How to Build Your Own Wilderness Survival Kit

How to Build Your Own Wilderness Survival Kit

Planning a big trip into the wilderness? It’s essential to bring a survival kit along with you—it might just keep you alive if things go south. While you can purchase a pre-organized survival kit, the ones you buy in the store often don’t cut it when shit really hits the fan. A better idea: Create your own.

This post will cover what items you’ll need to assemble a tactical survival kit that’ll give you a fighting chance if you’re faced with real danger. In addition to the survival kit list, this piece will also cover how to store and carry the kit, so it’ll be ready when you need it.

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Jim Baird's survival kit laid out on a wooden table, viewed from the above.
The author’s survival kit Jim Baird

Storing a Survival Kit

In addition to what you bring in your kit, how you store it is highly important.

On paddling trips where you could lose your boat and your gear in rapids, your survival kit should be waterproofed, carried in a small pack (such as a fanny pack), and strapped to your body while on the water. At night, however, it’s best to leave your kit in the boat in case you need to make a quick getaway from camp (if a problem bear comes along, for example).

On the other hand, if you’re trekking or hunting upland, consider spreading the items of your kit out: Place items in different pockets and in your pack, so you’re not keeping all your eggs in one basket. If you lose your pack, for example, you won’t lose your entire survival kit along with it.

Tailor Your Kit to Your Environment

Potential survival challenges can change from season to season and place to place. Creating your own kit gives you the chance to tailor it more specifically to your particular adventure before heading out.

For example, are you heading to a place where you might be able to catch fish as a food source? If not, you’ll probably want to leave fishing-related stuff behind. If there are fish, what species are most common? You may need to pack smaller hooks to catch them. The picks below will give you a general idea of what you need, but it’s always smart to consider how they’ll work in your environment, and adjust them as necessary.

Regardless of where you’re traveling, the items outlined below will give you the best chance at staying alive in many remote survival scenarios. They’ve served me well on many backcountry adventures, including a stint on the History Channel show Alone. If you’re in the wilderness with just the clothes on your back and what you can fit into a small pack, these are the survival kit essentials you’ll want to have with you.

How to Build Your Own Wilderness Survival Kit

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