Realizing you're lost in the wilderness can be a scary moment, but you're in much better shape if you have a well-stocked wilderness survival kit.

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You're hiking through a gorgeous and serene state park when your gaze falls on an elusive species of wildlife off in the distance. Eager to get great photographic evidence of how incredible your vacation was, you judge that it shouldn't be much trouble to cross over to the next ridge for a closer shot. Unfortunately, you were a little too quick checking the weather report that morning and cut off the radio after you heard "sunny and warm" and missed the crucial part about "huge storm fronts moving in later in the afternoon."

Choose your own adventure: Do gusts of violent rain send you tumbling down the ravine? Does a fierce blizzard leave you freezing and disoriented? Do you seek shelter in a cave only to find that an enraged mother bear already called dibs? Whatever calamity suddenly befalls you, having a wilderness survival kit in addition to your regular gear can help tip the scales between amazing campfire tale of survival and grim obituary in the local newspaper.

While there are many standard items that'll pop up in any wilderness survival kit, some of the preparations for a wilderness adventure should be tailored to the specific environment you'll be journeying through. The most important thing you can do before entering the wilderness is to plan accordingly and think through everything you probably will or will not need should the worst occur. For example, if you plan on trekking across Minnesota, the "Land of 10,000 Lakes," you'll definitely want lots of ways to collect and purify water, but you probably won't need to lug around as much actual H2O as if, say, you're taking a hiking tour through Death Valley.

Different outdoor adventures call for different loads, but the vital point to keep in mind is that this survival kit needs to be with you at all times, so make it as compact and pertinent as possible. Important things should be kept closest to your person, and it's good to choose items that can serve more than one purpose. For example, a blanket with a silver reflective coating not only keeps you warm, it can also help you be spotted by helicopters, radar and searchlights. Plastic trash bags can wind-proof a shelter as well as serve as rain gear or water collectors. On the other hand, some items you'll typically want to double up on include fire starters and compasses, which should be kept in separate places on your body.

Trek over to the next page to discover a wide range of essentials that are important to pop in your pack before you head out into the great unknown.