Please note, these items will not keep you comfortable, they will keep you alive. Feel free to add or change any of these items to suit your specific needs. As you gain more experience, you will begin to learn what does and doesn't work for you, and can adjust accordingly.
Step 1: Knife.
Fixed blade knives are ideal. They are more durable and resilient than folding knives as they do not have mechanical movement. They are also better for cutting large objects such as branches. Folding knives are great for a backup and less demanding tasks.
- cutting rope
- creating weapons
- opening packages
- boredom relief
- creating fire starters (ie: bow drill)
- building emergency shelters (cutting branches, cutting tarp, etc)
- cutting cloth for bandages (if you don't have a first aid kit)
- cutting bandages
- so much more; you discover many more uses through experience
- If your knife becomes dirty during use, be sure to clean if off before you put it in your pocket. Ideally you would use a damp towel or rag, but if that is not readily available, I wipe it off on my pant leg. Never leave your knife wet as it may rust.
- Before I leave for a camping trip, I always check to make sure my knife is sharp. This will keep you safe during usage as you will not have to apply extra force in order to cut things. Dull tools are dangerous!
- Be sure that your knife blade is not loose (if it is a folding knife). Folding knives can loosen over time, and this dangerous. If your knife becomes loose, there should be a screw which attaches your blade to the knife housing. Just tighten this screw.
- Don't cut toward yourself
- Make sure people are out of your "blood circle". This is the area within range of your knife in hand while your arm is extended.
Step 2: Cordage
I prefer 550 parachute cord. It's lightweight, strong, and takes up little space. I am always wearing a paracord bracelet and usually bring an extra one camping, in addition to a large length of unused paracord. My extra bracelet has a side release buckle which makes it easy to attach to a strap on my pack.
One neat property of 550 paracord is how it lengthens when wet. This is useful when you need a tight hold on something. Get it wet, then secure the object. When the cord dries, it will tighten. This is great for making grips on walking sticks and fixed bladed knives.
- hoisting food to keep away from wildlife
- building emergency shelter
- making splint for broken bones
- lashing poles
- tent repair
- attaching gear to pack
- fishing line
- trap for hunting
- many more
I like this addition to the paracord bracelet, it adds some "stitching" with smaller cord. This smaller cord can be used for traps. The more cord the better!
Step 3: Beanie/stalking Cap/touque
No matter what the weather is, I always bring a touque. Touques will keep your body warm at night, it is always cold at night. Warmth is very important. Your body can focus it's energy on keeping your body moving and your brain functioning fully instead of generating heat.
I've been using this flaming hat for years, I really like it!
Step 4: Water Bottle/hydration System
Don't buy those weird canvas water, eh, sacks. They are easily punctured.
I recently purchased a Camalbak which is nice, but not ideal when on a backpacking trip because you can not fit all of your gear in them. However, Camelbaks (or similar hydration systems) are great for day hikes. They are nice to bring camping (in addition to a regular camping pack) so that you can go on a day hike without having to lug around all of your gear, just a few things for the hike. They are also great for mountain biking because they are low profile, provide easy water access, and can carry some bike repair tools (depending on the size).
Step 5: Signaling Equipment
The flash from a signal mirror can be seen for miles by aircraft. This flash will catch the pilot's attention. If you flash it across the sky in some sort of pattern, the pilot will be more likely to realize that there is a person in danger, especially if you flash S.O.S.
My signal mirror has instructions engraved on the back so I never forget the proper way to use it. It also came with a foam pouch to prevent it from scratching.
Whistles are also useful. The sound of a man-made whistle is unmistakable. Even if you get to a road, cars may be few and far between. If you happen to get to the road as a car is passing, you can use the whistle to catch their attention. Whistles are also good in the wilderness; for all you know, there may be other campers nearby to help you.
For signalling, you can use any source of light to do Morse Code. A flash light is perfect for this. You can also use for, you know, seeing in the dark, because it isn't advised to carry a burning stick with you; it has a short range, and you might accidentally make a giant signal fire ;)
Matches or lighter. Use this to light a signal fire. Green leaves have a lot of moisture in them, and will let off a lot of smoke. Be sure to add these to the fire once it is big enough, otherwise they will put it out. Not to mention that the fire will keep you warm.
Even if you are not in a survival situation, whistles can be used to tell others in your camp that danger is nearby, or that you've been injured.
Step 6: Compass (and the Knowledge to Use One)
View this Instructable to learn how to navigate with a compass and map.
Step 7: Shelter Building Material
You can build a simple lean to with rope, some branches, and a tarp. You don't want to end up like Survivorman, building a roof with leaves. This takes up a lot of time which could be spent hunting for food and building a fire.
Step 8: First-aid Kit
I take a small one that I purchased from Wal-mart, a big one is unrealistic.
Step 9: Change of Clothing
If your shoes and socks get wet, it is likely that you will get blisters because your feet will slide around in your shoes. You will lose your ability to get out of the bush if this happens. So, make sure you have extra socks!
Synthetic clothing is highly advised. Cotton clothing will keep you wet for a long time.
Step 10: Camping Pack
A pack also provides extra material for bandages, fire building, splints, etc.
Step 11: Wrapping Up
Just make sure they aren't as irresponsible as those two. I even hid their faces because they were acting so dumb.
So, that's the list of things you should bring so you are prepared for many situations that might occur. This would also be a good start for a 72 hour emergency pack for you to keep at home and/or in your vehicle.
Please comment about anything, to say hi, give suggestions, criticism, whatever. Just let me know you're alive (and not like those two)!
Again, this is in the Great Outdoors Contest, please vote for it if it is super duper awesome :)
I hope this helps you be more prepared for your future endeavors in the wilderness :)