Ten Survival Items for the Outdoors




Introduction: Ten Survival Items for the Outdoors

I have studied under surival experts, hiked with Scouts, worked with former pararescue people and learned through dumb luck along with a few bits of wisdom gathered through living life.  This qualifies me by far as no expert but does give me the opinion that most outdoors enthusiasts are not prepared for the outdoors.

This list of ten items will provide the ability for you to prepare for an outdoor experience that turns into a survival situation.  It is ultimately up to you to use the first item in the list to construct the survival equipment that best suits your enviroment and yourself.  If there is one item I do hope you get from this it is the first item.

The reality is, the items could fluctuate based on the terrain your are in. Your brain is the one item that remains as number one.

If I have missed anything in this list, please comment on it. No, I'm not including the personal locator beacon.  Most people are not going to buy this even though it is handy.

Step 1:

The first item required is a brain.  Without this vital piece of equipment, all other items are useless and may lead to a faster demise.  Properly using the brain provides the ability to utilize all other pieces of equipment.  A brain is like a tool chest.  If there are no tools in the chest then is it a tool chest?

Your brain needs to be filled.  This is called preparation.  Before you plan for the trek, you need to prepare for a survival situation.  Take a wilderness first aid course or at least study it.  Learn how to catch fish and not with a rod and reel.  Learn how to use a snare and deadfall.  These are important methods for situations where you may be in the bush for an extended period of time.  Learn the local plants; edible and non.  Learn different methods of starting a fire.  Learn how to make a shelter, getting water, signaling, staying warm and how to use a map and compass.  Practice this.  Yeah, I know some laws prevent you from properly testing.

Next we fill the tool chest with information about your trek.  Study maps and talk to people to learn of roads, rivers, hills and any other item in the area.  NOTIFY people of where you are going, when you are going and when you plan to return.  Take another person with you.

To sum up, educate yourself.  This will prepare you when a survival situation occurs.  Without education and proper mental preparedness, the following items may be of no use.


Step 2:

A whistle. 

Yes, this little item may stop a more seriious situation from happening.  If you are injured and can not walk, no other item will be as valuable as the whistle.

Three blows of the whistle followed by a pause of a minute and then repeated is the recognised distress signal.

There are many true stories floating of dead people being found a short distance from a trail and stories from survivors that state if they had a whistle their rescue would have happened sooner.

Step 3:

Okay, I'm going with a container for water.  Without water your chance of survival for a period of time diminishes.  A container provides the opportunity for you to not only get water but also heat it to kill off all the pathogens.  160°F will kill everything by thirty minutes.  In the bush, you need to only heat the water to the boiling point.  You can search online about this method if you want. 

This item may not be high on everyone's list, and it may not be needed if you're quickly found.  I'm going by the fact that you properly prepared your brain.

The plastic bottle should not be discounted.  You can boil water using this 'pop' bottle.  One method is to suspend the bottle, filled with water, over the fire.  Make sure it is above the fire so as not to melt the bottle.  There is a second method too!  This method is to first fill the bottle with water.  Heat small stones or pebbles in a fire.  Place the stones, one at a time, in the bottle.  Eventually it should boil the water.  Try these methods.

Step 4:

Fire starting items.  I'm throwing in tinder with this. 

You can take matches, lighter, flint and steel, battery and steel wool, manesium bar, fire piston, hand drill or even a bow drill.  You can even construct your own out in the field.

If you are familiar with your surroundings you can find tinder such as milkweed, cattails, birch bark, tinder fungus or event your belly button lint.  Heck, even Fritos will work if you bring it.  While you are transporting tinder, think of jute rope, char cloth or specially prepared bird nests.

Step 5:

Now we come to the knife.  Yeah, this is lower on my list.  There is a good reason for it.  Look at my picture and you may see why.

In an ultimate survival situation, a knife comes in handy, and no one is choosy when given a knife in the bush.  What happens when you forgot your knife or lost it?  There are two items in this image that can work in a pinch. 

One is the wooden knife.  Actually you may find a stick and when broken it will have edges sharp enough to puncture a fish or captured animal when field drssing.  It's messy, but it can work.  No you won't chop a tree down, but beggars can't be choosy.  This isn't my first choice, but it can be a quick choice.

The more practical of the natural knifes is the stone sitting next to the wooden knife.  You can sometimes get a stone sharper than any knife you own by knapping.  Again your brain is at work.

The variety of real knives below provides you the opportunity to see what fits you best.  I use different knives for different treks and no, this is not my collection of knives.  I actually like the multi-tool.

Step 6:

Now we are entering an area where if you really know what to do, these become less important.

Paracord is one item that is nice to have.  If you can make one of those paracord belts, you have a nice item that not only looks nice but comes in handy.  With paracord 550, you have smaller strands inside that can be use to make snares, help in a fish basket, securing a tarp or something or even used for first aid.

Step 7:

Signal mirror.  I really don't want to include this, but if you're really lost and aircraft are searching for you it comes in handy.  You don't even need an aircraft for this.  Any group hunting you can see this from a distance.  What is really nice is you can use a compact disc or better yet the disk from a hard drive.  What is nice with these two is the hole in the center.  It helps you aim the mirror.

Step 8:

I'm including a first aid kit.  You do not need much, but triple antibiotic ointment, band-aids and tape can come in handy.  Sanitizing wipes are nice in preventing infections or even after you take a dump, it prevents you from placing poo in the mouth.  Including tweezers in this kit can be nice.

Create the kit to fit the trek.  The first aid kit size can change with the length of trek or type of trek.

Step 9:

Map and compass.  I thought about not including this, but if you have these two items, you should never be lost.  These are two items that need practice.  The lensatic is more accurate than the compass you see with boy scouts.  These two items should always be with you on a trek into the bush.  This is the reason why I hesitated including these.  They are not survival items but required items.  Then again, all of these are required.

If you would like to have fun with the map and compass, look up orienteering.  It is competitive and fun. 

Step 10:

A flashlight is helpful for those times you are a little late getting back, and are not prepared to spend the night in the dark.  Also, if you are going to walk about in the dark, why not have light to prevent your needing the whistle. 

I don't know how many times people take a late afternoon walk on a known trail only to become stuck in the dark.  Your phone is a poor substitute for a flashlight.  Get a nice light and keep those batteries fresh.

Step 11:

You may have a different list than mine, or you may even want to re-order my list.  This list can be rearranged based on what you plan to do.  A little research will help you in keeping yourself alive. 

If you properly prepare your brain, you can survive most situations.  All of these items can truly be found in the wild and not carried by you.  When in a survival situation stop, relax and think about your resources.  Your shoelaces can be used as rope, stones as knives, a piece of concave wood is a cup.  Shelters can be built to keep you warm even in the snow.  Staying calm can help you think about what you can do to stay alive.

Hopefully, this tutorial should help you think of alternatives to what you do not have even when you are not in a survival situation.  Take some time to research each section on your own.  You may even discover something I've forgotten or may not know.

I would like to take the time to thank those that have helped me with this.  They may not know it, but I am very grateful to them.



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    20 Discussions

    Thanx for whistle - mine was forgotten in drawer - GREAT tool, and if you're stewpit, and can't stop wandering on your own, anytime, anywhere, it can damage any hopeful assailant's eardrums.

    Ok., don't giggle - but the waterbottle-thing made me all putty. Plastic! Who would believe. Can't wait to try. Thank you, King Arthur Ps when can I have my round kitchen-table back?

    1 reply

    Nope. I'm having waaay too much with the table. You can't believe the things you can do with a round table.
    If you want an infusion of chemicals, place a water bottle filled with water and the lid firmly attached. Place it amongst the coals until it boils. Mmm-tasty. Great for an emergency.

    I'd like to suggest that a mylar space blanket should be included in the list of top ten.
    Few things can kill you quicker than being out in the rain and wind in less than 50F.
    They are small and lightweight, can be a tarp, groundsheet, signaling device, and water carrier.
    I have been experimenting with boiling water in mylar bags, (such as a potato chips bag.) Actually as mentioned above, you need to heat water to 145F for 30 minutes, or 160F for a minute or two. Different candle waxes melt at different temps, with the correct wax, a small piece of it in the heated water can be your signal that the water is biologicaly safe. I have not been sucessful in heating water above 170F before the mylar started to fail, although it is theoretically possible.

    1 reply

    I like your input on this, might i suggest sewing a bunch of potatoe chip bags together to make a DIY space blanket!

    My apologies, but a knife should and always be the first item in any woodsmans arsenal. With a knife, you can do and or make most any other items you may need.

    1 reply

    I won't argue with your decision. A knife is nice to have, but you can construct a knife in an emergency. Really, I wouldn't enter the woods without a complete line of accoutrements. I stick with being prepared and the whistle as tops on my list.

    Regarding boiling water in a plastic bottles, you need to line the bottom with something that will prevent it from melting when the stones touch. My preference is to use crushed pine needles, as they will also add nutritional value, mostly vitamin C.

    1 reply

    Actually, the water should and does prevent the plastic from melting, or I am the only person to not have that happen to. Lining the bottom with crushed pine needles is a great idea, too.

    Nice fire piston, I gotta get me one.

    Great job and a very practical list!

    Thank You! A good lesson on common sense.

    main thing i would emphasize is the "whole two is one and one is none" side of things, have plenty of backups, the more the better, i always have a survival necklace with most of these items on most of the time, not to mention pocket sized things for pockets and more items in a backpack, that way if your pocket tears open you still got 2 sets of things, same with losing your backpack.

    also ive found there is no substitute for experience, sure having knowledge is handy, but unless you practise that knowledge its useless

    anywas nice ible dude :D

    4 replies

    I can't disagree with your logic.

    Oddly though, military survival kit guides specifically say not to double up. The preference is actually to find as many multipurpose items as you can to reduce overall weight.

    Still, I can't say I ever walk into the wilds with less than two lighters or knives. lol

    i think the main reason military survival guides will state this is because in a combat scenario every ounce of weight counts, saving on weight will mean you can run further, faster and not get fatigued as much, the focus is on killing someone else, not necessarily survival :)

    although i must say i do like me multipurpose items too, if you got 3 or 4 tools that are useable as a pry bar, ferkin lovely :) hell even a knife is a multipurpose tool, just gotta know what to do :)

    I go with whatever makes you safe. Having two sets of items may not be an issue for a weekend hike whereas a three, four or week long hike may be a different issue.

    As for multi-purpose, it may be the item is not good at any of the multiple uses.

    It's best to know how to use the item and know what it can do before you head into the bush with it.

    Right on all accounts. There are times when backups are forgotten and knowledge of to use what you have around you is required. Another point about having backups is weight and space. Sometimes it not as practical to have three backups. This is why it is nice to have one item capable of doing multiple tasks.
    Practice, practice and practice is one important idea. I learned that working on a skill that I had not used for a while. Many frustrations come when you do not practice.

    Don't forget the 3-short, 3-long, 3-short signal, too.
    ... --- ...
    AKA: SOS

    I would add a candle to the fire-starting bit, because i can think of many uses for it. To me, the first rule of gear is "as many uses as possible". the first rule of survival is "there are no rules." You are only limited by your body and brain. Expand them. Great instructable.

    1 reply

    A candle is certainly an option. I even have one in one of my many varieties of first aid kits.