Survival kits and gear abound today but your priorities in a survival situation revolve around taking care of five key areas: shelter, water, fire, signaling, and first-aid. Here's what I carry in my pockets and pack.
1. Knife No Rambo knives here, just find one that works for you and is sturdy. I prefer the fixed bladed Mora knife ($20) which holds a good edge and can take a beating. A knife is a critical survival tool. Remember a multi-tool is not a knife, it is a multi-tool.
2. Firestarters I carry three tools for starting a fire: a spark rod, Potable Aqua Iodine REI Storm Proof matches, and a Bic lighter. Fire=Life in the wild, so carry these with you at all times and practice firemaking skills before venturing out.
3. Tinder At home, make a dozen at cottonballs smeared with Vaseline and pack them into a Ziploc bag. They withstand tough conditions, can burn when damp, and hold a flame for over a minute.
4. Emergency Blanket Get one with grommets and you will be able to rig up a quick shelter to keep out the rain and wind. An army surplus poncho works great too.
5. Water How much you carry will depend on where you are hiking. In the desert Southwest, you may have to carry a few gallons a day if it's summer.
6. Iodine or Chlorine Dioxide You will need water purification tablets just in case. Read the manufacturer's directions and give any product a taste-test at home to see how you tolerate the flavor. I suggest Potable Aqua Iodine or Potable Aqua Iodine or chlorine dioxide for those allergic to iodine.
8. Signal Mirror We have tested out glass signal mirrors up to gotten reflections that can be seen up to 25 miles away. They are far safer, to you and the environment, than a risky signal fire. Plus, you can make sure you look good when the searchers and media crew arrive.
9. Duct Tape What our ancestors wouldn't have given for this multi-use item. From patching up a torn pack to wrapping a blister or fixing a damaged boot sole. Wrap a few passes around your water bottle for quick access to the tape.
10. Light Buy a quality LED headlamp for hands-free work when rigging up an emergency shelter in the dark or alerting searchers to your location. I suggest the Black Diamond Gizmo.
Lastly, don't forget about that survival tool between your ears and remember to leave a travel plan with someone back home so searchers know exactly where to look. That plan will be your safety net in the event that you run into Murphy's Law on the trail.
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