Survival Camping Gear
Some camping gear is for convenience, other items are needed to help make the trip a success, and then there are those downright essential for survival. We all have our favorite things to take, but certain gear can save your life.
These vital items are what experienced outdoor enthusiasts refer to as the “10 Essentials.” They are the basic, bottom-line, you-better-have-them-or-else items that can make the difference between getting home or not. Along with these 10 must-haves, there are a few other items we suggest be included on your checklist. These other pieces of equipment may not be “essential,” but without them, life in the woods would be a lot less fun. First, let’s discuss the “needs,” then we’ll talk about “wants.”
The Top 10 Survival Camping Gear Items
Keep a daypack filled with these items in camp or on your back when hiking.
Water-Prior to setting out on the trail, always pack at least a quart (for each person) of clean water in food-grade bottles. Water-purification tablets are tucked away in my first-aid kit, too.
Pocketknife-A good, sharp knife is probably the most important survival tool you can have. It can be used for everything from whittling campfire kindling to slicing up food to cutting cloth strips for bandages. We prefer pocketknives that are not overly complicated – a good single-blade folder or a knife that has just a few tools (can opener, awl and tweezers) is all you really need.
Extra Clothing-Bring at least a change of socks and a weatherproof shell (rain jacket) for comfort and protection. Convertible (zip-on legs) pants are a good choice, especially if you typically hike in shorts, for when air temperatures suddenly drop. It’s also a good idea to keep a spare set of bootlaces in your daypack, too.
Extra Food-Always carry energy bars or some sort of trail snacks in your daypack. Dried fruit, trail mix, jerky and Clif Bars are among our favorites. Carry an extra meal’s worth more than you need for the trip-you should have enough to carry you through an unexpected delay just in case you get lost or injured.
Sunglasses-Eyestrain and the associated headaches, as well as permanent eye damage from the sun’s radiation, make shades a must-have. The additional UV exposure from high altitude, and intense glare reflected from snow, ice-covered ground, or sand can temporarily blind or permanently damage unprotected eyes. Don’t buy cheap drugstore glasses, spend the money to get top-quality, UVA/UVB-cutting sunglasses. Also get a “keeper” for them so they won’t fall off your face and into the creek.
Matches and Cigarette Lighter-Waterproof matches or a waterproof container for stick matches can be found at most outdoor retailers. These can help light your stove or campfire even in rainy weather. Bring a butane-fueled cigarette lighter, which will dry easily and light consistently, but always bring matches, too.
Fire Starter–Under any conditions, but especially in cold or wet, stormy weather, some sort of fire-starting device (either commercially bought or homemade) can be a lifesaver, especially if an overnight stay without shelter becomes unavoidable.
First-Aid Kit – Have a first-aid kit that will cover the basics you can attend to before contacting emergency medical personnel. Customize the kit’s contents for your family’s special needs, such as allergy medications.
Flashlight – Always bring a quality flashlight with you. You don’t want some cheap dime-store torch that won’t last through the first night. And don’t forget to bring along a spare set of fresh batteries.
Map of the Area and Compass – A topographic map of the area you’re hiking or camping in is a vital part of your checklist. Get a compass for everybody, and teach each person how to use it. As soon as you set up camp, use the map and compass to orient everyone to the bearings of the camp’s surroundings. Keep a compass with you whenever you go for a hike! Global Positioning System (GPS) receivers are a modern miracle, but you should not rely on them for emergency navigation. They run on batteries that can run out of juice.
MORE THAN ENOUGH
I also tote along a space blanket to help keep warm and cozy in a pinch. Always bring a whistle for making noise in an emergency (it keeps you from losing your voice having to yell to attract attention). A 20-foot coil of rope (it’s surprising how handy this can be) is in there, too. And I also have a barbed-wire-style, compact handsaw for cutting up wood.
Camping Gear Micro-kits
There are several custom micro-kits we suggest you carry. You can customize these microkits to suit your needs, or invent micro-kits of your own for the activities you participate in. We carry our micro-kits in small, nylon stuff sacks.
Foot-Health Micro-kit – Since hiking includes serious footwork, we recommend a small foot-care kit as part of your main first-aid kit.
* Adhesive-backed moleskin for covering hot spots to keep them from becoming blisters, and for protecting blisters from continued inflammation.
* Small, folding scissors for cutting moleskin (and bandages and medical tape).
* Cotton balls for cleaning skin.
* Antiseptic foot powder (a sprinkle in both shoes during a hiking break can help protect, cool and dry your hot, tired feet).
* A tiny bottle with a couple of ounces of rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide for disinfecting blisters or small cuts.
First-Aid Microkit – A small medical accessory kit to augment the full-blown first-aid kit is a good idea, too. I carry it on every trip.
* Sunscreen with SPF 35.
* Insect repellent with a high concentration of DEET.
* Pain-relief ointment for insect stings and bites.
* Small tube of antibacterial cream.
* Small bottle of ibuprofen tablets (good for head and muscle aches).
* Lip balm with sunscreen.
* Disinfectant hand-cleaning gel.
* Liquid bandage (a paint-on liquid that dries but remains flexible to seal up minor cuts; especially useful on body parts that bend, such as fingers).
Good Ideas For Camping Gear
There are other items not considered essentials, but really handy to have around. The items on this list will depend on your special needs or activities.
* Pre-packaged moist towelettes (collect them when you go to fast-food restaurants or to your neighborhood BBQ joint) for cleaning hands or face without soap and water.
* A trekking pole or a good old-fashioned hiking stick is great for hiking over uneven or rocky ground, or when crossing streams. Three “legs” (or four, for that matter) are better than two. Trekking poles that telescope down and fit in a small pack are available.
* A bandana can be dipped into water and used as a back-of-the-neck cooling system. The cooling produced by evaporation can have a restorative effect in the middle of a long hike.
* Bird identification book. I make room for this in my daypack.
* Hard, fruit-flavored candies (such as Jolly Ranchers). Something sweet can make your mouth water when it’s dry and hot.
* Wristwatch. Knowing the time of day can help you assess how far you have traveled and how much time you have to reach camp before dark. You can use an analog watch to guide you, if you forgot a compass. With the hour hand aimed at the sun, the halfway mark between the hour hand and the 12 on the watch will point southward.
Comfort Camping Gear and Camping Gear Extras
In addition to these basics, I carry a pocket weather station for keeping track of temperature and wind changes. Compact binoculars have a place in my daypack, too. I consider a hat essential. And a notebook and a couple of pencils are always there.
A half-roll of duct tape, flattened to make it compact, also has a corner in my bag. You can temporarily repair almost anything (even yourself) with duct tape-tears or holes in tents and sleeping bags, torn boots, and to cover blisters when somebody uses up all the moleskin.
One last item you never want to forget – plenty of toilet paper.