Respect for the power of nature is essential for any successful outdoor adventure. Although beautiful, the outdoors can turn malignant in a flash, causing an enjoyable trip to spiral into a survival situation. Thousands of people become lost, stranded or critically injured in the great outdoors. Miles from assistance they have to rely on their own willpower and equipment to make it out alive.
Dramatic? Perhaps. However, these 15 items can be used to keep an outdoor trip going or potentially save your life if needed. Carry a small satchel or pack with this equipment to ensure a safe and positive experience in the outdoors.
1. A Reliable Water Filter and a Backup Filter
- Few things can be more dangerous than the millions of microbes that live and breed in water. They can cause Giardiasis, Botulism and Cholera. These diseases and general microbial infection from contaminated water often cause dysentery, perhaps one of the greatest threats to an isolated person’s survival.
- In order to combat the threats of contaminated water carry, at least one high quality water filter (Katadyn offers great filters). On top of this, carry a smaller backup filter. A great example is the Lifestraw. It is cheap, small, durable and reliable.
- Do not rely solely on boiling or chemical purification. Boiling water everyday can become a difficult task especially in damp environments or when the fire temperature is not high enough to boil the water. Chemical purification tablets are good to carry, but remember that they do run out. Also, some bacteria can survive improper boiling and chemical purification.
2. A Reliable Knife (Preferably Two)
- Too many people see knives solely as weapons or as kitchen cutlery. While they may be used for these purposes, a good knife can be used in many ways: medical uses, tree removal (for shelter), hammer, general cutting uses, shovel, can opener and many more. Often, ways to use a knife come to mind only when one is needed. Don’t be caught without a good blade.
- Read here on how to choose a good knife for the outdoors.
3. A Waterproof Tarp
- An expensive tent is obviously ideal. However, on a day hike, tents are often left behind for an overnight stay is not anticipated. However, the weather can change in the blink of an eye (especially in the mountains) or the trail can be lost. Either one of these scenarios will require the creation of shelter from the elements.
- A basic hiking tarp is cheap and can be easily compressed into even a small hiking bag. Simply unfurl the tarp and set it up to provide maximum protection from the elements. The tarp can block out two major causes of hypothermia: precipitation and wind.
- A colored tarp can also be used to signal for help and make you more visible to potential rescue.
- Tarps can also make picnics and stops along safari drives more enjoyable by offering protection from the sun.
4. Paracord (Type III, 550 Chord)
- Used in parachute suspension, paracord is strong and durable. Capable of supporting over 250 kilograms of stress, there is little guessing why military elements around the world use it as a general purpose cord for a variety of tasks.
- Paracord is made from several yarns encompassed by an exterior coating to give extra strength. This design allows the cord to take damage without breaking.
- The casing can be cut away and individual strands removed if more cord is needed. This means that a 30 meter stretch of uncut paracord is actually comprised of 243 meters of individual strands.
- The entire cord can be used to secure tarps and suspend food away from animals. The casing of the chord can act as improvised bootlaces while individual strands can create nets, snares and fishing line. This makes it perfect for safari trips, hiking adventures and survival situations.
- It also comes in different colors so you can make your boots, bag and paracord match. Now who wouldn’t want that?
5. Comprehensive First Aid/Trauma Kit
- Sometimes Band Aids and an ice pack are not enough to help care for an injured individual. A well made first aid/trauma kit is compact, comprehensive and noticeable. However, it can be difficult to pack all of the items below. The bold items should always be carried on a trip longer than two days, when entering an isolated area or one with dangerous terrain and animals. For those who some would call paranoid (synonymous with prepared) all of the listed items will make a brilliant trauma kit to carry in a vehicle, out hiking, hunting or exploring.
- Compact – A good kit does not need to be cumbersome. A kit should be able to fit in or be attached a hiking bag without causing obstruction or the elimination of other gear. The equipment needed is not fragile so do not be afraid to pack the kit tightly.
- Comprehensive – A reliable kit should not only handle basic cuts and scrapes but also cover severe bleeds and broken bones. Here is a short list of equipment for an effective aid kit.
- Band Aids, Compressed Gauze, Surgical Dressings, QuikClot, SAM Splint, Disinfectant (Rubbing Alcohol), AntiBacterial Cream, Surgical Tape, Tourniquet, Xacto Knife, Instant Ice Packs, Chapstick, Superglue, Suture Kit/Butterfly Strips, Tweezers, Mylar Blankets, Zip Ties, HALO Seal, Israeli Combat Dressings and a Headlamp. Read here on how to improvise a tourniquet.
- All of these items, properly packed, should fit comfortably in or on a backpack with plenty of room for all the other outdoor essentials. The kit should be carried on longer trips where injury is more likely and help further away.
- Noticeable – Anyone should be able to recognize the medical kit. This can mean marking the kit with a Velcro patch or simply having a brightly colored kit (typically orange or red). This will allow someone to quickly find the kit when under stress or in the dark.
6. A Flare (Or a Few)
- Flares are cheap and light. They can be easily packed alongside a water bottle or in the bottom of a pack.
- Flares should be included for they can improve chances of being seen, start fires and can even be used in emergency medicine.
7. LED Flashlight
- Tactical LED flashlights are lightweight and small, making them ideal to be carried at all times. These lights emit powerful beams and often have many modes. The light is often more penetrating and wide than that of a headlamp and can help a stranded individual or a relaxed camper on safari spot dangerous animals before they become an immediate threat. LED flashlights can also be used to signal for help and the batteries inside can be used to start fires.
8. Firestarting Kit
- An effective firestarting kit should be compact and feature many forms of tinder and different igniting agents.
- Compact – Read here to see an effective firekit that fits in an empty mint canister.
- Diverse Tinder – Dryer lint, Vaseline soaked cotton balls, tampons and Wetfire all work well.
- Diverse Ignition – Waterproof matches, cigarette lighters and flint strikers all work well. Click here to see a good knife that comes with a flint firestarter. A pair of signal mirrors can also be used to reflect sunlight to start a fire. The mirrors also work as rescue signals.
9. Clothing (To Wear and Store)
- This is obviously dependent on the weather. However, one major rule applies – avoid cotton. Cotton soaks up water rather than repel it. When cotton becomes waterlogged (from sweat, rain or a fall into a creek) it stops insulating effectively because it fails to wick moisture away from your skin, causing you to become chilled and potentially hypothermic.
- Stick to wool, polyester and other synthetic garments.
- In the winter pack and wear suitably warm clothing.
- In spring, summer and fall dress for hot days but be prepared for cold nights and rainy weather. Be sure to have a waterproof jacket on hands at all times.
- Always carry at least one pair of extra socks, preferably wool or synthetic.
10. Shemagh, Keffiyah or Desert Scarf
- This traditional Middle Eastern headdress has many uses and can be worn in every environment.
- In hot climates, a shemagh can be worn to prevent sunburn and can be dipped in water to keep the body cooler. Also, they can be stretched out to create shade for campsites and keep dust and sand out of your nose, eyes and mouth.
- In cold climates they can be tied around the neck, greatly increasing warmth.
- Shemaghs can also be used to filter water, cover injuries, act as slings, and provide an improvised pillow.
11. A Good Compass and Regional Map
- Before heading into any wilderness area – regardless of how remote – always be sure to acquire a detailed map of the region and don’t forget your compass. Consider storing the map and any other important papers in a waterproof bag. Invest in a quality compass, it can save your trip. Take time to learn how to use the compass, it isn’t as straightforward as in the movies.
12. Duct Tape
- Duct tape can be used for just about anything. Pack up a roll or few feet of the stuff to help patch tents, temporarily stop tire leaks, cover heel blisters and more.
- Some would say that a multitool can replace a good knife, but this is not entirely true. a multitool can replace a Swiss Army style knife, but not a utility or hunting blade.
- Multitools can help fashion shelters, repair vehicles and much more. A quality multitool often includes: pliers, a wire cutter, miniature saw, sharpening file, fingernail cleaner, probe, can/bottle opener and a small blade.
- Once again, invest in quality. A broken multitool is just about useless. Try Leatherman or Stanley for quality.
14. Reliable Water Bottle
- This is simple but true. A standard plastic water bottle (like ones purchased from gas stations) can be easily punctured or lost. Being without a way to transport water can be as dangerous as having no water. Look into military canteens, which often come with attachable cups to boil water in.
15. Bear Spray/Venom Extraction Kit
- This is also dependent on your area of travel. If you are hiking in the mountains of North America or even Asia, run-ins with grizzly, brown, black, Kodiak and polar bears are possible. Bear mace can help spare you needing to access that medical kit. If on safari in Africa, in the jungles of the Amazon or hiking the deserts of Arizona contact with venomous snakes and spiders can be fatal. Venom extraction kits have a proven track record of giving snakebite victims enough time to reach an antivenin.
16. Have Fun
- A positive attitude is the key ingredient to enjoying any situation, whether you are dealing with a damaged tent in a well-populated region, or are trying to stay alive in the wilderness, the ability to smile and keep going is crucial.
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