Survival Essentials List
A list of the essential items needed in a wilderness environment for survival
The P3 Gear essentials list is primarily geared around the preservation of life and we use the human vitals such as heart rate, respiration and temperature as the foundation for identifying this list. This list is not inclusive of all the things you may carry or is recommend you carry.
It is the basic foundation for survival. These items will assist in avoiding a deadly situation and if avoidance fails will help you survive to see a rescue part find you.
1. MAP AND COMPASS
Map and compass can be the difference between becoming a search subject and making it home safely. More importantly than having the map and compass is your knowledge of how to use them. On occasion subjects have gotten lost and have had a compass in their pack. However, they had no idea how to use the tool. Without proper training the map and compass are of very little use. Additionally, a map without a compass reduces your ability to orient yourself and navigate home safely. You must carry both a map and a compass in order to have an effective set of tools. Make sure your compass is a good quality compass. Refer to our expert advise section on our site and look for “selecting a good compass”.
2. FOOD & WATER
Food and water are an important part of your survival. Even if temporarily lost food and water could be the two things that give you the strength to make it home safely. Food and water not only give the body nourishment they can provide a sense of comfort, which has proven to help lost subjects keep calm. There are specific snack foods that are easy to carry, are non-perishable, and provide a great source of energy and protein to keep your body running. These include beef jerky; trail mix with nuts, and raisins, jellybeans, and protein bars. More importantly water is a vital resource for your body to operate. Dehydration can occur in all types of climates and can alter judgment and your physical abilities to get out of a bad situation. You cannot rely on water being available in the wilderness and even if it is you have to assume it is not safe to drink without purification. We recommend you carry both fresh water and a purification apparatus to insure a multi day stay in the wilderness does not end negatively.
3. KIFE / SAW / MULTI TOOL
A knife can be used for a wide variety of purposes such as cutting chopping and creating wood shavings to start a fire. A saw is less versatile but can make the job easier if it is necessary to cut down branches for firewood or to build a shelter. If you choose to carry a saw we recommend a folding saw with the larger blade teeth which can be found in the P3 Gear Store. Carring a fixed blade knife and a saw is recommended. We recommend that the knife be at lease 4 inches in length and be a fixed blade knife. A fixed blade knife is a much more effective tool to chop than a folding knife. Pocketknives can be a bit of a chore if serious cutting or chopping is necessary. I personally carry a fixed blade knife, a folding saw, a folding knife, a multi tool and a machete. That arguably is overkill but better safe than sorry!!
4. FLASH LIGHT
If you find yourself having to spend the night out in the wilderness a flash light will do more than just the obvious. It will allow you to see what you are doing, it can act as a signaling device for search teams that might be looking for you and will help you to stay calm. Being in total darkness late at night can make your mind work overtime. When a person looses their sight small sounds become huge. A light helps to keep to overactive mind at rest. We recommend you choose a flashlight that is water proof or water resistant and is shock resistant. We also recommend you carry extra batteries. Use may use Altoid cans. Cut out and place a piece of cardboard in the bottom of the can. Cardboard can be used as tinder and helps secure the batteries from rolling around. The can will hold up to 6 batteries. Place another piece of cardboard over the batteries. Wrap the can in 12” - 18” of duct tape.
5. SIGNAL MIRROR / PLASTIC WHISTLE / STROBES
Both a signal mirror and a whistle are highly recommended. In most cases the whistle can quickly bring a search to a safe and happy end. Your voice may seem loud but in the wilderness with heavy vegetation and dense forest sound from a voice is muffled. The sound from a good whistle can carry for quite a distance. Searchers are trained to listen for whistles. 3 short bursts is the standard distress signal and will alert search teams of your location. A search team will respond with 2 short blasts. Be sure the listen for a response. We recommend a whistle known as the storm whistle which can be found in the P3 Gear Store. On occasion Law Enforcement will activate a search by air . In these cases whittles will not have any effect in attracting attention from the aircraft. However a signal mirror is very effective for signaling both air craft as well is ground teams in a distance. Lastly it is recommended that you carry a strobe. At night a strobe can be set up as a continuos signal. Most strobes will run for days and ensures that if you doze off you have deployed an active signaling device at all times. These signals can be found in the P3 Gear Store.
6. MATCHES / STRIKERS
Matches are an important essential item. In the Northwest, lost subjects commonly experience hypothermia. These items are your way of getting a source of heat established and keeping from becoming hypothermic. We recommend you carry a generous number of matches and other methods of starting a fire and be sure they are sealed in a waterproof container. Redundancy it a good thing here! Make sure and carry two or three backup for starting a fire. If you choose a metal match (striker) make sure you choose a quality striker and not look to save money. Reliable strikers can be found on our site. Additionally, do not use standard household matches. I recommend Storm Matches which also can be found in the P3 Gear Store.
7. TINDER / FIRE STARTER
The forest is often wet or at the least very moist. Finding dry fuel and starting a fire can be a real challenge even for the best of us. Tinder or some type of fire starter will give you the advantage of getting that fire going quickly and keeping warm. Even if you can get a fire going for a short period of time you can then utilize the small fire to begin to dry larger wood. There are a large number of fire starter products. Most claim to be the best. We recommend you try several. Get our there and try them out in the most extreme conditions. Try them in wet conditions and try them in windy conditions. I feel that this is a critical supply you should carry and must work without fail. For this reason we do not carry a large number of products. We only cary the ones we have tested and live by. If you see a product on our site, it works!
10. ALUMINUM FOIL
Aluminum foil may seem odd in a survival situation. However we have found it to be very useful. It can be used a based to build a fire and get the hot embers off the wet ground. It can be used as a windscreen to assist in getting the fire started. It can also be used to trap water and in a pinch to provide a hydration source. We recommend you carry approximately 2 sheets 12” in length. They can be folded into 3” square bundles.
A basic bivvy sack or poncho can be used to keep warm as temperatures drop. It can also be used as a shelter to keep dry or as a water trap similarly to the aluminum foil. We recommend you carry a basic tarp, poncho and / or a bivvy sack, which can be purchased in the P3 Gear Store. Make sure and carry several options which can be used for a ground cover to get your body off the forest floor. Consider an option to be used as a sleeping bag such as a bivvy sack and lastly consider something to get the wind, rain and sun off of you. I personally carry a inexpensive poncho, a garbage bag and a sil tarp and a light high quality bivvy sack. 12. 550 PARA CORD Parachute cord is a versatile and very durable resource that can be used for an unlimited number of things where you need to secure or tie down items. Some examples are for shoestrings or to tie branches together when building a shelter or fishing line and snares. Pound for pound 55 cord can’t be beat. We recommend you carry 50’ to 100’. Be sure you get the real stuff and not just twine or basic line. 550 cord will have 7 strands within the sheath. One strand will have a colored line wrapped around an individual cord. Each cord is tested to have a strength of 35 Lbs. The real stuff can be found in the P3 Gear Store.