Five to Survive

Wilderness survival is a popular topic these days. Despite all of the kitschy TV shows and books on the subject, actual tales of people surviving in the woods are few and far between. In most cases, people who find themselves at the mercy of the wilderness typically only need to do two things to exit their ordeal in one piece: Stay put and stay alive.

Many of the well documented instances of backcountry emergencies don’t reflect any of the skills painstakingly detailed by the likes of Bear Grylls or Les Stroud. Those to actually survive a catastrophe did not do so by trapping a rabbit, building a lean-to, or jumping off a cliff into a raging river to get to civilization. In most cases, the victims did little more than wait for help. Not to minimize what that entails, it is true all the same.

The experts, those not trying to hook bigger ratings, assert you most likely only need to endure 36-72 hours before help arrives. The items below, some available for as little as $5, could help you escape an otherwise ugly scenario. These items also fit in a glove box, tank bag, or backpack. While it might be fun to learn how to build a hovercraft with sticks and the 1000 feet of paracord you fashioned into a pair of overalls, what might actually keep you alive can be achieved with just these items:



Everyone knows they should always travel with enough water to sustain their proposed adventure, and if possible, for an unplanned misadventure. Unfortunately, that isn’t always feasible. Being able to find water to stay alive is critical. Many people will say that drinking untreated water is no big deal compared to severe dehydration, which is true. That said, some waterborne pathogens are best avoided and a $20 Lifestraw can permit you to do just that. It also makes water slightly more palatable which encourages more water consumption. Weighing in at just a few grams, it’s cheap insurance. A Lifestraw is also worth having when you find yourself in one of those unfortunate but not life threatening situations when your water supplies have run dry. Another advantage to the lifestraw is the simplicity of use. Just stick one end in a water source, your mouth on the other, and well, you know how to work a straw.


Emergency Blanket


When you really need it, this will be the best $5 you have ever spent. An emergency blanket can obviously be used to retain body heat, but it can also repel moisture, collect rainwater, and be used to signal for help. There are a multitude of uses for an inexpensive emergency blanket and given the fact many weigh less than a couple of ounces and pack down to a bundle the size of a deck of cards, there is no reason not to have one on every outing. One of the better blankets is from Adventure Medical Kits.


UCO Titan Stormproof Match Kit


Given enough time and energy, it is possible to create fire via a number of primitive methods, but they take time, skill, materials, and often…luck. In those situations, a good match is worth a million bucks, or in the case of the Titan Stormproof match, less than a dollar. With a four-inch long stick and a burn time of up to 25 seconds, these matches offer your best chance of getting a life saving fire ignited. Sold in a pack of 12 for $10 including a waterproof case and three replaceable strikers, this kit is well worth having on any trip. Fires not only provide heat, they can be used to prepare food, boil water, and signal for help. A good fire has saved many people from the grips of death. When facing a life threatening internment in the wilderness, a fire can if nothing else, raise your spirits.


Knife Spyderco Native 5 $139.95


Few things offer more utility in a desperate situation than a good knife. Although any cutting tool is better than none at all, a good knife is worth having. Spyderco’s Native 5 is a great knife for unforeseen survival needs. The nitrogen-hardened CPM-S35VN blade in a 3-inch length, is perfect for tasks large and small. The handle affords a secure grip without adding weight and the full sized clip can be mounted in one of four positions for an easy carry. Without fire and a knife, a man is a primitive beast. With those tools, he has every chance of being––a survivor.


Food Bars


While it is true you can survive 72 hours with no food at all, or by snacking on bugs and grasses, the smarter bet is to always bring along a few high calorie food bars. You can either eat something like a ProBar with 385 delicious calories, or you can eat a mound of crickets. Take your pick. Food bars are cheap, typically offer a balance of essential nutrients, and do more than just sustain your body’s fuel levels. Your brain needs food to work well. Many survival situations have been compounded by successive bad decisions. Keeping your brain sharp demands a constant input of fuel. Once you get hungry, and a little punchy, the bad ideas come in droves.


These are just five suggestions and hopefully this topic has already crossed your mind many times prior to today. Lots of lip service is paid to the ubiquitous ditch bag, but the reality is, not many people lug a huge backpack wherever they go. These few items can almost fit in a pocket and when the time comes to put theme to use, you will be very glad you have them.

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Christophe Noel is a journalist from Prescott, Arizona. Born into a family of backcountry enthusiasts, Christophe grew up backpacking the mountains and deserts of the American West. An avid cyclist and bikepacker, he also has a passion for motorcycles, travel, food and overlanding.