Camping in Survival Gear – Test, Learn, and Improve

You have your survival gear, but now you face the all important question: Will it work? Well, there is only one way to find out. We need to test it!

Camping in survival gear is the best way to field test your survival skills and gear in a real life situation. Note: this is not permission to put yourself in an actual survival situation, but I am suggesting that you do put yourself in an “ideal” survival situation.

An example “ideal” survival situation is getting separated from your group at an existing campsite. Do you have all the supplies that you need to stay the night by yourself? How will you treat your wounds, stay warm, and replenish your water supply?

Why Trying Out Your Survival Gear is So Important

It is important to test your survival gear for multiple reasons:

  • you evaluate what you need and don’t need,
  • you discover which gear works and which gear doesn’t,
  • you find your preferred survival gear.

Having survival gear and not knowing how to use it is perhaps even more dangerous than not preparing at all. Imagine having the confidence that your shelter will be enough to protect you from the elements, but you don’t know how to put it up when your life is on the line.

Unfortunately, some survival gear simply doesn’t work. Cheap compasses, Mylar blankets, and fire starters (to name a few) are usually the first to bring disappointment to any aspiring survivalist. If it doesn’t help you to survive one day in an ideal situation, then you shouldn’t gamble with your life on it.

What if Things Go Wrong

Always have your actual camping gear and a buddy with you in case things go wrong. The last thing you want is a test survival situation turning into an actual survival situation.

When testing out survival gear overnight, set up your regular tent and sleeping bag so you can quickly warm up if your survival shelter isn’t up to the task of protecting you from the elements.

Whenever you go on any trip where cell phone service is not available, be sure to let your loved ones know WHERE you are going and WHEN you will be back. Be sure to check in as often as you can: that way they are aware of your situation and can provide relevant information if needed.

Finally, whenever testing out new equipment, be sure to have a spare in case it fails.  Some survival equipment boasts about its several different uses and applications; however, I have noticed the more uses advertised the less effective it is at each task.

What if Things Go Right

You will discover combinations of survival gear that complement each other.  A hammock and tarp are usually lighter, warmer, and more comfortable than a tent where trees are abundant.

You will learn how to make the most of free resources.  I have found my emberlit rocket stove to be my favorite camp stove because I never have to worry about running out of fuel!

You will gain valuable experience like how to use your gear to the fullest in different situations, where to find resources, and your own preferences specific to you.

Some survival gear is too good to keep in storage. Your best gear will become your new favorite survival equipment, and you will use it often. I love my Cold Steel Shovel, and I take with me whenever I go backpacking despite its weight. I occasionally lend it out to others in my backpacking group that may have been putting off nature’s call and need to dig a hole fast.

What Happens Next

Evaluate your experience every time you go.  What worked and what didn’t?  What could have been better and what could have been worse?

Plan ahead with your survival buddy.  Could you lighten each others load and still have what you need by planning what to carry?  For example, you could carry a hatchet while your friend could carry the foldable saw.  That way both of you can cut wood independently, but also work together without being redundant.


The best way to test your survival gear is to go camping in it.  If you are not comfortable to take it camping, then you should not be comfortable to take it in a survival situation.

Schools and workplaces have drills to help determine their readiness and effectiveness when responding to emergencies, so shouldn’t you test your readiness and effectiveness in survival situations, too?

Prepare for the worst and hope for the best,

Kenny Bradley 
Founder of Survive and Thrive with Permaculture


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