What do we mean by Survival Essentials?
Well, there are basically 2 ways to look at it - essential equipment and essential needs. One obviously follows on from the other.
When you are out hiking, backpacking, camping or generally enjoying the great outdoors, if something goes wrong what do you need to ensure survival? What are your basic Survival Essentials?
Some Outdoor Survival Equipment should be high on your list of required outdoor equipment for virtually any trip or expedition outdoors.
Even when walking your dog in the New Forest, for example, you should consider taking some survival gear with you - even if only a whistle.
The longer the trip, and the more remote your destination, the more you should take, and the more prepared you should be for an unexpected emergency.
What seemed a simple fishing trip, could turn into a disaster if you were to slip and break your leg. How easy would it be to call for help? What if you had fallen in the water and could not get yourself out? Hypothermia could set in very quickly.
If you consider your basic survival needs, factor in the type of trip you are planning and the terrain you will be covering, then you should be able to determine what basic survival equipment to take with you.
Basic Survival Needs
Your basic survival needs are:-
- Medical (physical and psychological)
- Protection (clothing, shelter and fire)
- Sustenance (food and water)
- Signaling (a means of communication to get help)
- Travel (the ability to get to safety)
If you consider these 5 basic needs and look at the trip you are planning, you can work out what survival kit to take with you.
Remember that in a rescue situation, the survivor is usually the weak link. Change that by being prepared.
Failing to Prepare is Preparing to Fail.
Back in the 1930s, a mountaineering club based in Seattle came up with what they thought were the 10 essential items to take with you to survive an emergency situation.
The 10 essentials have since been adopted by hikers, backpackers, campers and many other organizations.
This list was obviously aimed at mountaineers, but even with advances in technology has hardly changed.
If you are not sure what to take, this list is a good place to start.
10 Survival Essentials
The original list was:-
- A map
- A compass
- Sunglasses and sun cream
- Extra food and water
- Spare clothes
- A torch or headlamp
- A First Aid kit
- A Firestarter
- A Knife
Sunglasses and sun cream may be essential in the snow, but I think for a jungle expedition you might decide insect repellant was more important.
A number of items have been added to this list of 10, amongst them:-
- Emergency Whistle
- Signal Mirror
- Emergency Blanket (sometimes known as a space blanket)
- Water Purification System
- Repair Kit
- Emergency Bivvi Bag
As you can see, Survival Essentials is the Survival Equipment you need to take with you to cater for your Basic Survival Needs in an emergency situation.
These essentials should be stored in a small, waterproof container and carried on your person rather than in your rucksack. This way, even if you lose everything else, you should have the basic equipment necessary to meet the 5 basic needs for survival.
Map and Compass
These will (hopefully) prevent you from getting lost, and help you navigate your way to safety. When lost in unfamiliar territory you are more likely to become anxious and panic and this in turn will increase the chance of you having an accident and injuring yourself.
Sunglasses and Sun Cream
These will help prevent snow blindness and sunburn respectively. Severe cases of sunburn can lead to infection. For some types of expedition they may not be essential items, but if you’re going anywhere that is likely to have snow (or anything highly reflective like sand or water) they could save your life.
Torch (Flashlight) or Headlamp
A Torch (or Flashlight) has a number of uses. When traveling at night you are less likely to get hurt if you can see where you are going. You can use it to examine dark caves and recesses you might consider using for shelter. And you can use it for signalling. It is also a great morale booster.
Extra Food and Water
This can prevent hypothermia and dehydration, raise morale and reduce the chance of panic. (Remember that if you have no water you should not eat, because the body needs water to process any food you eat.)
Your clothes are the first line of defence for your body against the elements - or the last depending on which way you look at it. It is better to have multiple layers so you can add or remove layers as it gets colder or warmer.
If you have a complete set of spare clothing you will have something warm and dry to change into should you get wet.
Changing into warm, dry clothing is the quickest way to get warm.
Clothing should be kept clean, so having a spare set means you can wear one set while the other set is washed and dried.
First Aid kit
A First Aid Kit will normally contain things like plasters, bandages, and antiseptic cream – enough to treat cuts, scrapes, blisters, burns and maybe even a broken bone. Remember to include any personal medication you might be using.
Matches and a Firestarter
The ability to start a fire is one of the 5 basic survival needs. It provides warmth, a means of cooking and purifying water, will dry wet clothes, is a great morale booster, and can be used for signalling.
A knife is considered by many to be the most important item in your survival kit. It can be used for building a shelter, making tinder and kindling, cutting rope and clothing, opening packages, eating, and even surgery (after sterilization, of course).
Remember that these survival essentials are a guide. Think about the expedition you are making and adjust the list accordingly. If your trip is through woodland, for example, you might decide sunglasses and sun cream are not essential but insect repellent is.
Be prepared to supplement the list.
The following are some items you might consider.
Water Purification System
For extended periods in the wilderness/backcountry you might want to consider some sort of water purification system. If there is plenty of access to clean running water this may only need to be water purification tablets like Aquaclear.
Some sort of water filtration device might also be a good idea. A cheap option that does not take too much space and is very light is the millbanks bag. Remember that most filtration devices will not remove bacteria and viruses, so you should also use a purification system (or boil the water).
A survival whistle is very small and lightweight, and an excellent way to signal for help. You can’t shout for long without losing your voice, but with a whistle you can call for help for hours. The sound from a whistle will also carry further.
Sometimes called a space blanket, these reflect over 80% of body heat and so are excellent for treating or preventing hypothermia.
I personally think a signal mirror should always be in the list of survival essentials. The flash from a signal mirror can be seen over 10 miles away.
This might include duct tape and some sort of sewing kit to repair torn clothing.
Emergency Bivvi Bag
An Emergency Bivvi Bag can be used to keep items dry, to sit on, and to sleep in.
Tarp and Rope
A tarp (or Basha) and rope is excellent for building a shelter, but in your emergency kit you might consider a military style waterproof poncho which can double as a tarp (once you tie up the hood.). This can then also be used to keep you dry when on the move.
Don’t underestimate the importance of these items. It is very easy to find yourself in the sort of situation where one or more of these items will be critical for your survival - either through an accident or simply by underestimating how difficult the trip will be.