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Wilderness Survival Gear

Thanks to lockdowns and the modern sedentary lifestyle, many people are longing for a great wilderness adventure. There are also concerns about the world and the economy and many are wondering what it would look like to bug out to the wilderness. Do you have the right skills and wilderness survival gear to pull any of that off? 

A man carving off timber with a survival knife
A man carving off timber with a survival knife

Making Fire

In wilderness survival, fire does so many things for you. Having the right gear to start an easy fire and sustain fire is essential. 


Always have a quick and easy option for fire starting. A lighter, or two, is one of the easiest ways to start a fire. Even if you have a rudimentary understanding of how to build a fire, the lighter makes getting that fire started quickly and easily. 

Waterproof Matches

A backup fire starter like stormproof or waterproof matches is great if you somehow lose all of your lighters. Matches are an easy way to put direct flame onto tinder and get that fire started. These store easily and are very lightweight. 

Fire Extender

If you really want to dominate when it comes to fire making then you should have some kind of fire extender. A fire extender is simply a material or combination of materials that will burn for an extended period of time when lit.

We make our own at home from dryer lint, melted old wax that is stuffed in wax paper cups. My son calls them bigfoot fur and they will burn for 15 minutes once lit. That is a great way to get your kindling and large fuel lit.  

Cutting Tools

Whether you are cutting a length of cordage or splitting wood, you are gonna need the right cutting tool for the job. When it comes to wilderness survival gear you do not need a million different types of blades. 

Survival Knife 

Your survival knife should be the blade you are most comfortable with. There are a few criteria that every survival knife should meet. While your knife might not meet all of them, it should meet most. 

  • 90 Degree Spine
  • High Carbon Steel
  • Fixed Blade
  • Full Tang
  • At least 5 1/2 inches in length

ESEE makes some of the best survival knives on the market. I carry an Arthos but I don’t think they make them anymore, sadly. All that said there are some highly skilled craftsmen making incredible tools for wilderness survival. 

The Pathfinder Trade Knife by Habilis Bush Tools comes to mind and is another great survival knife.

Folding Saw 

Before I carried a folding saw in my wilderness survival gear I didn’t know what I was missing. Now, I cannot imagine my pack and my adventures without it. The folding saw is the most important tool you can have for quickly processing firewood.

You can turn long thick branches and small fallen trees into firewood with a Bahco Laplander Folding saw. 

Woodsman’s Ax

If you are processing a lot of wood or making a larger, long-term shelter having a woodsman’s ax over a hatchet is my pick for essential wilderness survival gear. This ax should be about arm’s length and be able to split wood. 

The 32 inch Hults Bruk felling ax is my recommendation

Wilderness Survival Shelter

I carry a lightweight shelter that requires three total components. I add to this a wool blanket or sleeping bag in the colder months to keep warm.

tarp camp shelter
Tarp shelter


Depending on how much comfort you require a tarp could be shelter enough! There are tons of tarp setups that will protect you from wind and rain. As long as you have a tough tarp with grommets around the perimeter you can add a layer between you and the elements.


With either paracord or bankline you can affix your tarp however you see fit and when it comes time to set up the hammock that cordage can be a big help, too. I like to keep a couple 10ft or greater hanks of cordage and another that is 25ft long. 


Sleeping right on the ground in the spring or summer is a good way to get eaten alive by ticks and chiggers. The hammock keeps you up off the ground and keeps your body supported. It is a sleep system that weighs much less and is much easier to carry than a traditional tent.

I carry a hammock with a built-in bug net. 

Cooking and Boiling

With a simple mess kit and a steel water bottle, you should be able to do the majority of your cooking and boiling. 

Single-Walled Steel Water Bottle 

This is an essential piece of wilderness survival gear. The single-walled steel water bottle is used to boil drinking water to assure that you can kill all pathogens in that water. The steel water bottle can be put directly on the fire. 

You can also make medicine and other hot drinks in this water bottle. 

Mess Kit 

A simple 2 to 3 piece mess kit is a great investment in wilderness survival gear. This kit will give you the ability to warm up or fully cook food in lightweight metal pans. Some mess kits come with utensils which are very important. 

Choose and pack a lightweight utensil if your mess kit does not include one.

First Aid

A first aid kit is an essential component of wilderness survival gear
A first aid kit is an essential part of wilderness survival gear

I am a fan of building my own first aid kits for wilderness survival. You can pile all of your items into a simple zipper pouch. 

  • Tourniquet
  • Swat T
  • Cloth Bandages
  • Rolled Gauze
  • Ace Bandage 
  • Triple Antibiotic Ointment
  • Sunscreen 
  • Bug Spray
  • Gauze Pads
  • Itch and Sting Ointment
  • Tweezers
  • Shears
  • Rubber Gloves 
  • Alcohol Wipes

If you want to buy a pre-built kit for trauma then I would recommend the BearFak from Refuge Medical. 

Rescue and Navigation

Every year 2000 people get lost in the woods in our nation. Having a game plan and some skills to navigate can assure that even if you get lost you can self-rescue or survive until you are rescued.

Local Maps 

One of the most important pieces of wilderness survival gear is the maps you carry. You should have maps of the area you are in so you can navigate from place to place or find yourself if you get lost.


explorer holding a compass in hand
Use a compass to help navigate your way

If you carry a map then you need to carry a compass. Having a compass allows you to find North and effectively use your map. Don’t wait till your lost to learn how to use your map and compass.

Reflector Mirror 

A reflector mirror might seem like a crazy piece of gear for rescue but the range of the reflected sun is massive and can be used to gain the attention of people from far away. 

Rescue Whistle 

A rescue whistle is loud and obnoxious. It is exactly the kind of thing you want in your pack of wilderness survival gear if you get lost. 

Preppers Survival Navigation 

I only carry one book in my backpack and it is Preppers Survival Navigation by Glen Martin. This book is filled with easy navigation techniques. I do not navigate every week of my life so it’s good to have a primer in your pack.  

The book is also filled with basic survival information on things like shelter building and first aid. It’s a great little manual. 

Wilderness Survival

Your ability to survive in the wilderness harkens back to your very roots as a human being. It was from the woods that we emerged and built our great cities. There is no reason why we should not be able to safely travel back to the wild. 

Having a small collection of quality wilderness survival gear can make you very comfortable in the woods. You need to know how to use that gear and have some skills but it also requires experience. Gather your gear and plan your next trip.

If you have a favorite piece of wilderness survival gear similar or different from the items listed above, let us know.