As a wilderness survival guide, I often am called upon to differentiate wilderness survival from primitive living. Often times these two are lumped together as one, but in fact they are distinct. Wilderness survival refers to the actual experience of survival in the wilderness, which may or may not be a "primitive" experience depending on the gear you have access to. Wilderness survival is usually a short term experience. Primitive Living is usually a long term experience, and refers to the experience of living in a primitive setting, practicing primitive skills for an extended period of time.
Another concern when you’re lost in the wild is where to procure potable water. Sometimes there will be bubbling streams of crystal clear water rolling down wooded hillsides to fill your water bottle and sometimes you’ll have little more than a stagnant pool standing between you and dehydration. The LifeStraw Personal Water Filter is survival gear that can turn that stagnant pool into a lifesaver.

Popular modern methods for purifying/treating water include filtering pumps and chemical treatments, such as iodine. These can be efficient and effective solutions if you have access to these items in a survival situation. An herbal treatment is another method in which water may be purified from viruses and bacteria. Grapefruit seed extract is sold as a water purifier, although there is some debate on whether or not it is one hundred percent effective. The most widely used and proven method for safely purifying water is boiling. Bringing water to a boil and allowing it to continue to boil for 2-3 minutes will kill bacteria and viruses.


As important as the size of the pack you choose is the comfort of the pack. Many of the packs that we reviewed have compression straps, extra padding, and other features to ensure that your body is healthy and able to carry what you need. In general, comfort is largely a balance between enough padding and a lighter weight so that the bag doesn’t hinder your ability to move efficiently. When you’re considering the comfort of a given bug out bag, you’ll also want to pay extra attention to how the pack’s hip belt is constructed.
I don’t really want to eat out of the pot I cook in because I may want to heat water while I’m eating or make a second dish or whatever, so I wanted to have a bowl and a cup. I ended up with two Fozzil bowls to solve the bowl conundrum because they pack flat and weigh less than an ounce and a half each. I was going to have just one but I figured I could afford the extra weight and almost zero space in case I was going to share a meal with someone or wanted to have a second bowl for food or to catch water in during rain. They also come in handy if the two of you want to go out picking berries or whatnot.
Build Quality – The last thing you want is to be trudging through the windswept landscape trying to escape the oncoming storm surge and have your pack split open and spill your survival gear all over the place. The bug out bag should be made of durable, water resistant nylon and have high quality zippers (waterproof if possible) and double stitching all around. The shoulder straps should be firmly affixed to the bag and be well padded to help absorb the load you’re carrying. And if there’s a waist strap it too should be well-padded and preferably adjustable to accommodate people of different heights.
The first is a signal fire—and the first rule is to put it out in the open for visibility. That means hilltops or clearings in a forest where nothing, like a cliff face or trees, will disperse the smoke. Create a platform to raise the base of the fire off the ground so moisture doesn’t saturate the wood. Save your absolute best combustible material for your signal fire to guarantee a quick light. Once the fire is lit, pile on green branches, like pine boughs in winter, to produce thick smoke. “It’s not about warmth, it’s about 15 seconds of smoke,” Stewart notes. “That’s about all you’ve got when you hear a plane before it’s out of sight.”
I’m using an Osprey Atmos 65 backpack in large, which gives me actually 68 Liters of space. I chose this particular bag because I already have an idea about how much space I need from using my Camelbak BFM for so many years. I originally got a 5.11 Rush 72 backpack to replace it, after MANY people suggested it and read some really great reviews on it. After thinking it all through, it wasn’t going to work. In order to carry the amount of items I wanted, I’d have to add cargo space to the bag and it already weighed quite a bit. Plus, it’s a very military-looking bag, which I’d rather avoid if I could. It also seals up at the top and has a built-in cover for the rain.
Never be without a first aid kit. While this sentiment doesn't mean a kit needs to be on you at all times, have it in the vicinity: in your workplace, in your home, in your car, or in your pack when you go camping or hiking. You never know when a bandage or ointment is needed, so why risk the spread of infection? By having a first aid kit readily available, you'll get the right materials when you need them.

Seems like there are two different types of survival people talk about. One is emergency wilderness type of survival and one is surviving and living without modern conveniences like learning how to make medicine on your own. I got hooked on the first type of survival but realized there’s a whole world of people dedicated to the long-term survival too and I’m really starting to get into that now. Really fun.
Tent: In many emergency situations, shelter may be hard to find. While packing a traditional tent may not be a viable option, a good bug out bag should always include a waterproof survival tent. The best survival tents are made of Mylar, which can retain heat and repel water. Pro-tip: Be sure to stack leaves, grass or anything else from around the campsite against the tent for added protection from the elements.
One of the most important things to have in a survival kit is a fixed-blade knife. I used to carry a SOG Seal Elite, and I even carried it in Iraq and Afghanistan, but for a bug out bag here at home, I wanted to see if I could cut down the weight and still have a very effective knife. After a LOT of research, I pretty much came back to the same thing but got the SOG Seal Pup instead.
One thing that the article doesn’t reference is “How many people will there be in your Bug Out party?” The point being, that although there are some items that need to be in everyones B.O.B, there are others that don’t require duplication. Figuring out which items can be used by all the members of your party can reduce duplicating these items in each bag. For example, does everyone in your party need to carry a 1 quart backpacking pot, or will 1 or 2 suffice for your whole group? Those types of items can then be parceled out to the members of the group, and cut the weight down.
The LifeStraw filter meets EPA standards and has been shown to remove more than 99.9% of waterborne parasites and bacteria. Humanitarian relief workers in all corners of the globe use the LifeStraw to help bring safe water to threatened communities and refugee camps. The “straw” itself weighs a scant 0.1 pounds and measures 9” in length and 1” in diameter. Few things are worse than being lost and being besieged by waterborne illness. Bring this essential piece of survival gear with you whenever you venture into the wild and make sure water problems are not on the menu.
Keep in mind this is my personal bug out bag list. I say it’s the ultimate bag because it’s better than anything I can come up with for my circumstances, that takes into consideration my budget, my skills (and lack thereof in some cases), my geographic area, my 25-pound dry weight limit I imposed, and what my most likely scenarios for using it are. There is no perfect or ultimate bug out bag that will work for everyone. Also, some of this stuff I chose because I already had it and some of it I paid more than most people are willing to spend.
Sandals are really handy to have if you’re living out of a tent. You can put them on in the middle of the night instead of hassling with boots if you need to go “see a man about a horse” and also for when you’re getting around in the morning with your fire etc before you pack up and head out. Get some strong, lightweight ones though. Some of them won’t hold up very well. The ones I have have been worn through many miles of large gravel walking out to the shower/latrines on FOBs and are still holding up well – and I wear them most days around Phoenix.
If you ever find yourself without a GPS tool (or a simple map and compass) you can still use the sky to find your way. The most obvious method to get a general bearing by day is to look at the sun, which rises approximately in the east and sets approximately in the west anywhere in the world. But you can also use an analog watch to find the north-south line. Just hold the watch horizontally and point the hour hand at the sun. Imagine a line running exactly midway between the hour hand and 12 o’clock. This is the north-south line. On daylight savings? Draw the line between the hour hand and one o’clock.
In this review guide we’re going to shine a light on 21 essential pieces of survival gear everyone should seriously consider having in their survival pack. We’re going to concentrate on survival gear aimed at aiding those engaged in outdoor activities and not those forced from their home by natural disaster, although some of these products will also be useful in those types of situations. We’ll start by highlighting 3 pieces of must-have survival gear; those things we would not venture into the wilderness without, and then move on to other valuable survival aids you’ll want to think about packing.

sorry Paul…if you get a Lifesaver bottle, it does filter bacteria…in fact it filters everything. And its good for 1000s of litres. http://www.iconlifesaver.eu/ Theres lots in the article I agree with, and lots I don’t. Get an SAS style hammock with shelter for over top and at least be comfortable. An ultra light sleeping bag weights less that 12 ozs and is a whole lot more comfortable than an emergency blanket. There are so many LED lights out there that you can pack a small crank or solar rechargeable light. Fire might bring the baddies. Better to be safe and unseen than seen an unsafe.
For my primary light, I sometimes carry a Zebra Light ASC52w L2. It’s fantastic. I got the neutral white color (the ‘w’ part of the model). It’s a bit different looking at things at night in true light but I really like it. It’s a touch less bright than the white light but doesn’t distort the colors of what you’re looking at like most flashlights do. It’s still HELLA bright for a AA flashlight.

An excellent resource regarding bug out bags is a new book by Max Cooper called, “Realistic Bug Out Bag, 2nd Edition: Prepared to Survive.” This is a monster book at over 600+ pages. It has scenarios, drills, and is full of useful and insightful information. I like that the author stresses planning and has a section devoted to bug out plans and how to practice & train your plan. He is also a huge advocate of designing a BOB that fits your needs based on factors that pertain to your situation. I highly recommend this book.
I also switched out all my internal bags for ultralight ones. For organization, I got a set of Eagle Creek packing cubes and an REI expandable packing cube. If I didn’t already have the REI bag, I would have gotten another set of the Eagle Creek cubes instead and separated things even more – and the whole set weighs about the same as the one REI bag does.
Gigging (hunting with a multi-pronged spear) is the simplest way to catch anything from snakes to fish. Cut down a sapling of about an inch in diameter, and then split the fat end with a knife (or sharp rock) into four equal sections ten inches down. Push a stick between the tines to spread them apart, then sharpen the points. You’ve got an easy-to-use four-pronged spear. Much easier for catching critters than a single sharp point.
Don’t buy in bulk unless you plan to repackage your food into Mylar bags, vacuum-sealed bags, or canning jars. Once you open a large container of food—such as flour or coffee—the flavor and texture start to degrade. Storage containers provide an airtight seal that keeps rodents and pests out. Proper storage also keeps food nutritionally stable and extends the shelf life.
By choosing versatile tools like multi-tools and bandanas, planning an array of easy-to-make meals, and arranging an even distribution of weight in your pack, you can prepare yourself for a glitch-free outdoor experience. Essentially, you’ll consider the things you need to live safely in everyday life and then adapt those supplies to fit outdoor life. Once your bag is packed, you’ll be ready to dive in to the next adventure: using a blend of tech and nature’s navigation tools to find your way in the wilderness.

In the beginning, you might decide to buy food a bit at a time when you make your weekly trip to the grocery store. If you think your budget is just too tight to spend extra money building your reserves, consider this: Skipping the morning latte or the on-the-go-breakfast at the drive-thru can save you $100 a month if you're only spending $5 a day, five days a week. That's about $1,200 a year—plenty to get your emergency supply built up and invest in essential equipment and gear.

MOLLE organization systems are a great added feature for a BOB. MOLLE webbing is straps built into the outside of your pack that allows for additional gear and even other packs to be attached externally. If you have a sturdy pack with MOLLE webbing and carabiners, you can add a lot more gear on the outside of the pack that you otherwise might not have been able to pack inside your BOB.
For my primary light, I sometimes carry a Zebra Light ASC52w L2. It’s fantastic. I got the neutral white color (the ‘w’ part of the model). It’s a bit different looking at things at night in true light but I really like it. It’s a touch less bright than the white light but doesn’t distort the colors of what you’re looking at like most flashlights do. It’s still HELLA bright for a AA flashlight.

Regardless of what it looks like, a wilderness survival shelter should embrace these essential principles. It should provide insulation and protection from all elements. It should include a heart source, whether that is a fire, the sun, or trapping body heat. It should be placed in a good location - think high and dry. And lastly, it should offer comfort and sanctuary. After all, this will be your new home.
I got a really good laugh out of several comments here- thanks. Ditto on the nearly 30 years of military service ( and thank YOU!) I have most of the same things, with Smartwool layers added since I live in the mountains. Someone mentioned boots–best I’ve found are Ariat ATS which are waterproof, lightweight, VERY comfy and have a Thinsulate lining. Nothing else I’ve found even comes close. Pricey, but worth every dime as they Really hold up well. But oh God- that thong thing!!!lol
Gigging (hunting with a multi-pronged spear) is the simplest way to catch anything from snakes to fish. Cut down a sapling of about an inch in diameter, and then split the fat end with a knife (or sharp rock) into four equal sections ten inches down. Push a stick between the tines to spread them apart, then sharpen the points. You’ve got an easy-to-use four-pronged spear. Much easier for catching critters than a single sharp point.
Size – Everyone overestimates how much they’re carrying when they go backpacking (if everyone who claimed to carry a 100 pound pack actually did we’d have thousands of hiker deaths every year in the US alone). But a survival situation is one time when you need to be cold-light-of-day honest about how much you can carry and what that load should be comprised of to give you the best possible chance of survival. As a general rule you shouldn’t carry more than 15 or 20% of your body weight, which for most people will be between 20 and 40 pounds. With this in mind you’ll want to take into consideration the weight of the pack itself (which must be deducted from the total load) and its volume so that you wind up with a bug out backpack that can carry the appropriate amount of supplies.

What does a standard first aid kit give you? Although kits vary by size from individual to family, all cover the following supplies: instruments for addressing an injury or applying an ointment; various antiseptic items for cleaning a wound; medicines; bandages of all sizes; dressing; ointments such as iodine; and an instruction manual for properly attending to various common injuries.
×