Essential gear for wilderness survival

Once the domain of doomsday preppers and Boy Scouts, the concept of wilderness survival is becoming more mainstream, propelled by British adventurer Bear Grylls and his wild-living TV show.

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Learning wilderness survival skills goes beyond the need to stay alive by eating impossible-sounding insects after a plane crash, of course. In reality, these skills are much more likely to be drawn on by those who are either lost, broken down or trapped by poor weather conditions and unable to rely on immediate rescue or escape.

Staying alive and as healthy as possible is an obvious priority in any emergency; therefore, considering the possible scenarios mentioned above, it makes sense to carry a well-planned pack of items that is likely to prove invaluable if faced with the need to survive a while in wilderness conditions.

What exactly should be in the ultimate essential wilderness survival kit? Most items should be available from an outdoor bushcraft store such as Items designed for survival purposes are a great investment and could one day be lifesavers. Essentially, survival is based on the principles of warmth, water, safety, navigation and communication.

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Safety items

A fixed blade knife with a decent-length blade is a weapon; a way to forage, kill or prepare food; and a way to create a shelter. A basic first aid kit with items to disinfect and cover open wounds is equally useful.


A water purification system is essential to avoid disease. There are several to choose from, the easiest to deal with being a good-quality bottle with a water filter built in, or a pump filter.


A close-fitting hat retains body heat, making it a must-have for cold days and/or nights. Add a lightweight wool blanket, as warmth is essential for true rest.


Carrying a compass makes it much easier to orientate yourself and make good decisions when on the move.


A signal mirror, flashlight, whistle and box of matches give you four options for signalling for help, using fire, Morse code, noise or bursts of light to notify either random strangers or active rescue teams of your location.

Wilderness survival does not depend on carrying lots of heavy and expensive items, so shop wisely and stay safe with a realistic extra load in your backpack.