9 Things I Wish I Knew About Survival Gear When I First Started
When I first decided to develop my survival skills, I began collecting a large amount of survival gear. Because it is so easy to purchase survival gear online, I spent a few hundred dollars on expensive gadgets and tools. I bought everything from high-tech water purifiers to celebrity-branded firestarters.
Only when I spent some time in the wilderness did I discover that some of the survival gear I had purchased was poorly made, inadequate in a survival situation or difficult to use!
Here are 9 things I which I knew about survival gear when I first started.
9) There are Many Ways to Purify Water
When I first started, I was reading a lot of survival blogs which mentioned the importance of water. The human body is 70% water and most people will die within 3 days unless they are drinking an adequate amount of water.
I thought — ok, I’ll take some water purification tablets, some tools to create a fire and a pot. After a few test runs, I realized that lighting a fire to boil water every time I ran out was laborious. Water purification tablets also made the water taste a bit strange and I could only carry so many.
I began to explore my options and discovered portable water filters like the Lifestraw and water bottles with in-built filters. They are very safe and simple to use in most survival situations.
I also learned how to make a condensation trap and below ground still. Suddenly I realized that there were multiple ways I could be gathering clean water and many of them could be performed very simply! I added a few light-weight items to my survival kit and now I have plenty of options.
8) It’s Useful to Have Multiple Ways of Starting and Maintaining a Fire
In the early days of my journey as a survivalist, I used waterproof matches and a small lighter to start fires. After a bad episode of being unable to get a fire going with damp wood, I started to think about more options for starting a fire.
Some of those options included:
- A magnesium fire stick, which has better reliability and longevity than the other options for starting a fire
- Cotton balls smeared in petroleum jelly
- A razor to go with my pencil — the pencil shavings make great tinder
- A small amount of fuel to help get a fire going. Charcoal or lighter fluid
- A signaling mirror which can be also be used to start a fire. A great dual-purpose item that provides some redundancy.
- A paracord bracelet that has a fire starter built in, click here to get yours
Get your thinking cap on and look for quick and easy ways to start a fire. Add your favorite three options to your survival kit.
7) Good Things Come in Small Packages
Some of the survival gear I bought online was quite large and bulky. I quickly discovered that taking a large gravity-fed water filter on a camping trip was a ridiculous idea. I realized it was better to take small, multi-purpose items for survival tasks.
For example, a small metal container can be used to cook food and purify water.
I also started to look for items that came in a compact form. A smaller more-powerful flashlight that used lithium batteries and had signaling capabilities, a smaller lighter and fuel container, Lifestraws instead of bulky filters and so on. Retractable gear can also be very useful for making a compact survival kit.
Look for ways to save space and weight without compromising quality.
6) Don’t Rely on Technology
Most tech-savvy people love buying survival gadgets. However, including technologically advanced items in a survival kit can increase the risk of survival gear failure. I learned this after I had a GPS malfunction while hiking once. Luckily I had a compass attached to my watch and a high level of familiarity with the local environment.
Consider the many ways in which an electronic gadget may fail you in a survival situation:
- It could be dropped in water or onto a hard surface and malfunction
- The batteries could die quickly or malfunction
- The gadget could simply malfunction of its own accord
- The technology that the gadget depends on could malfunction — mobile phone towers, radio towers and satellites are not infallible.
- On the worst case scenario end — an EMP strike could destroy it!
Whenever you take an electronic gadget, also take an analogue version. For example, in addition to that fancy electronic GPS, take analogue equivalents (a small compass and a map).
You should also develop survival skills and bushcraft skills that make the gadget redundant. If you understand the natural environment, a compass is far less important. Electronic gadgets should be viewed as a luxury item that you can’t always depend upon in a survival situation.
5) Not All Survival Gear is Built to Last
While I like to take care of my survival gear, it will get used in some pretty extreme environments. Over the years, I have seen nearly everything fail, from electronic global positioning systems through to so-called waterproof matches (that weren’t really that waterproof).
I have learnt the hard way that quality is always better than quantity. I’d rather have a $20 magnesium fire starter that I know will work rather than 100 waterproof matches that are worth a damn if they get a tiny bit of moisture in their packaging.
Look for weatherproof gear that is high-quality and built to last. Before purchasing any survival gear, look online for user reviews. We recommend the gear from Sovereign Survival.
4) More Options to Fish and Hunt
A few times I have found myself in the wilderness and running a bit short of food. On one occasion, the game I thought would be plentiful wasn’t available.
While I saw plenty of squirrels and a river that looked well-stocked I didn’t have the right gear with me. It was a minor inconvenience for me because I was just having fun in the forest. However, if you are in a survival situation, not having the right tools could endanger your life.
It is always worthwhile carrying additional options for hunting and fishing. Fishing tackle and a fishing net does not take up much room. The same goes for the materials necessary to make a trap for small animals. Learn the bushcraft skills required to find many types of game and include any necessary survival gear.
3) A More Comprehensive First Aid Kit is Better
On multiple occasions, I have had a small accident while in the wilderness. Usually a cut or abrasion that isn’t life threatening. Thankfully, I take a very basic first aid kit with me and some pain killers were available to help with the pain.
On one occasion, I was traveling with a less-experienced friend and he twisted his ankle. I wrapped it and handed him some pain killers — aspirin. He told me that he was allergic to aspirin and couldn’t take it. That meant he had to deal with more pain as he hobbled back to town the next day. In my eyes, my first aid kit had failed.
Take options to deal with a number of potential survival situations for yourself and other people. Now I carry more medications in my first aid kit including aspirin tablets, ibuprofen tablets, diphenhydramine tablets (allergy tablets), loperamide tablets (anti-diarrhea tablets) and an Epipen.
2) Plan for Worst Case Scenario
After a few years, you may have developed a pretty comprehensive survival kit and have some well-hone survival skills. However, even the most experienced survivalist can run into trouble in a worst case scenario.
Take items which may be helpful when you are incapacitated and can no longer fend for yourself. You should have multiple communication and signaling options including:
- Signaling mirror
- Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) or a satellite phone
- Mobile phone
- Powerful LED torch
It is important to understand that a situation may occur where all of your training and knowledge won’t be enough — you will need to be rescued. While some of these tools can be expensive (a PLB or satellite phone may cost hundreds), they are life saving tools when everything has gone awry. How much is your life worth?
1) Hypothermia is a Killer — So Prepare for it!
One of the biggest risks in a survival situation is hypothermia. It occurs when your core body temperature falls below 95.0 °F (35.0 °C). If you core temperature falls far enough, hypothermia will eventually result in death.
Include more items in your survival kit to protect you against hypothermia including a water proof poncho, mylar space blanket and a large plastic tarpaulin to make a shelter.
It is important to realize that starting a fire may be extremely difficult in some survival situations so you must include items to help you to stay dry and warm without one.
Building a comprehensive survival kit is a long-term process. Continue to refine and improve your survival kit over time until you have a kit that handles a wide array of survival situations.