The Complete Beginner’s Survival Guide

In this guide, we’ll walk you through the must-haves in your expedition backpack, how to use everything from tech to trees to find your way, and the myriad of ways to create fire—without rubbing sticks together.

7 chapters
9401 words
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A proper backpack: How to pack the right food, tools, and supplies without breaking your back

A Proper Backpack
90 7

Before you pick a campsite and start navigating through the natural world, it’s crucial to plan the perfect backpack full of the stuff you’ll need to survive. But “roughing it” doesn’t have to mean “suffering”. In this chapter, we’ll help you identify the essential tools, gadgets and clothing items that come in handy when living in the outdoors.

1. Survivalist’s Tool Kit

Essentials for covering any contingency

Survival toolsPhoto by mr.smashyContingencies in the wilderness abound, so it is important to plan for as many as possible. A compass will help you find your way; even better is a handheld GPS device. Flashlights and glow sticks help you find your way in the dark, and a flare gun will assist others in finding you during an emergency. For setting up camp, Paracord or rope, a tarp, duct tape, and cable ties are indispensable. Also vital is a good multi-tool, folding shovel, and gloves. Include waterproof matches, lighter, and fire starting kit; redundancy is a good thing in this instance. In a small tin, pack fishhooks and line, razor blades, sewing needles and thread, safety pins, nails, a small magnet, and some cash.

2. How to Pack

Simple tips for packing your backpack

Packing a backpackPhoto by mismisimos
A properly packed backpack is requisite to your comfort and safety. Incorrect weight distribution leads to muscle aches and unnecessary strain on your spine. Place heavy items – water, food, and cooking gear – in the middle of your pack, close to your body. Use medium weight items – clothing, tarps, and rain gear – to cushion the heavier items, securing them, so the weight does not shift while you are hiking. Pack your sleeping bag in the bottom of your backpack or tie to the bottom. Store items that you are likely to need more frequently in the side and outer pockets – compass and map, sunglasses, toilet tissue and trowel, sunscreen, bug repellent, pocketknife, flashlight, snacks, and a small towel.

3. What to Wear

Pack for layering

Hiking ClothesPhoto by F. TronchinDepending on the geographic location of the wilderness area you are visiting and the time of year, temperatures can vary dramatically over the course of 24 hours. Layer your clothing to stay warm and keep your pack light. Pack silk long johns, t-shirts, trekking pants that convert to shorts, underwear, socks, and nightclothes. A fleece jacket, windbreaker, and waterproof outer jacket should be enough to handle most conditions. Wear a good pair of hiking boots, but pack a pair of sandals and water shoes. Round out your wardrobe with gloves, hat, and a scarf.

4. Cool Multi-tools

Must have survival tools

MultitoolPhoto by purolipanFor flexibility, a good multi-tool is a camper’s best friend, and there are hundreds of models on the market. When comparing the need for different functions and the tool’s weight, it becomes apparent that simpler is better. Look for a multi-tool that has a regular and serrated blade, pliers with a wire cutter, carbide knife sharpener, bottle and can opener, and a lanyard loop. Pay close attention to the materials and quality; look for titanium handles, 154CM steel blades, and 420 stainless steel construction. If you plan on carrying a small hatchet for cutting firewood, consider a multi-tool hatchet and take one tool instead of two.

5. Foodstuffs

What to pack

Dehydrated Survival FoodPhoto by Philip ChoiPlan a menu ahead of time and keep things as simple as possible. The type and amount of food you carry will vary, depending on whether you are traveling in a vehicle or hiking deep into the wilderness on foot. If you are carrying everything on your back, pack dry and dehydrated foods that you can prepare with hot water. A large variety of pre-packaged meals are available at most camping stores, or you can make them at home. A small bottle of oil, seasonings, granola bars, summer sausage, jerky, and crackers are also good options.

6. Meals in a Bag

Just add water

Camping MealsPhoto by marcos ojedaPrepackaged meals are the perfect camping food – lightweight, convenient, and easy to prepare. While many prepackaged meals are commercially available, you can save money, get the types of meals you want, and have fun by making your own. Fill a small freezer bag with ½ cup quick-cooking oats, a tablespoon of dry milk, a teaspoon of sugar, and a handful of dried fruit and nuts for a nutritious breakfast. For lunch, try a third of a cup of dry couscous, ½ cup freeze dried vegetables, a tablespoon of shelf stable shredded Parmesan cheese, a teaspoon of vegetable bullion and a few seasonings. How about rice with beef and mushrooms for dinner? And let’s not forget about desert; how does a mixed up fruit cobbler sound?

7. Bandanas

Multiple uses for a humble piece of cloth

BandanasPhoto by Steven DepoloBandanas take up little or no space, have multiple uses, and can even be worn as jewelry. As a medical supply, use it as a tourniquet, wound dressing, smoke mask, or sling. Use bandanas to wrap around and protect delicate items such as electronics and sunglasses. Use one to wash with or to wash dishes with, to pre-filter water or as a napkin. Protect your head from the sun, make a sweatband, or tie back your hair. If you become lost or disoriented, a brightly colored bandana makes an easy-to-spot signal flag; tear strips to mark your trail.

Conclusion

By choosing versatile tools like multi-tools and bandanas, planning an array of easy-to-make meals, and arranging an even distribution of weight in your pack, you can prepare yourself for a glitch-free outdoor experience. Essentially, you’ll consider the things you need to live safely in everyday life and then adapt those supplies to fit outdoor life. Once your bag is packed, you’ll be ready to dive in to the next adventure: using a blend of tech and nature’s navigation tools to find your way in the wilderness.

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