparison to what can fit into a backpack.

Add an extra ration or two of food and water, or a water filter. If you find yourselves unable to return as planned, you’ll be okay. Freeze-dried food can keep for years if stored properly so it won’t matter if you don’t use it up after every trip.

Since technology failures are a thing, make sure to also stock up on batteries and backup chargers. Having a battery or a hand-crank operated radio might not be a bad idea. Sync it with the local authorities so you have a direct line to them in case of an emergency.

At the very least, make sure you have a whistle and a flare gun or any other visual signaling aid. You can use them both to signal that you require help and where to find you.

What is the best survival knife?

If you’re looking for the top of the line, that has to be Benchmade 162 Bushcrafter. But if $250 is a bit outside of your budget, you’ll find that Kansbol by Morakniv and 119 Special Hunting Knife by Buck Knives are great, yet at a fraction of the cost.


What is the hardest knife steel?

Nitinol, or nickel-titanium. Both nickel and titanium are present in equal amounts, and it’s currently the hardest steel known to humankind.

How long can you go without food?

As long as you drink water, you can go up to two months without eating. But how long can you be fully functional without food is a slightly different matter.

If there is a more than reasonable chance that you may lose access to food during your outing, you might need to train your body to not get dizzy spells the second your blood sugar levels go down. Those dizzy spells will cause you a lot more harm than the starvation – at least at first.

What is the fastest, lightest shelter in an emergency?

If you know your knots, some tarp will do.

There are a couple of ready-made setups out there in the interwebz, but check out this so-called ninja shelter video. It needs a few bits and bobs you can pick up for cheap, and it can also be upgraded into a cold-weather shelter with a simple addition of a space blanket.


What foods last the longest naturally?

Nuts. Also, they bring carbs, fat, and protein to the party. There is a good reason why they are a staple for camping and hiking.

Freeze-dried food is also great, but it doesn’t appear in that form in nature. However, as long as it doesn’t get in contact with moisture, it could last for years without refrigeration.

Regular dehydrated foods like prunes or jerky are also very long-lasting but can spoil quickly if not stored properly. Some of them have a high amount of sugar (fruit and brined meats). Sugar is a humectant, which means it attracts moisture, and moisture is the first step on the road to spoilage.

What are the best survival backpacks?

The top pick of many is Osprey Atmos 65 Pack. It has an anti-gravity suspension, an internal hydration reservoir sleeve, and it can hold up to 50 pounds of cargo.

For the best buy version, check out Scout 3400 by Teton Sports. It’s almost as awesome, but at a third of the cost.


What do I bring for my dog in a survival bag?

I kinda like your dog more than I like you, so my first instinct is to tell you to leave them out of your plans if there is a high risk of them being in danger. If you’re still taking your pup with you, pack well or I’ll unless the fury of thousand cats on you.

First things first, make an appointment with the vet and get all their meds and vitamins, as well as ointments, disinfectants, and other medications they might need in case of an injury.

Just like you, they will need food, water, and a space blanket. While to food and the blanket are easy, water can be a bit tricky. Your dog needs to stay properly hydrated, but you can’t tote around gallons and gallons of water. Something like the LifeStraw Mission might be a better solution.

Or if you want to make your life a bit easier, you can try a ready-made kit. It makes for a great starter package and you can always add things both of you need somewhere down the line.

What is the best wilderness food guide to bring?

Everything in the wild is edible – though some things you’ll eat only once.

Anyway, check out Idiot’s Guide to Foraging by Mark Vorderbruggen. It’s very informative without being overwhelming.

Okay, it’s not that portable, but you can collect information relevant to the area you’re going to and prepare a cheat sheet for easy identification of plants and mushrooms.

Another good one is How to Eat in the Woods: A Complete Guide to Foraging, Trapping, Fishing, and Finding Sustenance in the Wild by Bradford Angier.


What is the loudest survival whistle?

Currently, the top spot belongs to HyperWhistle at 142dB, with Survival Whistle by Lifesystems following behind.

What is the minimum amount of calories for survival?

This is a difficult question.

Technically, the minimum amount of calories you should consume daily should match your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). You can calculate it with a TDEE calculator.

Well, that is what you need to survive by having your body eat your fat stores and muscles first, and leave the major organs for later. But for any outdoor activity that is not sunbathing, you’ll need a bit more than that. Quite a bit.

Full disclosure, I’m not a registered dietitian. And if you are planning on exposing yourself to extreme conditions, you should see one. I can tell you to pack up as many nuts and jerky you can fit into your bag, but if you have special needs, you’ll have to see a special doctor.

But all in all, try not to starve yourself. Remember those dizzy spells? Would it be fun to have one while you’re hanging out in the middle of nowhere when you’re all alone?


What are the 5 most important survival skills?

I hope you will not even think of going off the road without at least 4 out of 5 of these skills in your repertoire. Without any fear that I will sound overly dramatic, these can be the difference between life and death when you’re out there.

Starting and maintaining fire

Your backyard BBQ skills might not cut it. Even if you get a super-fancy fire starter, it would not hurt to learn how to make do without one.

Fire will not just keep you warm or cook your food, but it can keep some beasties at bay and can be used to send out a signal. If you master the power of the man’s red flower, you could be like me… or produce enough smoke so a rescue team can easily locate you.


We’ll have to try and do a bit better than the breadcrumbs. Learning how to read a map and use a compass is a must when going off the grid.

And I’m talking about going old school here. That app on your phone can have as many five-star reviews it wants, but you need to be able to find your way if technology fails you.



You know those stories about people surviving crushing blizzards by hiding out in the carcasses of other animals. It’s grizzly and yucky, but it’s what’s sometimes needed for survival.

You must learn how to find and create shelter wherever you are. In a cave, in the ground, on the tree – wherever you need to be to stay protected from the elements and predators. You’ll have to learn how to quickly set up whatever it is in your kit, and how to get creative when you don’t have a tent or anything else on hand.

Food and water

What you need to make it outdoors is completely different from what a good chunk of the planet is used to in this century. Beyond planning and packing, you must learn how to ration your supplies and how to find nourishment in the wild.

You also have to be prepared for the psychological effect of the extreme circumstances. There is a reason why eating disorders are a thing – our relationship with food is complicated and hunger can take a toll on you in more than one way.

First aid

Everything listed above is nice and all, but if you’re going out often, you really must go through a basic first aid course. The same goes for any other people that are joining you.

Your employer or a local community center may offer one, or check out one of the classes Red Cross runs in your area. There are a couple of online courses that are not half-bad, but they can do just so much – kinda like what a text-only book on art history will do at making you understand Titian’s color palette.

Even if you never get to use your skills (and hopefully you won’t), they add a nice touch to your CV or Tinder profile.