What does backcountry survival entail, and what kind of a backpacking kit do you need to make your way through such a scary environment?
In the past, when life was more in tune with nature, one of the least talked about things that could happen to someone is getting lost and not being able to survive in the wilderness, or unavoidably trace their way back. Obviously, this happens many times nowadays — even if you’re on some sort of excursion or hunting/hiking trip in the backcountry.
However, the world today has advanced so far ahead and at the click of a button, you are two tabs away from a complete introduction to backcountry survival. You need to prepare yourself with all the necessary items, tools, and consumables.
So, if you’ve been wondering how to pack a backcountry survival kit and which tools are best for such an environment, then you would have done yourself a great favor to carefully identify the basic items required to scale through and survive the backcountry unscathed. Luckily, this critical topic is what our article intends to explore.
What Should I Pack in my Backcountry Survival Kit?
What is the first thing to pack in a survival kit for the backcountry woodland? When talking about basic materials required for your outdoor survival in such an environment, it’s important to ensure you carry four primary items that secure your basic, organic needs. These include fire, shelter, food, hydration, and signal.
Under this category, your kit should include good fire-igniting materials because exposure is your greatest enemy, and you need to stay warm no matter the cost. The probability of a radical overnight temperature drop is high even in the backcountry — especially if it’s not summer — and because of this, you should consider packing cotton balls soaked in petroleum jelly to overcome that risk. Carefully arrange the cotton in a double-sealed plastic bag, they will be useful for the endurance survival fire-starting techniques, when the sun goes down. This specific mixture is the most effective fuel that you can safely carry, to ignite a campfire – all it needs is a tiny spark!
This is the first thing that should be on your mind out there in the fray (not food or water). You can’t survive in the cold more than a few hours before hypothermia kills you! An improvised tent or insulative sheet are important items in your backcountry survival kit. Shelter protects you from wind, rain and other harsh weather conditions.
You can buy a sheet of 4mm poly-ethylene plastic at the store, cut into a 10ft x 10ft (roughly 3m x 3m) partition and you can build a minimal shelter out of it.
Likewise, with about 50ft of parachute cord and knife, you can improvise a diverse shelter for emerging situations. You could as well purchase a snow shovel in case it’s wintertime. But make a lightweight design, because as you can see, your backpack is quickly gaining in size!
Since you probably don’t know how long you might possibly stay out there in the wilderness, then by way of logic, it is important to pack some food in your backcountry survival stack. Wild fruits or mushrooms might make you sick and therefore I prefer preparing my own food. Nothing too fancy, just pack as many calories as you can, in the smallest possible space: protein bars, chocolate, fat-rich nuts, etc.
One of the most important things in your survival pack is a filled-up water container. Given that a human can only live for about 3 days without water, you should never start your journey into the unknown without water, because God knows when and if you will stumble across a source in the next two or three days — so bring a collapsible water bottle and a pack of water purification tablets.
The tablets will assure your water purification when you replenish your stock from a spring or a river. Put it in the water and within 4 hours you would have clean drinking water to refuel your over-driven metabolism.
Signaling flares, radio, GPS, walkie-talkies – are essential items that should not be discounted from your backcountry survival gear. These orientational tools should always be on your list no matter the situation. Bring at least two of these!
For instance, you can use an endurance whistle that is specifically designed to maximize the influx of air blown into it. It has 3 chambers which spread a loud, high-decibel acoustic signal to call for help or to ward off wild animals. The sound spread is omnidirectional and able to penetrate fog and timbre and to travel very long distances.
Cellphones should as well be given top consideration. Ensure that your phone is well charged before leaving home and try to call or send a text message before starting your backcountry trail. Turn off data, otherwise, it will eat your battery power within hours. In case you get lost, dial 911. Depending on local radio coverage, you might not get enough signal to call for help, but at least there is a chance… Even without service, law enforcement could use forensics to track the phone data and triangulate your location via cell-towers.
The Signal Mirror and the Trail Tape are great signaling tools that might appeal to your specific needs.
Other essential items you should consider adding to your Backcountry Survival Kit include:
- Goatskin Gloves
- Cutting Tools (a machete or hatchet)
- Military Spec Parachute Cord
- First Aid Kit
Research has shown that humans can live for 3 minutes without oxygen or while bleeding heavily; for 3 hours in cold weather conditions without shelter; for 3 days without water and for 30 days without food. However, these are only guidelines as there are exceptions based on the individual’s specific physical health, age, mental grit, and their surrounding environment.
Knowing our physical limitations only give us more direction and information about which things to include in our backcountry kit. Anytime an unforeseen survival situation comes up, you will be prepared for the challenge. If there is no need for immediate medical attention, then the shelter will top the priority list.
It doesn’t matter if the backcountry environment has a temperate climate because a sudden drop in overnight temperature can be deadly, especially a cold rain soaks your clothing. It’s very important to stay dry because moisture accelerates the rate at which your body loses heat. Always remember that your primary protective layer is clothing, so you need to be very careful to pick the most suitable outfit for the journey.
What Personal Touch Can You Add to Your Kit?
Yes! You definitely can personalize your backcountry survival kit, after all, you know your needs better than anybody else. It doesn’t matter if you are starting from a commercial kit. Feel free to include extra items to make it more personal. Here is a list of cool additions that you might find helpful:
- Favorite multi-tool or a survival knife
- First aid kit, sanitary bandages, and pain-killers
- Polarized sunglasses
- Flashlight and spare batteries
- A journal
- An iPod with your favorite songs etc.
Naturally, basic survival involves unforeseen situations where you must come up with your own creative solution, so allow yourself to think out-of-the-box. It is an art-form that requires your creative instincts and the honing and improvisation of your outdoor skills. All these talents can just as effectively be applied towards packing your backcountry survival kit.
Why Everyone Needs an Emergency Survival Kit
Do you ever feel like accidents can never happen to you? “Getting lost is something that other people experience. I am much better than them!” I am sure they thought the same way! Firstly, traveling with an emergency kit suitable for your journey is a smart idea; it shows that you are cautious and aware.
If you can make fish-hooks out of pop-tops or turn a shoe into a water-filtration system — which are last-resort measures, then it’s important to plan and respond to emergency situations via your survival kit.
Obviously, it is a smart move to travel with a well-stocked backcountry emergency kit. I prefer traveling safely rather than traveling light, but you can make a balanced compromise by choosing a light-weight shelter-pack, some rope, several multi-tools, a compact water bottle, and several high-calorie protein bars. Doesn’t sound that big of a burden, does it?
Backcountry Safety Tips
Should you find yourself in a dire outdoor situation, here are few backcountry safety tips to consider:
- Make sure you inform someone about your whereabouts and your return date. In case you don’t arrive at the specified time, then your family or friends can inform the police about your disappearance (in case you got lost or wounded).
- Bring a fully-charged cell phone and a portable charger (cell-towers track your coordinates as you are moving, so it’s best to leave a radio trail).
- If by any chance you get lost and cannot find your way back, find shelter and stay still. You don’t want to risk going any deeper into the woods, especially if it is a wide, unmarked area. Start a fire to raise a smoke signal and use your endurance whistle to alert any trackers.
- If you get injured, sanitize your wound instantly using your first aid kit. Keep yourself warm and try to call 911 – if signal coverage allows for emergency phone calls from such a remote area.
What is the most important thing to keep in mind when looking for a backcountry travel kit? When packing your backcountry survival kit, then it’s imperative that you buy items that are small and compact. I always go for multi-tools and a light-weight improv shelter. This would allow you to easily carry them about everywhere you go. Stick to the most important items and keep it simple, so that you do not over-burden yourself with excess baggage.
In terms of hygiene, what important items should I bring? Out there in the open wilderness, health is wealth (more so than ever before). Personal hygiene is crucial because it prevents infection, which is likely to slow you down and even kill you. Bring a toothbrush and paste, toilet paper, a clean cloth, and disinfectant. This will help you fight bacteria and prevent microbes from entering your body vie open soars.
What if I don’t want to go with first-aid supplies? It’s important to understand that in a fight for survival, the tiniest bruise and wound might become a big concern that can bring you down to your knees within hours. Once an infection sets in, your body will become feverish, and we all know how awful that feels like! So, don’t underestimate the value of first-aid supplies. Bandages, antiseptics, anti-itching cream, pain relief meds, and many others are all necessities you shouldn’t leave out.