Like with any other area in life, disaster can strike while you’re out camping. Maybe you end up getting lost in the woods, you suffer an injury preventing you from hiking out, your canoe drifts away during the night while camping in the BWCA or one of many other things that could happen while out camping. More so than almost any other situation, you need to be ready with a camping survival kit for when disaster strikes in the wilderness.

Creating a basic survival kit to take along on your camping trips is absolutely essential, but it doesn’t require the same gear that a bug out bag or home survival kit may require. You have to remember, if you’re already out camping, you most likely have a tent, stove and other gear that would be considered survival gear in many situations. The goal of a camping survival kit is to make sure you have a basic set of additional gear and supplies that will not only get you through your camping trip, but get you through an extra 5-7 days and a variety of extra circumstances.

Camping Survival Is Serious

Each year in the US there are roughly 2,500 search and rescue missions conducted in our national parks with an average cost between 4-5 million per year.

The number 1 and 2 activities needing rescuing were day hiking followed by backpacking.  Day hikers required nearly 1,400 SAR missions while backpackers required roughly 500.

While most individuals are found within a 24 hour period, there are typically over 20 per year that take over a week to find the individuals (with many more SARs in between that time frame).

All of this is to simply illustrate that being prepared while out on a camping trip is essential and should not be taken lightly. Personally, If I am out doing any kind of hiking (even a simple day hike), I always make sure to have at least my basic camping survival gear on hand in my pack.

small bridge in the woods

Know Your Body

Many people who find themselves in a bad situation usually end up there by over estimating their abilities. It is absolutely necessary to know your abilities and your limits as well as different members of your groups limits before going out on any serious camping, hiking or canoeing trip.

If you are heading to the BWCA, make sure you know how to properly read a map, that you’ve practiced carrying a 40lb pack along with a canoe over your head for at least a mile (1/2 mile in the wilderness is far harder than 1 mile in the city!).

Did you know that the human body can last roughly 3 weeks without food but only 1 week without water? Both of these are going to be cut down drastically if you find yourself in a physically and mentally stressful environment though.

The Anatomy of A Camping Survival Kit

Camping / hiking survival are quite a bit different than many of the bug out bags that you find for sale online and read about all over the internet. Most of these are for being prepared for earthquakes, tornados, economic problems and such. When packing for a wilderness survival situation, you don’t need half of the gear that many of these kits offer.

Survival kits are meant to help you when you are in life and death situations and get you back to safety as quickly as possible. In these types of situations there are 8 categories that need to be covered:

  • Water
  • Food
  • Warmth
  • Shelter
  • Light
  • Communication
  • First Aid
  • Basic Tools


Water

Water is obviously first on the list, but don’t mistake that for me saying you need to bring bottled water, it simply takes up too much weight. In most camping and hiking situations, water is readily available. I recommend packing a Life Straw (2 ounces)or some other water purification device that is small and light weight.

Food

Next on the list is food. You don’t need a lot of food, really what you need is something with high calories that will give you enough energy to stay alert and active. What you want is some basic food that will give you energy for 1-5 days. This can be as simple as a couple of high calorie energy bars like these 400 calorie energy bars that last up to 5 years (3 ounces per bar).

Warmth & Shelter

Warmth and shelter are things that we tend to either ignore or misinterpret due to survival tv shows. You don’t want to be cutting down trees and building a shelter like on Survivor Man. An Emergency Survival Shelter (3 ounces) and Survival Blanket (5 ounces) are what you really need in this type of situation. Staying warm within a shelter will help prevent hypothermia as well as help calm your body and nerves in a high stress situation. Read more about hypothermia and shock in our campsite safety post.

Warmth also consists of being able to light a fire. A fire provides so much when in a survival situation such as warmth, peace of mind, safety and light. A simple firestarting kit packed in your survival kit is all you really need.

Light & Communication

Having a good waterproof light with a long lasting battery is another essential to any camping survival kit. Being able to see your surroundings in the evening, set up shelter and even signal others makes a flashlight like this 300 lumen ultra bright flashlight (2.2 ounces).

Communication can be a walkie talkie as long as someone knows you’re out and available on the other end. I’ve also seen people place a flip phone into a zip lock baggie. Any phone will allow you to dial 911 even without service and flip phones have incredibly long lasting batteries, especially when you only turn it on to make a call. Other forms of communication are your flashlight and fire. Typical flip phones and walkie talkies weigh roughly 3.5-4 ounces.

First Aid

An outdoor survival kit needs to include more in the first aid department than just some antibiotic ointment and bandaids. I recommend purchasing an outdoor first aid kit because of the cost savings and time savings vs trying to purchase all of your first aid items separately.

Two kits that I love are the Reebow Tactical Gear 115 piece kit and the Sportsman Series Medical Kit.

The Reebow kit weighs 1 lb. and comes with all kinds of bandages, wraps, cleansers, cold compress, whistle, light stick, rain coat, CPR face mask and much more.

The Sportsman Series Medical Kit contains even more than the Reebow kit such as common medications, fracture/sprain care and more making it the perfect first aid kit for camping survival. This kit weighs in at 1.5 lbs.

Tools

Since a fire is essential for warmth, light and peace of mind, a fire stating tool is a necessity. You can use something simple like a magnesium fire starter stick which creates large sparks, is resistant to all weather and can be struck 15,000 times. Or you could go with an easier method like a stormproof match kit. These match kits have water resistant matches, waterproof cases and are about the easiest way to light a fire when in a tough situation.

You will also need a blade in your kit. There are many different gimmicky survival tools found online, but a high quality knife is what you really need. There are many high quality survival knifes that are a perfect addition to any survival kit. The KingCamp Tactical Survival Folding Knife (6.4 ounces) and the Gerber Ultimate Serrated Knife (11.2 ounces) are perfect knives. Both have high quality blades and each add in extra features.

When completed, this kit should weight in between 4-10 pounds depending on what all you decide to add to your kit. Try to stay under the 10 lb. range as anything over tends to become inconvenient to grab when going on a hike and a survival kit at home or at base camp never saved anyone.

CREATE YOUR OWN OR PURCHASE A PRE-MADE SURVIVAL KIT

There are both advantages and disadvantages to creating your own camping survival kit and purchasing one. When creating your own kit, there are two main disadvantages. You have the potential to forget a crucial item and creating your own kit typically costs more. However, these disadvantages are small in contrast to the advantages of building your own kit. The main advantage to assembling your own kit is that you have complete control. You don’t have to pack any unnecessary gear, low quality gear, food that tastes terrible. You can keep it light weight or if you want a few pieces of extra gear, do it. If you want a higher quality multi-tool, knife or water filter, then do it.

The advantages to purchasing a pre-made survival kit would be that they are typically cheaper than buying everything separately and have a wide variety of items. The disadvantages can be that these items are often of lower quality and not especially useful for outdoor situations.

Red 5 Day 1 Person Survival Pack

The Red 5 Day Pack includes all of the basics such as 32 entrees, 5 packets of water, portable stove, fuel, cup, squeeze light, whistle, first aid & hygiene, matches, blanket and more. It does not however include a Life Straw, which in my opinion should be included in every survival pack (you could easily add it yourself. Purchase Here For $89

Wise 5 Day Emergency Backpack: 1 Person, 5 Days

The Wise 5 Day Pack weighs in at 4 lbs, 3.5 ounces and covers everything you would need for a standard survival situation. The pack claims to be enough for 1 person to last 5 days, but it’s contents suggest more. It includes the same 32 entrees, 5 packets of water, portable stove, fuel pellets, a cup, a squeeze light, a whistle, first aid & hygiene kit, matches, blankets, playing cards and more as the Red pack but also has some other useful gear. A survival knife, survival tool, fishing line, a small ax, a fire starter and more. This is a great pack for the price. Purchase Here For $169.95

2 Person, 5 Day Emergency Kit

This 2 person, 5 day kit is rationed very similar to the above kits while being balanced more for 2 people versus 1. It includes all of the basics such as food, water, Lifestraw and survival tools. This kit sells for $234.99 on Amazon.

4 Person, 5 Day Survival Pack

This 4 person, 5 day pack includes a life straw, 60 food bars, 40 pouches of drinking water, a large first aid kit, rain ponchos, a machete, 2 survival knives, survival axe, a rope saw, rope, shelter and much more. This kit runs $267.99 on Amazon.