This wilderness survival guide wouldn't be complete without acknowledging this; hands down, skills are much more important than gear when it comes to wilderness survival. You can buy and collect all the best gear in the world, but what happens if you forget it? Or lose it? Or use it up? Then you'll be relying on yourself - your skills. With that said, it is still good to learn about wilderness survival gear and put together a wilderness survival kit. Just don't' depend on it.
I also have a Petzl E+LITE Ultra-compact emergency headlamp that comes with a little plastic case. I keep a spare battery inside with it since I can’t recharge that size. Sometimes it’s just a lot easier to do stuff with a headlamp so you can keep both hands free. I’m still debating on whether I want to drop this from my kit or my secondary flashlight since I really don’t need both. I hate sucking on a flashlight while I try to get things done though.
The wise outdoorsman always has a multitool with his survival gear just in case. They’re light, affordable, and in the case of the Leatherman OHT they’ll put the venerable Swiss Army Knife to shame. The OHT features needlenose pliers, spring action wire cutters, a high carbon blade, a serrated edge, a can opener, Phillips screwdriver, bottle opener and myriad other attachments.
Packing a bug out bag can seem overwhelming as the task of not forgetting something important can be daunting. There are many checklists out there that will tell you the essential items you should always keep in your bug out bag. You can buy an already packed Bug out Bag, like this one here- Urban Survival Bug Out Bag, which contains essentials items like food, water, and a first aid kit. You can also check out our Bug Out Bag Checklist and personalize your bag yourself.

The second is a mirror signal. A flash from signal mirror—even at night, by moonlight—can be seen for miles, much farther than any flashlight. You don’t need a store-bought signal mirror to be effective. Improvise with any reflective surface you’ve got, from rearview mirrors or headlights to a cell phone screen. Aiming the reflection is the key, and it’s simple. Hold out a peace sign and place your target–be it plane or boat–between your fingers. Then flash the reflection back and forth across your fingers.
There’s the compass. There’s the compass and map. And then there’s survival gear like this Garmin High Sensitivity GPS tool with its GLONASS receiver, 100K topographical maps, BirdsEye Satellite imagery subscription and triple axis compass. The screen is easily readable in the brightest sunlight or deepest night and the 8GB of memory mean you’ll always have the information you need now at your fingertips. If you’re serious about staying out of trouble when you venture into the unknown bring the Garmin High Sensitivity GPS tool with you and rest easy.
Great information. But, please don’t tell people that pepper spray will drop someone in seconds. I was a chemical agent instructor for a medium size police department. I’ve been sprayed by a lot of stuff. Not all of it works on every person. I’ve seen people just sit there and look at you when they were hit full in the face with very good, very reliable chemical agents. We only taught that it was a distraction technique. Use the chemical agent to distract the person so you can hit them next, take them down, flee, whatever your plan is. But, it is only a distraction technique.

For someone new to being a Survivalist building your first Bug Out Bag can seem like a big task. Everybody you read about has been tweaking theirs for months or even years and has a pile of gear built up. It’s hard to know where to start, but if you cover all of the basics in a survival situation you will still be much better off that 99% of the people.


A: Any items that might be affected by moisture should be placed in waterproof bags, this includes first aid items not mentioned in this review but which are essential for anyone venturing into the woods for any reason. Other survival kit should be packed together based on application (food prep, fire starter, shelter related) and distributed in MOLLE pouches or exterior pockets of the backpack. It’s important that everything be well-secured and that things like shovels and mess kits not be allowed to jangle about while you’re hiking.

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.


I have to admit it, I LOVE wilderness survival. I first began learning wilderness survival out of a deep, primal need to feel in my bones that I could provide for my most basic human needs directly from nature. It seemed crazy to me that my life was totally dependent on a complex system of grocery stores, polluted highways, telecommunication systems, electric grids, modern structures, water treatment plants, and more. I mean, shouldn't we all be able to be in direct relationship with our most primary needs? Perhaps idealistic, but that is what inspired me to begin my journey to become a wilderness survival guide over a decade ago.
Nice list. Its uncanny that I myself have most of the same exact gear. Even so I would like to give all my gear a cold weather weigh in as I live up north. I have warm and cold weather kits and the cold weather kits get heavy quick since the sleep systems are so darn heavy. Havent done a weigh in for a while, made me think. I cant carry what I used too a decade ago.

Since I live in the desert so I don’t need a lot of cold-weather gear but it does get pretty nippy at night and can easily get below freezing. As you can see in the Clothing Bag above, I have just some basic Army-issue polypros as a backup. I also carry a lightweight rain jacket because not only will it keep the rain off me, it’s a good wind breaker. Once it gets colder, I’ll throw a fleece or something in there. Just make sure you layer your clothes. Sweating in cold weather makes your clothes wet so even after you cool down to the point where you stop sweating, your clothes continue to sweat for you, and you get hypothermia.


No one thinks they’re going to be trapped by whiteout conditions or separated from their group as night falls but it happens with alarming regularity. Don’t make things worse by being unprepared. These advanced Mylar emergency blankets cost less than 4 bucks each and weigh virtually nothing and yet can and do save lives. They’re waterproof, tear-resistant survival gear that comes in a pack of 5. As such there’s no excuse for not having them tucked away in your backpack or daypack when you set out. The very definition of essential survival gear for outdoorsmen of all stripes.
One of the best bang-for-your-buck items to stay warm when it starts to get chilly out is a neck gaiter. I have a thicker one that I’ll also put in the bag when it gets cold. I keep a lightweight one wrapped around my swimming goggles so they don’t get scratched and because I grab both of those if I get caught up in a sandstorm. Full-size goggles are just too big for me to carry around all the time for as little as I’ve worn them. Plus, they’re not as sexy.
People ask if I was in the military. Yeah, but it was 80 lbs and 40 years ago. Special Forces “A TEAM” medic in fact. But I forgot a lot of that. I carried 120 lb rut when we moved out, but about 40 lbs of ammo and grenades on patrol. I have 2 dozen ruts now, from patrol size to major moveout size. I put 80 lbs of cat litter (we have a cat rescue) to practice the other day … and I had a very hard time to get up with it. So I dropped that to 40 and hit the treadmill 3 miles and 3 mph. I will need to do that for awhile before increasing the weight. I’m 220 wanting 180 but at 66 yrs it’s becoming harder to do things. Hips, knees, shoulders, knuckles .. they are all stiff and ache. So I may have to cut back. But to tell someone just bring 12 rounds of ammo …… that’s crazy. Get an AR in 22 cal, the Ruger Takedown fits well in our ruts. 300 rnds of 22lr is light. I have a Glock M22 40 can with a 22 conversion that works great, same for 1911 45 / 22. In reality, it all comes down as to what the threat is perceived to be. CPAP: my new one is 10 oz, and 6 days of rechargeable batteries are 4 lbs. Solar panel or 110 to recharge the batteries. Forget the CPAP = loud snoring and dog tired wakeup.
The Fiskars Hatchet would make a pretty devastating weapon if I had to fight close-quarters but I’m more comfortable with knife-fighting since I’ve at least been trained in it, which makes my SOG knife my go-to weapon. I suppose I could use my slingshot if I had to but I can’t really think of many instances where that would be realistic. Maybe I should just rethink the thong thing. That would probably work.
Ok I have done a few bug out bags before and have learned/ suffered with my choices. But what I can’t seem to find is a good Bag! I have tried the framed hikers bag , just a backpack and a military grade backpack. All of them had good and bad set ups. I just want to know what are your thoughts and what should I stay away from before I dump money into (what every one says) good one.
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.
Every year in the US about 150 people die while out and about in national parks, more than 1,000 die in hunting-related incidents and thousands of backcountry enthusiasts get in deep trouble and require a Search and Rescue team to save them; with dozens of those folks dying while awaiting rescue. Most fatalities are the result of poor preparation. Bad weather descends and people get lost. They wander without water or shelter, often injuring themselves in the process. If they survive they often suffer frostbite, hypothermia, dehydration, trench foot or some combination of them all.
Some will think the omission of foodstuffs from this bug out bag to be a bit odd but it’s not if you think about it. It might be years before you have to use the bag so it makes sense that you’ll want to procure your own emergency rations and review their condition a couple of times a year, replacing anything that might look dodgy. That said this bug out bag does emergency kit right with the aforementioned items as well as a dozen pouches of purified water, rain ponchos, quality toothbrush and toothpaste, shaving razor, comb, emergency whistle, emergency blankets, survival handbook, duct tape (!), paracord and more. There’s also the obligatory deck of cards for when you finally settle into the emergency shelter. Toss in some dry clothes for everyone involved, charger cords for your smartphone in case you run into a power source and a good book or two and you’ll be ready to wait out events in good shape.
It is easy to improvise most things on this list but some can’t be improvised so easy on the go, thing is if you are bugging out to a safe area you can possibly keep things minimalist, and if you are lucky enough to legally obtain firearms then a reliable compact pistol such as a Walther P22 or Springfield XD 40 can be teamed up with either take down .22lr rifle (AR7-1022tdr) or .40S&W carbine so you can have close in capabilities and also reach beyond the typical shotgun toting highway raider.
A: Any items that might be affected by moisture should be placed in waterproof bags, this includes first aid items not mentioned in this review but which are essential for anyone venturing into the woods for any reason. Other survival kit should be packed together based on application (food prep, fire starter, shelter related) and distributed in MOLLE pouches or exterior pockets of the backpack. It’s important that everything be well-secured and that things like shovels and mess kits not be allowed to jangle about while you’re hiking.

I appreciate the philosophy, and the focus on quality, thoughtfulness, and multiple usage tools more than anything. If that was my gear (and I know it ain’t) the only thing I’d change is a small pair of channel locks instead of the wrench. They’re handier for taking pots off the fire than needle nose, still do about 90% of the things a little c-wrench will, and give a good grip on things when you need it.
Hi there! I have a suggestion for you that I recently read and thought was one of the most brilliant things for a bug out bag. I also live in the desert and where I live is incredibly windy. I’m talking 80 to 100+ mph winds. You mentioned candles in your list, but I would also consider adding those trick birthday candles that re light when you blow them out. They won’t last that long since they are birthday candles, but they will certainly help build a fire on the off chance you’re having treacherous winds like me. Thanks for the list.
Many people who are forced into survival situations often get into serious trouble because of direct exposure to the elements. Most people in survival situations die of hypothermia, which can be easily avoided with basic survival skills. Being able to build a shelter is of paramount importance in a survival situation. It is extremely important to prevent or minimize heat loss, or if in a desert environment, to minimize water loss. Here are some things to think about when planning to build a shelter:
This wilderness survival guide wouldn't be complete without acknowledging this; hands down, skills are much more important than gear when it comes to wilderness survival. You can buy and collect all the best gear in the world, but what happens if you forget it? Or lose it? Or use it up? Then you'll be relying on yourself - your skills. With that said, it is still good to learn about wilderness survival gear and put together a wilderness survival kit. Just don't' depend on it.
I’ve seen that 1/3 of your body weight number getting tossed around a lot. Any idea where that comes from? In Afghanistan I tried to keep my pack around 35 lbs so I was never over 75 or so with my weapon, ammo and body armor. Even then, walking all day with that much weight is brutal when you’re not used to it. I’d hope most people would shoot for around 35lbs total in a bugout bag. Add in a weapon and some ammo and you have another 8-10 lbs if you take a rifle. It adds up quick.
If you’re ordeal is an extended one you can lash the Ultimate Pro Knife to a small branch to create a spear for catching fish or small mammals. The pommel at the butt end can be used to hammer tent stakes and that little thing hanging from the lanyard cord is a powerful emergency whistle that can take over emergency signaling duties from the tactical flashlight or your long range walkie talkies when the sun comes up. A top-notch knife like this is essential survival gear.
Because cutting medium-sized logs is a LOT of work with a hatchet and even more work with a knife and stick, I got a basic replacement chain saw, cut it so it was one length instead of a loop, and put a couple of strong key rings on the ends. I can use it for a very effective hand saw by either sticking a short branch in each end to make handles or tying a length of the 750 cord on each end. If you then tie some fishing line and some kind of weight, you could throw it up and over a branch up in a tree and cut it down without having to climb up. I keep the chain rolled up in a small Altoids-type of tin.
You don’t need a huge space to store emergency supplies if you plan wisely. Use every inch of your storage space for efficiency and necessity. When buying emergency supplies, look for stackable items with minimal packaging or that serve multiple purposes (multi-function items are great because you get the benefits of multiple tools without using up all that storage space). For example, MREs don’t take as much space as individual ingredients. Buying freeze-dried food instead of ready-to-eat foods lets you store even more in a smaller area.
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