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Survival gear list
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Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Survival gear list on 07/01/2007 18:01:04 MDT Print View

I've spent a lot of time over the last year researching survival gear and lists of items to get by if lost or injured in the back country. Most of the lists are a mix of the usual hiking essentials and military pilot's kits.

My question is, how much weight do you allow for survival gear? Much of my regular kit would be considered survival gear in that it provides water treatment, shelter, insulation, rain potection and navigation, so I guess I would need to refine the question to: how much back-up gear do you have? Also, what does your first aid kit weigh?

Here's a list of back-up items I carry above and beyond those items I would use every time I hike:

*Adventure Medical 0.5 First Aid kit with added meds, Micropur tabs, and a pair of micro reading glasses (6.2oz)
*A lanyard with a signal mirror, Victorinox Classic knife, whistle, LED micro light, keychain compass, a firesteel and a spy capsule stuffed full of Tinder Quick tabs.
*24ga wire for improvised repairs and making snares
*20' braided nylon siene twine
*10 pieces hard candy (as extra food)
*A small fishing kit in a tin (about 2oz)
*An Adventure Medical space blanket
*A one liter Platypus bladder
*A mini Bic lighter
*"No blow out" joke birthday candles
*A mini roll of duct tape
*A spare Esbit tab
*A wire saw
*A freebie sewing kit from a hotel
*A 45 gallon low density poly garbage bag
*A mosquito head net
*This all fits in a zippered PU coated net envelope with a snap shackle on one corner. I've added a braid of paracord to carry it and use the paracord for improvising.

Unfortunately, it all weighs 25.4 ounces-- including the 6.4oz first aid kit. On the other hand, with this kit and a good knife, I could get by in the toughest meanest situation just about anywhere in North America and 75% of the rest of the planet. I have this compartmentalized for moving between my day hiking kit and my multi-day kit and for separating from my main pack when stream crossing. For day hiking, I add one of the Adventure Medical bivies to make up for the lack of shelter and sleeping gear. The only real duplication is the backup compass, mini Bic lighter, Platypus bladder, and the knife.

I do hike solo, so this is my insurance policy. I'm all ears as to how others approach this.

David Goodyear
(dmgoody) - MLife

Locale: mid-west
check this out on 07/01/2007 19:23:43 MDT Print View

Check out this thread.

It made me re-think my survival gear. I now carry my first aid kit and repair kit/firestarter in an alosak and keep them both with the other gear in a small belt pack. This goes with me everywhere. It is in my pack while hiking and on my belt when I am bushwhacking around camp.

If you ask ten people you will get ten different responses as to what to carry in your kit. It depends on the type, area and climate of your hiking adventure.

I have pared my kit down over this past year.
Alosak - 1
*repair kit
*Signal mirror
*micropur tabs
Alosak - 2
*first aid kit
*suture kit
*celox - instant clot
*blister aids
*neosporin/pain ointment (e-firestarter)
Loose in pack
*coated spectra line
*emergency blanket
*pocket knife
*bear whistle
*photon light

What is in each category changes.

I'm always open to new ideas also so have at it.


P.S. Ther is quite a discussion in the bible (Lightweight Backpacking & Camping: A Field Guide to Wilderness Hiking Equipment, Technique, and Style) about differing styles of survival/first aid gear.

Edited by dmgoody on 07/01/2007 20:45:21 MDT.

Mark Verber
(verber) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Survival gear list on 07/01/2007 19:38:44 MDT Print View

> My question is, how much weight do you allow for
> survival gear?

I don't think of it quite that way... since much of my daily times are the same thing as survival gear. While not 100% accurate any more, my standard 3 season gear list gives the basic context for what I am bring.

> *Adventure Medical 0.5 First Aid kit with added
> meds, Micropur tabs, and a pair of micro reading
> glasses (6.2oz)
> *"No blow out" joke birthday candles
> *A mini roll of duct tape
> *A freebie sewing kit from a hotel

adventure medical .3 + aleve, superglue, pro-tick remedy, extra bandaids, small amount of duct tape, 2 no blow candles, tinder tabs, sparklite, flat magnifying glass, single needle... "thread" would be dental floss from tooth kit. 2.5oz

+ 1oz for Aqua Mira which is my primary water treatment and can also be used for various first aid tasks.

> A lanyard with a signal mirror, Victorinox Classic
> knife, whistle, LED micro light, keychain compass,
> a firesteel and a spy capsule stuffed full of Tinder
> Quick tabs.

mostly the same except it's in my zipper pocket or in my first aid kit (sparklite instead of firesteel, etc). When I am mostly above tree line a bring a signal mirror, otherwise I leave it behind since I know how to built a fast lighting smoke-heavy fire.

I don't carry an extra compass... I bring one which varies in size from less than .5oz that clips onto my watch band to one with sighting mirror and clinometer depending on how much navigational assistance I need.

> *24ga wire for improvised repairs and making snares
> *A small fishing kit in a tin (about 2oz)

Nope. If I am hurt I am not going to be mobile enough to set a snare in an effective location. If I am mobile, I am typically close enough to an exit of some sort that I would be better served leaving the back country. I can [and have] done without food for several days. In really cold conditions this can be an issue (better solved by extra food), but on three season trips it's just annoying,

> *10 pieces hard candy (as extra food)

Extra... no. A few pieces as part of my daily food... yes. Useful when I have been running a bit dry.

> *20' braided nylon siene twine

Spectra (cloth line, repairs, etc)

> *An Adventure Medical space blanket

Nope. I have shelter, insulating clothing, and my quilt. Useless weight.

> *A one liter Platypus bladder

Sometimes. On trips when I think chemical treatment and one bladder will be a bit too restrictive.

> *A mini Bic lighter

In my cook kit.

> *A spare Esbit tab

Nope. I find a bit of tinder and skill has let me start fires in conditions that are worse than I am likely to face.

> *A wire saw

Nope... the places I go there is either enough deadfall or I am above treeline and the saw is useless.

> *A 45 gallon low density poly garbage bag


> *A mosquito head net

Yes... when expecting serious bugs since I typically take very little chemical protection.

> Other things

If I was going to be in the SERIOUS outback.... e.g. more than 5 days exit at a healthy pace than I would add a PLB and a full tang fixed blade with a 3-4" blade.


Edited by verber on 07/02/2007 00:05:40 MDT.

Phil Stetz
(pstetz) - F
Re: Survival gear list on 07/01/2007 20:20:17 MDT Print View

In no means am I an expert on this topic. Watching "survivor man" and "man vs. wild" probably does more harm than good as it gives you a false sense of security - sort of like if he can do it then it's no problem. On the other hand, they do show you that a little knowledge about the area can go a long way. So I think an important part of any survival kit is a plan to get out. I guess this doesn't answer your specific question, but I think a good plan tailored to your area is more important than any single item.

Brian UL

Locale: New England
Re: Survival gear list on 07/01/2007 21:57:34 MDT Print View

Ive been thinking about this myself. I have a couple of kits and am trying figure out what the best/most usefull one would be while being the lightest and lowest bulk.

A few items I have serious questions about:
- Space blanket, I think the only real usefullness of this would be as a wind break as it has almost no insulating ability. Using duff, grasses, and foliage would be far more effective I would think. So I dont carry this anymore. But... a small piece held up (with sticks?) behind a fire would be a great heat reflector.

- Wire saw, I think this is a painfully slow way to cut wood. Anything up to arm thick could be broken using trees/rocks as a lever. That would save valuable time and effort I would think?

- Signal mirror, Wouldnt a smoke signal fire be far better? how many people have actually used this thing and been rescued? Im asking a serious question not a rhetorical one. On the other had a mirror could be nice to have - I guess?

Since Im still working out the best kit from what I have, I wont post a real gear list but some of the items Im set on are:
>Derma-safe blade
>led light on lanyard
>Spark-lite w/ tinder quick tabs ala this sites store. This fire steel I like because it was designed for one handed use but I have a litemyfire one and a really nice light one pryed off of those magnessium blocks from walmart. These have much stronger sparks but you need 2 hands.
>Simple compass -pryed off one of those coleman whistle multi-survival tools from walmart
> Ill add a fixed blade Mora knife if going somwhere more isolated.

Pamela Wyant
(RiverRunner) - F - M
re: survival gear list on 07/01/2007 22:26:56 MDT Print View

"If you ask ten people you will get ten different responses as to what to carry in your kit. It depends on the type, area and climate of your hiking adventure. "

That is very well said. Most places I hike are within a few hours or at the most a day of 'civilization', so my 'survival kit' is pretty minimal. I carry basic firestarter (tinder-quick tabs, stormproof matches, a couple of birthday candles in my survival kit & a bic in my kitchen kit); basic first aid (various size band-aids, butterfly bandages, a couple of gauze squares, antibiotic ointment, antiseptic swabs, a few over the counter painkillers, sinus tabs, anti-diarrea tabs, and antacids, a pair of non-latex gloves, half a self sticking 'ace' style bandage and a sheet of moleskin); needle threaded with dental floss; extra dental floss; photon light w/ spare batteries; combo whistle/compass/thermometer; small mirror (mainly for contacts but also useful for signalling); micropur tablets; swiss classic knife; small duct tape packet (about 4' I folded myself); and a small paper with my emergency contact information, blood type and allergies. This is mostly kept in a Quart Zip-lock, although I carry the whistle combo on my pack.

Total weight under 8 oz.

I think the most important 'survival item' is letting someone know ahead of time where you are going and when you should be back & having a plan they will activate if you don't return at the planned time.

Food and the means to procur food (snares, fishing gear) are more of a comfort item than a true short term survival need since we can live 30 days or so without food.

Brett .
(Brett1234) - F

Locale: CA
Survival gear; it's in my pants on 07/02/2007 00:34:09 MDT Print View

This thread subject comes up every once in a while, and I always learn a thing or two, and change my critical items contents accordingly. For example, I am going to add a square of riteintherain paper with my name, contact info, etc, into my kit. (So they can identify me when I melt out of the snowpack in Spring..)

I imagine the most epic and dire situations would start out with the loss of my pack due to avalanche, precipice, river, theft, or some situation I could not foresee.. If I haven't lost my pack and all its luxuries I would not call that situation 'survival'- I'd call it 'camping'.
So, if I did loose that pack, I'd want a few critical items on my person at all times. Currently I usually* carry a ziplock with: (Ritter kit*, micropur and motrin), a space blanket, leatherman S4, Fenix L0D, mini bic lighter, and a micro carabiner/lanyard to secure it all inside my pants cargo pocket. If I've lost my pants as well; I'm really in a world of hurt.

Its about 324grams, and to ensure it's not dead weight, I do not carry duplicates of these items. As much as possible, these are the items I would use on a daily basis in the field; the mini bic, S4, Fenix, sparklite, even the space blanket which many consider useless in a survival situation can be used as a ground sheet.

And if any readers think this topic is fringe, consider that some of the "sub-x pound" packing lists posted at this site are not really are not camping lists, they are minimal lists which provide for survival, and not a whole lot of comfort (and assuming mild weather). So considering what is a minimal survival list can get you closer to a FSO weight goal.

*usually = when more than whistle distance from a well travelled trail.

*Ritter's kit

Edited by Brett1234 on 07/02/2007 00:46:18 MDT.

Aaron Sorensen
(awsorensen) - MLife

Locale: South of Forester Pass
Re: Survival gear; it's in my home on 07/02/2007 01:24:10 MDT Print View

Here's a question,
How much of this do or have you actually HAD to use?

The only time I care to have more than something to treat my wounds and my water.
If I'm out in the middle of nowhere, that’s another story.

Jaiden .
(jaiden) - F
Re: Survival gear,- my thoughts on 07/02/2007 06:13:31 MDT Print View

I'm no expert, but I've read pretty much every book there is on this subject. I'll note only things where my comments differ with those who've chimed in already.

1) trash bag(s) - Works as a vapor barrier (a kitchen garbage can sized bag - with holes cut for head/arms and worn under clothes), as shelter (a larger size, ideally), as a solar still, or to capture water from a bush through transpiration. can be used as a ground cloth.

2) aluminum foil - emergency cup, which you can boil water in for purification. works as a water container or for signaling

3) produce/meat bags. vapor barrier for feet. overmittens. VERY light. not durable though.

With these 3 items, you can survive in a LOT worse weather than you would be able to otherwise. Insulation can usually be improvised by stuffing your clothes with dry leaves, or by building a debris hut, but there is nothing like plastic in the wild.

I recommend a read of "98.6 - the art of keeping your ass alive"
The author's recommended kit is pretty huge, but he's assuming that's ALL you have, and we all carry packs with regular gear, so there is a lot of overlap.

It's worth learning how to build a few kinds of shelters, and several ways to find water. A little knowledge goes a long way, such as knowing how to heat rocks on a fire and bury them under you to sleep on, or how to build a fire with a fuel ramp.

Exposure or dehydration will be the way you die if it comes to it. You're not going to starve to death, so snares/fishing are pretty pointless. That said, your mental state is very important and having something like this to do might keep your focus. Snare material and fishing line can also be used for lashing or gear repairs, and fishooks don't weigh much.

mark henley
(flash582) - F
Survival Kit on 07/02/2007 08:15:52 MDT Print View

My survival basics are pretty simple ....

A small flint rod, car key, and a small but stong Knife on a small keyring in my pocket and a Whistle and Photon on a neck lanyard. Lastly, a bic lighter and an Esbit tab in my first aid kit in my pack.


Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Survival kits on 07/02/2007 23:36:37 MDT Print View

Thanks for the great input.

Tell me what you think about backup supplies. Most survival kits assume that the kit is all you have. Hikers hit the trailhead with all the things needed to get by for the planned duration of the hike. How much, if any, backup items are needed? A good portion of my backup gear assumes getting lost, injured, or losing my main gear.

Do you carry a space blanket or garbage sack for emergency shelter?

How much does your first aid kit weigh?

Do you carry a spare compass?

What forms of fire starting do you carry?

Do you carry more than one cutting tool?

Please share your thoughts on your perception of risks in the backcountry and your methods of preparing for them.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Re: Survival gear; it's in my home on 07/02/2007 23:59:26 MDT Print View

Shortleg wrote: "Here's a question,
How much of this do or have you actually HAD to use?

The only time I care to have more than something to treat my wounds and my water.
If I'm out in the middle of nowhere, that’s another story."

Yup, it's the spare tire and jack you never want to use, but can save your life when needed. Carrying this gear is a bet that something will go wrong. It all comes down to how much you want to invest (weight and pack space) in a possible mishap.

John Garberson
(Montana) - F
'Survival' kits on 07/03/2007 07:00:53 MDT Print View

I just looked over this thread and was impressed to see so many references to wearing the 'survival' kit on your bod or otherwise assuming that the 'survival' kit's purpose was to keep you comfortable/safe/alive if you got separated from your pack. I don't see that very often in other threads/forums.

It's always been my contention that a survival kit carried inside the backpack was wasted; the assumption being that the backpack contained whatever gear was needed for that particular trip in the first place. 'Survival' kits are for the emergency that finds you away from that gear...a day hike gone wrong, an accident away from camp, etc. As Brett posted above, if the backpack's gear is available, it's called camping. If not, it's survival.

I too have been trying to adapt a survival kit to a waist pack. In addition to the survival kit, the waist pack contains my first aid kit and poncho-tarp, some trail snacks, and trowel and tp. I carry the waist pack in my backpack but put it on any time I step away from the pack whether it's for a day hike, a search for an off-trail water source, or a walk in the woods for a potty break. It's a compromise I'm not totally happy with but, with a little personal discipline, should work acceptably.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: 'Survival' kits on 07/03/2007 08:02:38 MDT Print View

John Garberson wrote: "I just looked over this thread and was impressed to see so many references to wearing the 'survival' kit on your bod or otherwise assuming that the 'survival' kit's purpose was to keep you comfortable/safe/alive if you got separated from your pack. I don't see that very often in other threads/forums...."

On some survival oriented forums you will find a lot of gear lists based on Altoids tins. Somewhere along the line, people chose the Altoids tin as a good pocket-sized container for a survival kit. In this form it is known as a PSK (Personal Survival Kit). They fit well with UL hiking as it is a deliberately compact form-- take all you want as long as it will fit in that tin. Typical contents are fire starting materials, tiny compasses, fishing hooks and line, whistle, razor blades, wire saws, snare wire, LED microlight, water treatment and storage.,13355,1225788,00.html has a good example of this sort of kit. A small Aloksak is another way to make a self-limited kit. Some make kits using military ammunition pouches or zippered nylon belt pouches.

Larger kits are based on Nalgene bottles with a metal cup or pot that fits the Nalgene for cooking and water treatment. These kits can be more extensive than the Altoids tin, but quickly outstrip the weight than most UL hikers would tolerate. One way I have found to approach the water carrier and cook pot based kit is to build a kit that fits in my titanium cook pot. A one liter Platypus can be rolled inside the pot with an Aloksak containing the rest of the kit. I think this is a great option for hikes away from camp and day hikes. I've taken to using a small nylon stuff sack type pack for my food/bear bag, which can also be used for hikes away from camp, taking my food and survival items with me.

One of my favorite survival "kits" is based on a neck or pocket lanyard-- a length of paracord or chain with a small knife or multitool, whistle, signal mirror, firesteel, and LED microlight. Carrying all this around your neck is a little cumbersome, especially with the mirror, but looping the paracord over a belt or through a belt loop and dropping it in your pocket works for me. That avoids any choking hazards and making improvised break-aways. I do strongly recommend using chain or some sort of break-away for any necklace-based kit. Parachute cord is often called "550 cord," referring to the breaking strength of the line--- strong enough to throttle yourself if caught on a branch.

On a final note, my kits assume that I have a knife of some sort on my person. I usally carry a pocket knife with a 3" to 3-1/2" blade or a light fixed blade knife like a mora. Recommended folding knives are the Boker Trance model, the Benchmade Griptilian, and the Victorinox Trekker. Any of the Swiss Army knives will work, although I favor those with saws for survival use. The Victorinox Farmer model has a smaller frame than the Trekker (read lighter weight) and has a reasonable numebr of features. Less is more when choosing a Swiss Army knife.

The Frost's of Sweden and Eriksson mora knives are one of the best bargains in cutting tools and they are as light as fixed blade knives get. is one of the best on-line sources for these great tools.

Neck knives have a long tradition with North American hunters and fishers. They fit perfectly with UL techniques and make a good base for a lanyard-based survival kit. The AG Russell Woodswalker is a perfect example ( ). The Benchmade Instigator model is another no-frills neck knife that is perfectly suited for UL use ( ).

Adam Rothermich
(aroth87) - F

Locale: Missouri Ozarks
Re: Re: 'Survival' kits on 07/03/2007 08:35:18 MDT Print View

My survival kit is pretty small. I do all of my hiking on well established trail and don't feel the need to have anything too extensive.
On a lanyard around my neck I carry a whistle and pinch light. I always keep a small compass with a mirror, pocket knife (sometimes folding Gerber, others a small Swiss Army knife) and a spare Mini Bic lighter.
I keep some 'just in case' items in my pack as well. I have a small mesh bag that holds my water treatment, spare guyline, a trash bag, Dr. Bronners, and my eye drops. My first aid kit has a needle and thread, a birthday candle, and some duct tape in it as well.
As a side note, that Mini Bic is a lot tougher than I thought it would be. I accidentally sent it through the washing machine after leaving it in a pocket. I pulled it out and let it sit for a few hours and it flamed right up when I tried it. That's a lot more than I expected from it.


Edited by aroth87 on 07/03/2007 08:36:02 MDT.

Heather Pisani-Kristl
(P-K) - F

Locale: San Diego
When might you leave - or lose - your pack? on 07/03/2007 08:44:31 MDT Print View

I've thought about what I would need in my pocket if I were alone and lost my pack in a more isolated location, but I'm not sure what would cause those circumstances all at once. I hike with a partner on blazed trails, bring the pack in our tent and keep it beside me during bathroom breaks. However, I would like to hear some worst-case-scenarios that I haven't thought of.

FWIW, most of my "survival" stuff is in my pack; I just make sure that we each carry enough to take care of ourselves for a day if one of us had to hike out for help or if we were separated (the longest it would take to reach another person or "civilization" where we hike). If we were bushwhacking, I would have to rethink what I bring and where I keep it.

Shelter/guy lines, food, matches, navigation and water are among my camping gear. The only extras that I don't use on a daily basis are:
- razor blade in holder
- McNett water filtering straw (Brett suggested I ditch it, but I can envision a scenario where I need H2O and the source is not deep enough to fill my Platy. I still might grow out of this one - weight penalty is .5 oz.)
- Doug Ritter survival kit, MINUS fishing gear, twine, foil, magnifier, 2 of the 4 safety pins, wire. Kept mirror (also good for taking foreign object out of eye), thread & needle, 2 pins, duct tape, survival tips, WP paper & pencil, scalpel, Sparklite & starter.
- Bandaids, butterfly closures, neosporin, IBU/Pepto/prescription meds in Ziploc. Stopped carrying an Ace bandage.
- The only stuff I actually wear: whistle, mini compass & Photon on a lanyard.

My husband has the full Ritter survival kit, not caring as much as I do about the ounces, but it occurs to me that he is SOL if I am away with the medical kit. Hmmm...

Miguel Arboleda
(butuki) - MLife

Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan
Re: When might you leave - or lose - your pack? on 07/03/2007 09:02:45 MDT Print View

I was hiking up in the South Japan Alps back in 1984 and was rescued by three old men during a sudden, violent storm that had pinned me to the back of a boulder near the summit of Notori-dake, one of the highest mountains in Japan. We climbed down the steep trail and took a break at the edge of a 2,000 meter precipice. One of the men had placed his pack against a creeping pine that he hadn't noticed was loose in the soil. As we sat conversing about, of all things, the best kind of oranges to eat, suddenly a gust of wind blasted through the ravine and shook the creeping pine wildly on its side. Before our eyes the pack slipped off the edge of the cliff and plummeted into the clouds far below, taking with it all the man's food, shelter, warm clothing, water bottle, wallet, and expensive camera. All he had left were the clothing he wore, including his rain gear and boots. Luckily it was the last day of the walk, so we all made it down safely, but we never found the pack.

Edited by butuki on 07/03/2007 09:04:10 MDT.

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: When might you leave - or lose - your pack? on 07/03/2007 11:09:57 MDT Print View

Ouch! That hurts! But he was darn 'lucky' that his pack escaped on the very last day. Imagine if he were days away from trailhead???

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Re: When might you leave - or lose - your pack? on 07/03/2007 12:20:31 MDT Print View

Yup, Murphy's Law states "anything that can go wrong will go wrong, and at the worst possible moment. A mile and a quarter straight down is definately Murphy's neighborhood :)

Great story, Miguel-- glad you made it back to share it with us!

Brett .
(Brett1234) - F

Locale: CA
Great story Miguel on 07/05/2007 01:56:19 MDT Print View

..and Heather, there's your example. It's the stuff you can't plan for.. that you have to plan for.

In 'Accidents in North American Mountaineering', the leading cause of non-traumatic death and serious injury is exposure; so in addition to that altoids tin, have at least a minimal wind/water protection item in your on-body kit. a 2oz space sheet perhaps.