How Wilderness Survival Kits Work

More Wilderness Survival Gear

First, we'll start with shelter since exposure is often an immediate and grave concern in survival situations. There are many different means to shelter yourself -- some involving last-minute ingenuity, likely with less than ideal results, others the result of careful planning. Reliable shelters and sheltering material are available on the market, so just do a little snooping around to find the one that'll work best for you.

Now you'll need maps, compasses and extra food. As we discussed earlier, when it comes to compasses and maps, these are good items to duplicate since they're practically weightless but overwhelmingly practical. When it comes to food, you don't need to lug around a spare picnic lunch, just include some compact high-energy fare that can sustain you in an emergency. You can also stick some hunting and fishing supplies -- like a few fish hooks and some fishing line -- into your kit if you feel you're competent enough to catch your own food.

As fun as this little foray into the wilderness has been, now let's talk about how we're going to get you back to civilization -- especially if you don't think you can manage it with just compass and map alone. Having a flashlight, silver reflective blanket or mini LED torch on hand is a good way to boost your chances of being spotted by a rescue effort, but there are other options. For example, the sound of a piercing whistle can really carry over terrain to potential rescuers' ears, so be sure to throw one in your kit, along with a signaling mirror.

Hopefully that's pretty much all you'll need to get home sweet home, but if you're going into a really treacherous patch of wildness, better check with some experts on the area. Who knows -- you could find yourself desperately needing something out of the ordinary, like a specific snake antivenin or some other local necessity for survival.

For lots more information that might just save your life someday, wind your way through the links below.

Related HowStuffWorks Articles


  • Davenport, Gregory. "Wilderness Survival." Stackpole Books. 2006. (11/3/2009)
  • Knight, Jason. "Wilderness Survival: Top Ten Items." Alderleaf Wilderness College. (11/3/2009)
  • Mandeville, James. Web site. (11/3/2009)
  • McCann, John. "Build the Perfect Survival Kit." Krause publications. 2005. (11/3/2009)
  • Rowe, Aaron. "Top 10 Outdoor Survival Tools." Wired Blog. March 17, 2008. (11/3/2009)
  • Wilderness Survival Web site. (11/3/2009)