7 Unusual Survival Items for Your Bug Out Bag

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Do you really have everything you would need in your bug out bag? Enough to last you at least 72 hours, possibly even longer? I cannot emphasize enough the importance of doing your own research and picking the most appropriate bug out bag backpack, which you can do so by checking out the post here. Choosing the correct bug out bag (along with the correct gear and supplies) will surely increase your chances of survival if and when you must evacuate.

After choosing your bag, it’s time to consider what you need to put inside it. Most folks include common items such as a flashlight, poncho, water filter and so on, as well they should. In this article, however, we’ll explore something different: those unusual items that you could pack in your bug out bag which could potentially save your life! Or, at the very least, make life a bit easier.

Have you ever wondered what additional items you may need to pack inside your bug out bag, especially those unusual items that you may not have thought of? Here are the 7 unusual survival items that you need to pack in your bug out bag…

[Editor’s note: If you’d like my take on the subject, consider these 53 essential bug out bag supplies.]

  1. Alcohol (vodka)

Besides using alcohol for drinking–which I wouldn’t suggest during a bug out–you will find a few additional benefits of storing a spare bottle of alcohol in your bug out bag. For instance, due to the high alcohol content, liquor, such as vodka and rum, are highly flammable which means you can use them for fire starting. Soak a piece of cloth with alcohol and put your tinder on top of the soaked cloth, the alcohol vapor will help you to start a fire easier.

Alcohol can also be used as a disinfectant. Dousing your open wound with alcohol will help clean and disinfect the injured area before protecting it with a bandage. Similarly, if you need to disinfect your survival knives, simply add alcohol into a container and soak the survival tool inside for a few minutes.

[Editor’s note: I’m not sure I would use just ANY alcohol for this purpose. Something which is, say, at least 80 proof and doesn’t contain any dyes or additives would be best. Vodka or gin, for instance, would likely suffice.]

Finally, alcohol can also help to remove any bad odor from your body, clothing or equipment. It would be handy to have a spray bottle in this situation to ensure the deodorizing agent is spread across a larger area. Otherwise, simply put on a rag soaked with alcohol and apply it to your body. In fact, you can also rinse your mouth with alcohol to flush out any bacteria in your mouth.

[Editor’s note: You would’ve had to stumble into something REALLY smelly for this to be the better smelling option, lol. Use as an oral disinfectant could be useful though.]

  1. Pocket Chainsaw

A pocket chainsaw, as the name implies, is a “chainsaw” that fits in your pocket. It is basically made of a chain of blades attached to a pair of handles at both ends. This design is particularly handy due to its compact and lightweight features which allow a person to cut firewood or logs without an axe. For bushcraft, I would recommend getting a folding saw instead which has a better cutting efficiency compared to the pocket chainsaw.

With that said, a pocket chainsaw does make a good lightweight alternative cutting tool. Simply wrap your chainsaw around a tree branch and start cutting by pulling it upwards left and right alternately. A few features that you will want to look for when purchasing a pocket chainsaw is the length of the chain. A 36-inch chain would have faster cutting time with blades sawing 3 sides of a limb at once compared to a shorter chain like the 24-inch. Make sure the saw is made to cut in bi-directional with teeth that are made of high carbon steel. Before cutting, ensure the piece of log is well-supported to prevent injuries when using the pocket chainsaw.

  1. Pstyle or SheWee

If you are female or have female family members who are bugging out with you, consider getting a Pstyle or SheWee as a personal hygiene product which aids women with urinating while standing up. With this device you would not have to worry about poison ivy, trouble squatting due to weak knees, or even any creepy-crawlies waiting below you on the forest floor.

I would recommend getting one of these devices as it allows you to urinate while standing and without removing any of your clothing. They are reusable, washable and highly functional.

  1. Tecnu with Wash Cloth or Loofah Sponge

If you expect to bug out into the woods, it is not uncommon to stumble upon poison ivy at some point, a plant which produces an oil called urushiol and leaves a rash if the oil had remained on your skin for a lengthy period of time.

Including some dish soap or, better yet, a bottle of Tecnu would be useful to remove the oils from your skin, clothing and gear. Liberally apply the dish soap or Tecnu with a wash cloth and scrub the contacted skin area thoroughly. Rinse and repeat to prevent any severe rash from occurring.

If you ever had a bad case of poison ivy rash then you know just how important quick removal of the oils can be! The key is to scrub thoroughly as soon as possible to remove any oils which leads to the allergic reaction.

  1. Shoe Goo and Duct Tape

Another important aspect in a survival situation is to take great care of your feet and, by extension, your shoes.

Imagine that as you are evacuating one of the soles of your shoe began to come loose! Of course, you shouldn’t be walking around in the woods with one shoe falling apart. Therefore, keeping a tube of shoe goo in your bug out bag may be the solution. The adhesive will not only affix your soles to the upper part of the shoe again, but it also offers a protective or waterproof coating for your footwear.

Alternatively, you can opt to use duct tape to secure the soles of your shoes. These strong, cloth-backed and waterproof adhesive tapes have numerous uses and you might be surprised at just how many. For example, duct tape can be used for making a rope by twisting the duct tape into a cord, repair your tent, as a makeshift bandage, remove warts, sealing food packages, remove splinters, repair leaking items and the list goes on and on. Pack duct tape in your bug out bag and you will be glad you did.

[Editor’s note: I would suggest that duct tape is a far more expedient repair for shoes than shoe goo which, in my experience, takes several hours to a day or longer to fully cure.]

  1. Safety pins

Safety pins can also come in handy due to several potential uses. You can store your safety pins on your key chain or hook it on your bug out bag so you know where to look for them when you need them. It would be even more useful if you have some thread and needle with you that can act as a sewing kit but, for our purposes, safety pins are the faster repair.

Safety pins can be used to pin gear to your bag out bag, repair tears in clothing, create a fish hook or just simply used to hang lightweight items on a line to dry overnight. You could also use safety pins to remove splinters under the skin and create an arm sling from a T-shirt, if you have no other choice.

Because safety pins are cheap and readily available make sure you include several safety pins of varying sizes into your bag today.

  1. Sarong (or Shemagh)

The final unusual item on our list is the sarong. Sarong is a large fabric that is usually used to wrap around the waist worn in Southeast Asia and Pacific islands. Essentially, a sarong is a big piece of fabric that you can use as a towel, blanket, shelter, hammock, bandage and makeshift carry bag. Sarongs are also a great way to carry small children when used like a maya or moby wrap. Make sure your sarong is made of sturdy material like rayon fabric so that it would not easily tear in an emergency.

[Editor’s note: you might actually be better off with a Shemagh for such purposes, though, I don’t personally have one and it seems they’re all made of cotton these days.]

I hope you found the list interesting and useful as I did. There were a few additional items that I had left out which I felt were interesting but might not be as unusual, such as tablet towels (very compact towels for camping, hiking, etc.) and waterproof socks.

So, what did you think? Are these bug out bag items THAT unusual? What items would you have included that weren’t?

Note: This was a guest post.

How to Stay Safe Hiking in the Desert

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Death Valley’s Zabriskie Point, the Slickrock trails of Moab, Utah and the vast array of amazing hikes that surround the Grand Canyon are just a few examples of outstanding hikes located in the middle of the desert. If you’re not a fan of warmer climes, you might think to shy away from these iconic trails. However, with the right preparation, you can enjoy them just like you would any day hike.

As with any outdoor activity, it’s possible to conquer hiking desert trails if you spend the time to learn the tricks of the trade. Lots of experienced desert outdoorsmen and -women have come before you in this discipline. Here are some of their best teachings when it comes to hitting the trail in desert territory.

Study the Climate

Imagine how difficult it must have been to get outside before the invention of weather satellites! A well-prepared traveler can make themselves more comfortable on a hot day, but to ensure your hike is enjoyable and not miserable, it’s best to check the weather well ahead of time and plan to hike outside the hottest parts of the day. Usually, that’s mid- to late afternoon.

Are you a morning person? That’s perfect for desert hiking. Watching the sun come up from the trail is a magical experience, and you’ll be through with your walk before things get too toasty out. Night owls can make their preference work as an advantage too, although you’ll want to be careful to check whether trails remain open, understand park laws and regulations and bring plenty of lighting equipment if you’re planning to night-hike.

Even though heat is the primary antagonist when it comes to desert trekking, it’s not the only one. Flash floods and monsoons can make your sandy hike into a sloppy nightmare. Understand if your hike crosses land where flood weather can manifest, and whether it’s flood season when you hike. If you get caught in a flooding trail, move to high ground as quickly as you can and wait for help or better conditions.

Have a Trail Map

Getting lost anywhere is frightening and dangerous. In the desert, it can be deadly. Before heading out on your hike, make some time to look at a topographical map of the trail. Print or acquire a trail map beforehand, and regularly track your progress using GPS if possible.

This advice is particularly relevant for longer hikes like the Grand Canyon’s Rim-to-Rim adventure. Even if it’s reasonably straightforward to see which way the trail leads, you need to have an understanding of your progress. If you find yourself moving too slowly and don’t have the supplies or energy required to finish the hike, you should call for help.

Don’t Hike Alone, and Leave Your Itinerary With Emergency Contacts

Like most activities, hiking is better with friends. When you go out alone, your risk of getting lost with no one able to find you increases significantly. Solo hiking trails you know and can complete in a relatively short period are OK, as long as you notify someone you’re going. Unless you’re a highly skilled hiker and camper, do not attempt long distances alone. And regardless of whether you bring company, always tell at least one person outside your party where you’re going and when you expect to return.

Dress in Layers

Layers are always a smart idea for physical activity. For desert hiking, you’re looking for the ability to add some warmth if things cool off quickly, or shed layers to a breathable base if it warms up. Go for moisture-wicking technical fabrics that will dry quickly if you need to douse yourself to bring that core temp down. Want a pro tip? Moisture-wicking underwear from brands like Exoficcio and Patagonia can help make your day more comfortable when it’s warm on the trail.

A backpack is another essential part of your kit that can contribute to overheating. Technical hiking packs will often incorporate breathable fabrics, and you should only choose a pack as large as you need to accommodate the supplies you’ll bring on the trip. Also, many modern hiking packs include water bladders, which are the simplest way to bring along critical hydration during a warm-weather hike. Have some extra water with you to refill your bladder and help cool yourself down if you’re planning a longer hike more on that later.

Wear Sunscreen and a Hat

This tip probably seems obvious, but when you hike in the desert, you’re signing up for a whole lot of sun exposure. Your head, along with any other exposed skin, is likely to absorb some UV rays. So slather on some SPF a good trick is to put your first application on before you leave for the trail. Doing so will allow it time to absorb before you’re in the heat, which will help you stay comfortable.

Keep your SPF with you on the trail. Some hikers like to bring multiple types of sunblock, including zinc, aerosol-based spray and more conventional cream for re-applying to their face and body throughout the day. Don’t forget lip balm with SPF as well. And, of course, a wide-brimmed hat will go a long way to shield your head, face and neck from the sun’s rays. Even a ball cap is a great addition to your kit if you haven’t got something a little more David Attenborough.

Pack Food and Water

Dehydration can be a killer when you’re hoofing it through the desert. You can die of thirst in a matter of days, so do not leave home without plenty of water. A good rule to go by is to bring about two cups of water per hour of estimated hike time. If you’re always thirsty, bring more. If you’re planning to camp out, have a good understanding of where you can find fresh water, and bring a means of filtering it to make it safe to drink.

If you’re bringing pets along, don’t forget plenty of water for them to drink, as well as a vessel for them to drink out of. We’re not always advocates of bringing pets be sure it’s safe for your four-legged friend to come along. Overcommitting your dog to a long hike in the heat can be dangerous, because dogs can’t sweat and don’t know when to stop following their owner if they get dehydrated.

As for food, will you need snacks for a two-hour jaunt, or is this going to be a longer-distance journey? You can probably guess what kinds of snacks work well on a hot trail. The typical selection of fruits, trail mix, energy bars and dried foods comes to mind. Don’t go overboard with caffeinated gels and snacks, because they can lead to dehydration if you use too many. Always pack more snacks than you think you’ll eat. You don’t want to get caught in a pinch if there’s an emergency or you have to stay out longer than planned.

If you’re planning a longer-duration hike, you should think about meals to bring. The time-honored tradition of sandwiches can make for a fun trail lunch and should provide enough protein and carbohydrates to get you through a longer pull. You can meal-prep ahead of time or find some pre-made at a nearby market.

If you’ll be spending the night on the trail, there are many tasty options to cook up. Depending on the size of your pack, you may be able to bring a legitimate camp cooktop and grill up some meats or veggies extra points for s’mores.

Those who are more interested in saving weight should check out a camp stove such as a Jetboil or MSR. You can use these highly packable stoves to boil water, which you can then use to rehydrate freeze-dried meals. The selection of these types of meals is impressive these days, with everything from chicken casserole to beef stroganoff to mac and cheese and even stir-fried vegetables. Not willing to pay the premium for fancy backpacking food? A box of dried pasta and dehydrated vegetables cooks up in a snap, too.

Bring First-Aid Items

A basic kit with bandages, a tourniquet, cold compresses, tweezers and painkillers is probably all you need for shorter hikes. If you’re staying out longer, it’s probably smart to come prepared with additional supplies. Treatment for foot conditions like blisters can come in handy if you’re covering lots of ground, as can aloe vera gel for sunburns. Make sure you have a supply of any medicines you need to take regularly, even if you don’t plan to stay out long. In case of emergency, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Go at a Safe Pace

Even if you feel like you typically keep a fast pace, the effects of the sun and heat can slow anyone down. Moving too quickly can cause dehydration, cramping and other issues. Ultimately, your best bet to complete your hike in a reasonable amount of time and still feel good is to go at the pace your body tells you is OK. If you’re part of a group and need to move slower than your friends, say so. They should understand you don’t want to push yourself too far, and should be willing to adopt a slower pace if you need to.

Treat Wildlife With Respect

There’s a real chance you’ll see some wildlife while you’re on the trail. It might even be part of your motivation to go hiking. However, remember when you spot wildlife on the trail, you’re not looking at a domesticated animal. The best policy is always to remain at a safe distance. Don’t pursue wild animals, which could turn aggressive or could hurt themselves while trying to evade you. Many endangered species are under legal protection, and you’ll be breaking the law if you bother them but more importantly, trying to force a wild animal encounter could have negative consequences for everyone involved.

That rings true of all animals you spot on the trail, but use particular caution when you encounter larger animals and predators such as bears, mountain lions, coyotes or even larger herbivores. It is not safe to approach these animals. Remember, you’re a visitor in their habitat. Be respectful and don’t attempt to bother them. Doing so could result in a tragedy.

Have a Supply Stash in Your Vehicle

Imagine taking a wrong turn on a hike. You recognize you’ve made a mistake, but not before you’ve made your way far off the trail you had planned on taking. You’re going to have to dig into your extra supplies, which means by the time you get back to your car, you won’t have anything left, and you’ll have had to make the extra effort to get back. In this scenario, you can understand why it’s critical to keep extra supplies in your car.

Extra water, snacks and even a change of clothes are all great things to have on hand in your car for when you return from the trail. If all goes as planned, you may never use them, and that’s OK. It will give you peace of mind to know they’re at the ready in case you or a fellow hiker needs the help.

Know How to Get Help

Cell phones have made venturing outdoors much less daunting than it once was, and that’s all for the best. Before you head out, though, make sure you have mobile service while on the trail. Many remote locations still lack cell coverage, which is why it’s smart to have a radio or GPS beacon, some additional means of summoning help if you need it. If you find yourself on the trail with no means to reach anyone, go back. It’s not worth the risk.

Have Fun!

Desert hikes can expose you to vast arrays of plants and wildlife and bring you to new and fascinating places, all while you’re getting fresh air and good exercise. You’ll have the chance to spend some quality time in the great outdoors with your friends and family, in places many people never make an effort to enjoy. So get outside and have a great time just keep the tips we mentioned in mind to ensure things go smoothly and safely. Where’s your favorite desert hike? Let us know in the comments below.

Top 164 Survival Gear and Equipment for Hiking, Camping, Bug Out

I decided to make a comprehensive list of the top survival gear and equipment for hiking, camping, and bug out survival. The list includes knives, axes, stoves, fire starters, water filters, flashlights, lanterns, backpacks, tools, multi-tools, tents, sleeping bags, emergency foods, and more. Enjoy!

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Top 12 Survival Knives

Survival knives are a popular choice among preppers, as well they should be. If you’re looking for a solid survival knife, it’s hard to beat the KA-BAR design. It’s solid, sharp, been around forever, and well-priced. If you’d prefer a smaller knife to accompany it, the Morakniv Companion would be a great choice, or the Morakniv Bushcraft would work well too. Whatever you choose, a solid knife is a must-have for your bug out bag, which I would encourage you to assemble if you’ve yet to do so.

Top 10 Survival Axes

Although I’m a fan of the Trucker’s Friend–it really is a neat survival tool–you won’t find a better axe than the Fiskars Hatchet for the price. I’ve used mine for years to split kindling and I don’t think I’ve had to really sharpen it yet! (Warning: be careful with using your axe after purchase as they can be odd to wield if you’ve never used one before and since they’re very sharp can be quite dangerous to yourself and to others.)

Top 12 Survival Stoves

It’s hard to go wrong with any of the survival stoves listed here as most are meant for backpacking, burn wood, and are reasonably priced; If you prefer, however, you can make your own survival stove. The Solo Stove, in any case, is a favorite of mine (and many other folks too) and if you choose the Solo Stove Combo you get a lightweight cooking pot too. If you prefer a lesser expensive option, try the Ohuhu Camping Stove (I’ve never tried it myself) or the Esbit Folding Stove as an emergency option.

Top 8 Fire Starters

Once you choose a backpacking stove you’re going to need a reliable fire starter to go with it, and it’s hard to beat a trusty ferro rod or even a magnesium fire starter, if you prefer. There are plenty of good choices below and, as much as it pains me to recommend because of it’s namesake, the Gerber Bear Grylls Fire Starter is a good choice for the money. I would also suggest including the Credit Card Fresnel Lens 6-pack so you can include one in your wallet, purse, and bug out bags as an emergency option.

Top 10 Portable Survival Water Filters for Backpacking

Looking for the perfect backpacking survival water filter? Then it’s hard to beat the LifeStraw Personal Water Filter for the money. Plus, it’s lightweight, reliable, and very easy to use. The Sawyer Mini or Katadyn Pocket Water Filter would both be a great backpacking filters for longer-term “on the go” use, especially the Sawyer Mini for the money (I’ve got one and it works quite well).


Top 7 Gravity Water Filters

Berkey Water Filters are, IMHO, the best gravity water filters for long-term use, hands-down. I’ve got a Berkey and it’s wonderful! (If you’d like to know the differences between the Berkey water filters, read my post on the topic.) And if you’d like something a bit more portable but still able to filter quite a bit of water in an hour, try the LifeStraw Mission Water Purification System.

Top 12 Survival Flashlights

Survival flashlights seem to be everywhere these days, and for good reason: you need to be able to see! Besides, LED technology has slashed their costs over the years, made them brighter, and smaller too. But, which to choose? Below I’ve compiled the best flashlights on Amazon, including my person favorite the Maglite LED 3-Cell (which not only acts as a strong flashlight but also as an improvised weapon) as well as smaller pocket-sized flashlights such as the Mikafen 5 Pack Mini Flashlights which you should include in your EDC or bug out bag. I’ve even included two keychain-sized flashlights, the OLight i3E and Streamlight Nano (which I own and like). FYI, I also included at least two hand-crank flashlights which are another option, though, they surely shouldn’t be your first choice.

Top 13 Survival Lanterns

Lanterns, like survival flashlights, are becoming bright, more efficient, and cheaper thanks to LED technology. Also as with flashlights, I prefer to have a variety of lanterns, such as the Supernova LED Lantern and 4-Pack Camping Lanterns for the price (they’re also collapsible). And if you have propane and/or kerosene fuel (which you should) then you should include a Coleman Propane Lantern or other dual-fuel lantern.

Top 14 Survival Backpacks for Bug Out

To get your bug out bag in proper order you’re going to need a quality bag to put it all in. Fortunately, there are many survival backpacks to choose from, many of which are very good for an emergency situation; however, you really need to spend some time trying bags on see which fit well and what you prefer (not to mention how much gear you can fit inside). As such, I wouldn’t recommend buying a bag sight-unseen. If you really must have something now, I would suggest a Maxpedition bag (there are many besides these) or, for the price, the Hannibal MOLLE, though I personally haven’t tried that one on myself.

Top 18 Survival Tools and Multi-tools

I just love survival tools and multi-tools, especially my trusty Leatherman Wave; it’s a gem of an EDC-tool that keeps on giving! I’ve also included a few popular–yet similar–multi-tools for comparison, a handful of muti-functional hatchets (like the 13-in-1 Camping Tool), a few pocket or wallet EDC tools (the Victorinox Swisscard would be a good choice), shovels, two pocket-sized survival kits, and even a Ka-Bar Tactical Spork. Yeah, you read that right… a spork with a tactical knife in the handle which I just bought for myself, lol.

Top 10 Survival Tents for Bug Out

Below you’ll find ten of the top rated survival tents for backpacking or, for our purposes, bug out survival. Each one is a traditional two-person tent, so they should be able to work with your bag (check dimensions and reviews just to be sure.) And, although I’m not a huge fan of including a tent in your bug out bag, I understand that some folks prefer doing so. If that’s you, choose a good quality tent by a well-known manufacturer, such as The North Face Stormbreaker or Kelty Salida. If you need to save money–I honestly wouldn’t skimp on a quality tent though–then the Coleman Dome tent may be the best option for the price.

Top 8 Emergency Shelters

While tents are great for camping and sometimes for hiking, I tend to prefer smaller, lighter-weight options for my bug out bag gear, which I explain in the book. As such, the following emergency shelters may be a better choice, particularly the Eagles Nest Rain Tarp or Eagles Nest Hammock, as you prefer. At the very least, I would encourage you to include a true “emergency” shelter, such as the AMK Heatsheets or, better yet, the emergency bivvy as a backup or additional shelter.

Top 12 Sleeping Bags + Top 5 Sleeping Pads

Sleeping bags, like tents, are not something to skimp on. Invest in a quality bag, like the Kelty Tuck or Marmot Voyager. You’ll want to pay attention to their rating (e.g., 3 or 4 season or degrees) and, of course, decide whether you prefer a dreaded (to me, anyway) “mummy-style” sleeping bag or not; they’re not THAT bad, I just don’t like being confined. Remember, you’ll also want a quality sleeping pad to go with it!

Top 12 Survival Food for Bug Out and At-Home Preparedness

Survival food should be a top priority. Fortunately, if you don’t want to learn how to procure your own food there are many options to choose from these days, from MREs to freeze dried foods, you’re sure to find food that works for you and your situation. For starters, I would suggest you get something for your bug out bag; this could be something like the Datrex Food Rations or SOS Food Bars or it could be smaller freeze-dried meals. You’re also going to want something that lasts for at-home preparedness; MREs are sometimes a good option (depends on what meals you get) or the Mountain House Food Supply Kit would be a great first choice. Buckets of food by other manufacturers will give you a variety of foods to choose from as well, so don’t count them out.

Top 6 Survival Food-Related Equipment for At-Home Preparedness

Following are a few more survival food-related equipment that you should consider if you’re wanting to get prepared for longer-term emergencies. I would, however, caution you before buying any of the following UNTIL you know that you will use them due to their cost and because most items serve a very specific purpose. Perhaps the one item I will recommend due to it’s overall usefulness beyond storing foods is the Foodsaver Vacuum Sealer since it can be used to protect a variety of items from moisture (e.g., matches, clothes, documents, etc.) for bug out and  more.

Urban Altoids EDC Kit

Normally, I’m not a big fan of makeshift EDC kits like this, but The Urban Prepper usually does a good job with this kind of stuff and this project is no different. To give you an idea of the unusual contents, he includes a mini Leatherman multi-tool, USB charging cable, and a mini ratchet tool as a few examples. He also includes commons items you would expect, such as a mini Bic lighter, money, a few medications, and plenty more.

Overall, it’s a well thought out kit and one that fits his needs specifically. As such, you should tailor the contents to fit YOUR needs if any of the items included aren’t particularly useful to you. FYI, if you want to view the PDF he references in the beginning with all of the kit contents listed, you’ll need to navigate directly to the video description and use the link he provides there.

How to Heat Your Tent With a Swedish Log Torch

This isn’t what I expected to see when I started watching this video. To be honest, I’d figured this guy was going to somehow bring a Swedish log INSIDE the tent (which would’ve been a bad idea) but I was pleasantly surprised to see what he chose to do and, more importantly, how well it worked out. Stick around to about the 12:00 mark where he briefly discusses a few safety concerns…

How to Survive in the Woods at Night

Exploring the wilderness is a pastime for people around the globe. A routine day hike, bike ride or climbing excursion is as far as most people ever go. But what if you want to stay out longer?

Enjoying wilderness areas after dark is quite possible, but without the proper knowledge and education, it can be intimidating. You’ll want to practice a few essential skills and have the appropriate equipment. Get caught in the dark without them, and you could be in for an uncomfortable evening.

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Plan Your Outing

Spending a night camping should never be an off-the-cuff decision. Even a seasoned woodsman, able to get organized and execute an overnight trip with a few hours of planning, has a strategy before heading out. Communication is the first component of your plan.

Have at least two friends or relatives record the location to which you’re traveling and let them know how long you expect to spend in the field. Check in with them once you’re back. If they don’t hear from you, make sure they know to follow up and get help from the authorities if you’re unreachable. If you’re going alone, a rescue beacon is an expensive investment, but the best way to ensure people can find you in remote areas.

On a less anxious note, planning is a smart idea so you’ll understand your surroundings. What is the climate like this time of year in your wilderness zone of choice? What is the elevation? Where are the best natural sources of water? If you’re planning to stay out overnight, you’ll probably choose to filter or treat water instead of bringing everything.

Will this be a backpacking trip? A hunting expedition? Are you going to tackle the latest and greatest climbing locale? The answers to all these questions will inform what gear you bring and who’s coming with you, which influences how fast you can move, the size of campsite you need and the type of shelter you’ll employ. Allowing your trip to take shape spontaneously is a good way to forget things, and it’s something you should avoid.

Pack the Right Gear

Specific items probably spring to mind when you consider a trip into the wilderness. When the aim is to stay comfortably overnight, shelter should be the first thing on your mind. Even if you’re trying to save weight, gram-light solutions can provide a much more restful evening then camping out beneath a sheltering rock. Some areas won’t have natural shelter whatsoever. Select a practical tent or bivouac, or if you’re doing the ultralight thing, you can use a shaped waterproof fabric such as silnylon to lash to the surrounding topography.

You’ll likely need a backpack to carry your gear, and you want something comfortable and not over-sized for the expedition. Never go camping without a sleeping bag and sleeping pad, and then, of course, you’ll need whatever cooking equipment you plan to bring along with your food supply. For quick trips, you could attempt to make do with only dry food that requires no cooking, but it can be great fun to enjoy a hot meal cooked on a camp stove not to mention hot coffee or a mountain mocha in the morning.

Additional supplies to consider are:

  • A small first-aid kit
  • Lighting such as a flashlight, headlamp or alternative lighting solutions to provide visibility in camp and on the trail
  • A whistle to call for help if needed
  • A knife and eating utensils and a water filter or treatment solution we’re fans of the filter, since you can avoid adding chemicals to your drink that way.
  • A compass or way-finding tool such as a handheld GPS your cell phone may not have service once you’re off the grid.

Finally, dress for the occasion. We recommend technical fabrics that will wick moisture and potentially some insulation if it’s going to get cold. Dress in layers for colder climates so you can easily regulate body temperature. In warmer climes, shorts, a lightweight shirt and sunscreen are essentials, and don’t forget the sunglasses. If you’re prone to insect bites or know you’ll be around lots of creepy crawlers, permethrin-treated clothing offers protection without having to soak yourself in bug spray. You can also treat your clothing at home if you plan far enough for it to dry.

Practice Essential Skills

Have you ever made a fire? It’s one of those things that sounds simple however, a small change in conditions can make it extremely challenging. Practice starting a fire with the gear you’re going to bring. Some outdoorsmen like to use greasy corn chips as tinder because they can double as a ration. Maybe you’re carrying flint and steel, which you’ll want to practice with if you are. Or, perhaps you prefer a good old-fashioned lighter and white gas, which can be helpful as long as you’re mindful of the environment.

Whatever you’ve got, gather firewood early and know how to start your fire. Be sure to put it out safely with water, and avoid making smoke in designated areas.

Know how to set your shelter up. This task is another one you can practice at home ahead of time, and depending on the type of shelter, it can be simple or complex. Know whether your shelter is waterproof on its own or requires a rain fly. Understand the best way to situate your sleeping equipment in it, and how to face it into the wind.

Be familiar with how to set up your camp stove and how to prepare the food you’re planning to make. If you’re cleaning water using a filter, practice using it with tap water, as it may require some assembly or could need a change of element. Know how to recognize a contaminated or cracked filter element, two things that can render your filter ineffective in the field.

Reading a map and making sense of landmarks can be challenging. Those who came before you may have left markings on the trail in the form of blazes. Understanding how to orient yourself and use these simple markers can make the difference between reconnecting with the trail and winding up more lost. Study up beforehand and only go off-trail if you’re very competent at navigation.

Of course, whatever specific reason you’re on the trip will require preparation, too. Let’s assume if you’re going to hunt, climb, fish or birdwatch, you have those skills well-honed. But they’re worth brushing up on and nothing to downplay if you want to enjoy the trip and stay safe.

Prepare to Encounter Wildlife

You’re venturing into the natural habitat of wild animals when you go on an outing. Never forget that. While it’s true many people spend years taking trips to the great outdoors without ever giving a second thought to the animals they encounter, seeing an animal can go from a pleasant surprise to a dynamic situation quickly. Always respect wildlife around you for example, by securing any food you bring to areas designated for bear canisters in a locked container far enough off the ground.

Be aware of the types of wildlife you might see before going on your expedition. Not only will this inform you of any potentially harmful or poisonous critters that inhabit the area, but it will also make the trip more exciting. Have you ever come across an animal, only to say to yourself, “What is that?” Telling the story of the amazing woodland creatures you saw on your trip will be difficult if you haven’t got a reference to call them by.

If there are dangerous animals, understand how they behave toward humans and how to resolve an encounter with one. Rattlesnakes make a noise warning you to get away, and that’s exactly what you should do. A territorial bear might give you a harsh look, but turning and running isn’t a good idea. Puff your chest up and make yourself appear larger than you are. Some animals are more dangerous than others, and if you know that the area you’ll visit includes a risk of encountering large predators, you should consider bringing a firearm.

It’s best to avoid feeding or consciously interacting with wild animals while you’re in the wilderness. You don’t want to draw more attention to yourself while out and about, and you also don’t want to create a dependency for wild animals. If they learn to gather food from humans, animals will continue to do so, which makes it more difficult for them to survive as they should and also creates pests for your fellow outdoorsmen.

What to Do If You Get Stuck in the Woods

Until this point, we’ve focused this guide on situations where you’ve planned your trip and have a working knowledge of the area you’ll visit and what to expect. But what should you do if something goes wrong? What if you’re on an outing and you get lost? What if your planned day hike takes a frightening turn, forcing you to spend a night in the wilderness? Stay calm. You won’t perform well with anxiety. Chances are you can see your way out of the situation if you make it through the night.

Finding water is critical, and this scenario is why it’s a good idea to carry a small kit with basic first-aid materials and purification tablets anytime you go out. Include hand sanitizer, which can keep you from ingesting more than is necessary if you must resort to the best drinking water you can find. Look for clear, fast-moving water, ideally at high altitude. In places where snow is available, it can also constitute a good source of drinking water, but you should put it in a container and allow it to melt.

If you cannot find a good water source, don’t climb attempting to locate one. Instead, move downhill looking for areas of vegetation and dark spots, which might indicate water nourishing healthy plant life. You can also get water from certain types of tree, which have watery sap that will sustain you. Cut a slit in the side of the tree and position a container beneath it to collect the sap.

Edible plants can add to your sustenance if you don’t have any food with you. Many types of berries and nuts, including elderberries and walnuts, grow in the wild and are safe for human consumption, although some require knowledge of how to process them correctly. Avoid hunting game even if you have the means, unless you know it’s legal in the area and you have the required equipment to process your kill and turn it into food.

Find shelter beneath the topography somewhere protected from wind and rain. If you’re in a cold area, it’s possible to stay warm by building a snow cave, but be sure you know what you’re doing to prevent a cave-in that could leave you buried. You might have to sleep on the ground. We recommend doing so with your clothes on to give yourself some skin protection from biting insects and weather.

Being stranded in the wilderness is an ideal time to use your beacon, whistle or signal mirror to reach out for help. If you have no other means, the smoke from a fire can be one way to get attention, but be warned you will likely be guilty of a crime in the aftermath, unless authorities have declared the area safe for burning.

Remember, this situation should never happen. That’s why it’s critical that even when you go hiking for the day, you let a friend know. Ultimately, the wilderness is not something to fear, and we want everyone who ventures forth to enjoy themselves safely. It just takes a little preparation, and you can ensure that will be exactly your experience.

[Note: This was a guest post.]

Camp Tarp Shelter Wizardry

This guy is awesome! He’s always coming up with neat outdoor survival ideas, and this one is a great one to know for camping. FYI, he also links to a series of other tarp tent videos that may be of interest to you as well. Here’s the tarp shelter wizardry one; it’s a bit hard to follow at first but if you watch it again I think you’ll get the idea…

The Ultimate Backpacking Survival Rifle Build

Looking for the “ultimate” survival rifle? Well, look no further than this Ruger 10/22 rifle (featuring the Gemtech Mist-22 silencer) with Magpul X-22 BackPacker stock (holds 3 ten-round mags), and Primary Arms Advanced Micro Dot sight mounted on a Magpul optics mount.

All together you’re probably looking at around $1,000 to put this survival rifle together, with the bulk of the cost in the rifle and silencer. Feel free to watch the entire video, but you really only need to watch the first five minutes or so to get the idea. And if you want to see him tear the rifle down–including a look at the silencer–then skip to about the 11:30 mark afterwards. Enjoy!

Self-Contained DIY Fire Starter Kit

Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like this fire starting kit is something you can purchase as a pre-made solution, but you can certainly copy the idea well enough if you’re interested in a wilderness or bug out bag fire starting kit to emulate…