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How To Create The Ultimate DIY Camping Survival Kit

A DIY camping survival kit will help you get home safe is disaster strikes in the wilderness.

In my opinion, a basic survival kit is an absolute must anytime you venture into the backcountry, although it doesn’t require as much gear as a bug-out bag or home emergency kit.

The key is to keep yours lightweight and simple. Your kit should be helpful but also unobtrusive enough that you’ll always take it along, no matter what.

Today, I’ll show you exactly what you need in your backcountry survival kit (starting with the 10 essentials) for your next camping trip.

Camping Survival Is Serious

Bridge In The Woods

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 one and two 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 even a simple overnight 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 in my backpack.

Know Your Own Abilities

Man reading a map in the wilderness.

Most important to staying safe in the wilderness is knowing your own abilities.

Many people who find themselves in a bad situation actually end up there by overestimating their abilities.

It is absolutely necessary to know your abilities and your limits as well as different members of your group’s limits before going out on any serious camping, hiking or canoeing trip.

For example, if you are heading to the BWCA (one of our family’s favorite camping destinations), make sure you know how to properly read a map and that you’ve practiced carrying a heavy pack along with a canoe over your head for at least a mile.

Did you know that the human body can last roughly three weeks without food but only one 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.

Simply put, the best way to survive in the wilderness is proper preparation and common sense to avoid dangers in the first place.

What You Need In Your Camping Survival Kit

Camping survival shelter in the woods.

The goal of a camping survival kit is to bring a basic set of supplies to get you through the rest of your camping trip plus an additional five to seven days if you’re lost in the woods.

Your survival gear is meant to help you get back to safety as quickly as possible or wait in one place until help arrives if an emergency situation happens on the trail.

Here are the 8 basics you need in your camp survival kit:

1. Water

Most important is the ability to get clean, safe drinking water in a wilderness survival situation.

A lightweight water purification method like a water filter or water treatment tablets is your best bet.

I keep a LifeStraw Water Filter in my personal camp survival kit.

2. Food

You don’t need a lot of food in a survival situation, but you do need something.

Select basic food with high calories in a small package. High-calorie energy bars are an excellent choice. Try to bring enough food for between one and three days.

3. Shelter

An emergency backcountry shelter is often misinterpreted thanks to survival TV shows – you shouldn’t be cutting down trees to build a full-fledged shelter.

An emergency blanket is pretty much all you need. Unless you’re out in very extreme weather conditions, it will help keep you warm and dry until help arrives.

Rather than build your own shelter, it’s much better to conserve your energy while you wait for help. That said, a basic lean-to is quick and simple to make and can help keep some of the elements at bay.

4. Fire

The ability to start a fire not only warmth, but also light, a sense of safety, and peace of mind.

A waterproof matches kit is all you really need to start a fire in the wilderness.

5. Light

Although the light from a campfire is a great start, an actual flashlight or headlamp is a huge benefit in a survival situation.

Bring a waterproof flashlight with a long-lasting battery to see your surroundings, help set up shelter, and even signal to others.

A lightweight rechargeable pen light is an excellent choice.

6. Communication

I don’t go anywhere in the backcountry without my Garmin inReach Mini.

This lightweight satellite communicator allows me to communicate with my family and send my exact GPS coordinates to search and rescue.

I highly recommend including some type of communication method in your camping survival kit.

7. First-Aid Kit

Always bring at least a basic first-aid kit with you whenever you go camping.

Just as important is knowing wilderness first-aid basics so you’re not stuck trying to learn in a time-sensitive emergency situation.

8. Basic Tools

A foldable camping knife is a fantastic all-purpose tool to have in an outdoor survival situation.

Another option is a multi-purpose tool that combines a blade with other common tools like pliers and a serrated blade.

Your Finished DIY Camp Survival Kit

Your completed camping survival kit should weigh in at less than 10 pounds maximum.

Personally, I shoot for around 5 pounds, although those with a focus on lightweight backpacking can weigh in at much less than this.

I suggest building your own camp survival kit so you can choose exactly what you include – and exclude anything you don’t really need.

If you’re a beginner to camping and outdoor survival, you can buy pre-made camping emergency kits, although these tend to be comprised of low-quality gear.

In fact, pre-made camp emergency kits can even give you a false sense of security. You think you have the proper gear, but then in an emergency situation, you find out that it doesn’t even work as it should.

We strongly recommend building your own survival bag for camping.

Did We Forget Anything?

What do you pack in your camping survival bag?

Did we miss anything important that you always make sure to pack?

The great thing about a survival kit is that it can be as basic or as complex as the situation requires.

Let us know what you have in your kit in the comments below!

How To Create The Ultimate DIY Camping Survival Kit 1


Wednesday 22nd of August 2018

Great article and good, sound advice. I live in southern Oregon and not only do I carry an emergency pack when I hike, I also carry a winter emergency pack in my car. I live at 4000 feet altitude and often travel up to 6000 feet. Winter roads can become treacherous quickly at altitude and while I have great all wheel drive, stuff happens. My winter pack is extra, warm clothing, food, water, extensive first aid kit, my zero degree rated sleeping bag, and a few emergency blankets thrown in. I have other gear in there also, fire starting equipment, knife, etc. etc. as outlined in this article. I have never used my winter pack once in about 10 years of carrying one but I'd rather have it and not need it than to need it and not have it. Love your site Ryan, keep up the good work.


Sunday 23rd of September 2018

Thanks Gayle!


Thursday 28th of June 2018

My family and I are newbies to the camping world. While searching for information about camping, we came across your blogs and we immediately signed up. Thanks to all your wonderful information, we are confident to go to our first camping trip this summer!


Tuesday 12th of June 2018

First aid is huge, but prevention is better. Duct tape is king: put it on anywhere that has friction, and you prevent blisters. Foot pain causes missed steps causes injuries. File a flight plan with two different people, and don't be afraid to leave trail markers as you go so you can find your way back. Take the markers off as you return of course.

Ott Mountain

Saturday 10th of June 2017

Greetings Ryan, we saw you in the article that Self Storage did. We are the "Ott Mountain" folks. I wanted to check out your blog and whoa man, this is awesome! So much content and very nice presentation and layout. Anyway, just wanted to say "Hey" and hopefully connect up with you. You've done a heckuva good job here and we look forward to following you more!

Rich Brandt

Monday 1st of May 2017

I always carry a small hiker first aid kit and I duct tape a small survival kit on the back of it. Space blanket, whistle, multi tool, flashlight etc.. Carry it every time I hit the trail


Monday 1st of May 2017

Good call Rich! BTW - I like your 60 Hikes videos on Youtube!