Camping and survival kits are different from emergency survival kits, get home bags, and bug out bags. They are intended to be kept in your daypack and be with you at all times; otherwise, you may not have access to it when you need it most. The items in your kit should keep you warm, hydrated, and safe in the event of an unexpected setback until help arrives.
This is not an exhaustive list for every camping situation, but this is a list of the most common items required to keep you safe. Some situations may require additional items like a life jacket, bear spray, etc. depending on where you go. However, no matter where you go, make sure that you ALWAYS let someone else know:
- WHERE you are going,
- WHEN you should be back, and
- WHAT to do if you aren’t back by then.
First Aid Kit
Even just having a basic first aid kit will allow you to treat minor injuries like blisters, cuts, and burns before they become serious. Pain relievers, anti-itch cream, and tweezers are a welcome addition to any lightweight first aid kit. I like to supplement my first aid kits with items specific to my needs such as eyedrops, liquid band-aids, and antacids. Be sure to match your first aid kit’s contents to your own needs and knowledge of how to use them.
Sun Protection/Rain Gear
Few things are worse than getting sunburned or soaked to the bone when you are supposed to be having fun. Be sure to pack a hat or sunscreen and some rain gear. That way you can enjoy yourself more: rain or shine. If you want to be a little more prepared, but still have minimal gear, then you may want to pack a military-style poncho with grommets for an emergency tarp/poncho combo!
Having a change of clothes allows you to stay warm and comfortable in a variety of situations. Be sure to store them in a waterproof bag/container just in case you fall into a stream or get caught in a sudden downpour. That way you always have a dry set of clothes to change into.
Fire becomes your new best friend during an emergency. It can boost your morale, keep you safe from predators, warm you up, cook your food, and purify your water to name a few of its useful qualities. I made my own homemade fire making kit with dryer lint, matches, lighters, and a flint & steel. Hand sanitizer doubles as a good firestarter in a pinch, as well.
Packing a flashlight is a no brainer when planning on staying overnight; however, you should still have a flashlight even when going on a day hike. A headlamp can free up your hands for dealing with emergencies or extending your fun outdoors. If you do become lost, flashlights make especially good signaling devices in the dark.
Yelling for help can be exhausting and is difficult to maintain for a long period of time; meanwhile, signaling devices use less energy, are more consistent, and can be seen or heard a lot farther away. Whistles are the most common emergency signaling device and can be heard up to a half-mile away. Signal mirrors are not as common or easy to use, but they can be seen up to 20 miles away.
There are several different methods of carrying water ranging from flexible hydration bladders to rigid Nalgene bottles. I prefer using a hydration pack with an unopened water bottle for backflushing my Sawyer Mini water filter. You can also use water purification tablets or boil water for a couple of minutes in a stainless steel water bottle to kill harmful microbes.
Food is perhaps the most planned part of camping. Be sure to pack a little extra food that doesn’t require cooking in your daypack to eat on the trail. In a short-term survival situation, ration your trail food to last longer rather than expending valuable calories in search of more.
A pocket knife is arguably your most useful tool in the great outdoors. I like to carry mine with me wherever I go. Whether you decide to bring a mini swiss army knife on your key chain or a hefty leatherman, be sure that you have the correct knife for the job and know how to use it.
Map and Compass/GPS
If you don’t know how to read a map, then you should pack a GPS instead. Unfortunately, neither one will you do any good if you don’t know how to use them. You may have to rely on your navigation skills one day if you run into a fork in the road or lose sight of camp or the trail you were on. Practice makes perfect and navigation can be a fun activity – especially in unfamiliar territory.
Finally, your all of your camping survival kit items should fit in a lightweight and comfortable backpack or fanny pack. I recommend using a hydration pack around 15L in size. If you are taking it backpacking and haven’t bought your backpack yet, you may want to look for backpacks with a daypack included that straps onto your backpack naturally.
Prepare for the worst and hope for the best,
Founder of Survive and Thrive with Permaculture