A common mistake by neophyte outdoorsmen is to pack items that not vital to long outdoor forays. The mistake only begins to be evident as the trudging days wear on and the extra pounds carried begin to bear on the shoulder harness.
Here’s a tip - to save on weight, I would pack extra large heavy-duty trash bags instead of a heavy rain poncho or tarp. When caught in a sudden downpour, the items mentioned provide practically identical amounts of shelter. Trash bags can also collect rain water for you and serve as a roof to keep your campfire dry. You get the point – trash bags are so versatile that you must pack a couple of them as part of your outdoor survival kit.
I have a personal, bare-bones survival kit that I want to share with you. There are so few items on my kit that you may not agree that it is adequate for extended outdoor trips. The priority item on my list is of course a heavy knife that should be no smaller than twelve inches. The brand choice and configuration is entirely up to you but it has to be full tang, sturdy and keeps a keen blade. Next on the list is a roll of 20-pound-test nylon fishing line. This item is indispensible on my survival kit list. You can mend broken gear with it or hang items that you need to keep away from wild animals. Also, if you are anywhere near a body of water and want to catch and eat fish, you must have fish hooks. I suggest adding a few 2/0 circle hooks to the kit.
I do not know of other trekkers who carry a length of surgical tube as part of their survival kit but I certainly do. They make for excellent tourniquet in case of wounds and will provide variable tension in setting up small animal traps. Cut a branch with a suitable fork on it and you can assemble an instant slingshot. Did I tell you about sling darts? They come in handy when outdoors but require another article to explain the “how to”. Maybe I’ll write about the dart in subsequent articles.
The more experienced outdoorsmen almost always carry a length of duct tape. The strong, flexible and sticky material is perfect for mending ripped gear or just taping broken items together. Another must for the bare-bones survival kit.
Do you know petroleum jelly (or Vaseline) stops bleeding on minor cuts? It does; and is also an excellent fire starter when you soak cotton balls with it. Talk about bleeding. Did you know that you are not supposed to use any harsh chemical antiseptic on open wounds? Yes, using alcohol, hydrogen peroxide etc., to clean fresh wounds is “old wives’ tales”. It is far better to pack a few bars of non-perfumed soap to use for cleansing wounds and keeping body odors at bay as well.
Most medical experts concur that wounds that are kept moist heal must faster than uncovered wounds. A roll of gauze is therefore a necessary item for your bare-bones survival kit. In the event your injury is more serious and warrants medical attention, you must have a way of having rescuers find you. A few more necessary items that must belong to the bare-bones survival kit are signaling items like a whistle, a small mirror and a flashlight.
I remember an instance when I went out with a search party to look for two female hikers who literally “got lost in the woods”. I was two clicks out when I spotted a light beam momentarily illuminate the top of the tall trees. I knew that “neck of the woods” like the “back of my hand” and mentally marked the spot. An hour later we were within hailing distance to the lost pair. A tiny flashlight “saves the day” (or night, as the case may be).
Staying warm under adverse conditions is part of survival training. I remember the time when my buddies and I were driving across the border from Arizona to Utah and got caught it a freezing October drizzle. We were still some ways off to our campsite and I was the only one who got there fairly warm. I had a spare plastic trash bag in my pouch that I turned into an instant poncho and kept the body warmth in.
Speaking of drizzle and getting wet. It is imperative that one packs a spare set of clothes in case of getting soaked by a sudden downpour; or maybe slipping off a mossy rock while crossing a stream and getting dunked. It is advisable that you pack polyester garments instead of cotton fabrics because the latter takes forever to dry on your body. I personally pack two sets of lightweight shirts packed in large ziplock bags just in case.
When temperatures plummet, keeping the head warm becomes a priority; as does the feet. Baseball caps and bush hats will not provide enough heat and both are not too comfortable to sleep in either. If you intend to spend any length of time outdoors, pack a beanie; or (if you’re from the Canadian side of the border), a “touque”.
At this stage, it looks like you are now well-equipped for your stay outdoors. What if your “extended stay” outdoors is not of your own volition? Getting lost in the wilderness can be downright scary; so unless you’re a descendant of Davy Crockett or a John Muir clone, get yourself a compass. Believe me, unless you’re an expert in navigating by the stars and can backtrack by reading your own “spoor”, it behooves you to buy a compass.
Let me itemize the “must carry” items mentioned in this bare-bones survival kit. These are:
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