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How to Create a Wilderness Survival Kit

Planning and packing your first survival kit can be overwhelming. How do you decide which items are essential for survival and which will only weigh you down?

Being prepared for any emergency is crucial when you’re on the trails. Your wilderness survival kit will sustain you until you reach civilization and find help. Follow this guide to create the ultimate survival pack for your outdoor adventures.

wilderness survival kit

What to Pack in a Wilderness Survival Kit

Survivalism is about thoughtful preparedness, and the best advice for beginners is to “prep for Tuesday, not Doomsday.” This adage tells you to consider the most likely emergencies in your area and stow items you’ll need for everyday use until business as usual gets restored.

A wilderness survival kit provides the necessary tools for emergency survival in remote areas. You must pack the right gear to tackle likely obstacles and keep yourself safe and healthy until you can reach civilization. Print out this free checklist and follow along to ensure you are prepared in the wild.

How to Create a Wilderness Survival Kit 1

Basic Necessities

Start your checklist by securing the essentials, which are items you cannot live without. These are crucial and will likely assume the most space in your wilderness survival kit.


Everyone needs a minimum of one gallon of water daily for hydration, cooking, and sanitization. Since a gallon of water weighs over eight pounds, it can quickly add up.

Water is vital for survival, so if you want to prepare for longer-term hydration, you need a way to capture and sanitize it. Collect water from streams using empty vessels and boil it for 15 minutes to kill dangerous microbes.

An invaluable survival tool you must pack is a handheld water filtration device like the LifeStraw, which ensures access to safe drinking water when you can’t readily build a fire. Learn more about water collection and purification from the water hub at Survival World.


Wilderness survival is demanding work that expends precious calories. Your body requires at least 1,200 calories daily to survive, and all the trekking, hunting, gathering, and building adds to this.

Pack ample non-perishable food items that you enjoy eating. Check out this extensive list of shelf-stable camping foods that won’t spoil in your survival kit. Remember that beans and lentils can be cultivated for long-term survival if needed.

Always bring a calorie-dense backup, like this compact emergency ration cookie that contains a whopping 3,600 calories in a 1.6-pound package. It has a shelf-life exceeding 10 years and provides the energy you need to keep going.

First Aid

You can build a first aid kit by purchasing bandages, gauze, medical tape, antiseptic wipes, antimicrobial cream, antihistamines, and NSAID pain relievers separately. Alternatively, you can get one of the many convenient pre-made survival first aid kits reviewed here.


Pack at least a week’s supply of necessary medications to treat any medical conditions you have. Additionally, bring a multivitamin supplement to ensure you get the critical micronutrients your body needs to thrive.

wilderness survival kit

Survival Tools

The right tools make all the difference between survival and defeat in the wild, and you will need a variety of tools to handle different tasks and challenges. Explore these top picks for the best camping multi-tool to check multiple boxes with one compact device.

Hunting and Fishing

You’ll need a steady food supply after you deplete camping rations to maintain energy levels. Hunting and fishing are the best ways to obtain safe, high-protein food in a survival scenario.

You must find a natural body of water to replenish your water reserves if you want to survive. Once secured, use a survival fishing kit to sustain yourself on freshly-caught fish.

Survival hunting can be tricky for the inexperienced. You should bring a ranged weapon to make hunting and self-defense easier.

shepherd’s sling is a lightweight ranged weapon that uses stones as ammunition. It is simple to wield, and with practice, you will effortlessly kill small- to medium-sized animals. It is also a great way to deter nosey predators from a comfortable distance.

A solid cutting tool is essential to process game and build and repair auxiliary tools. The Barebones Hori knife is a durable survival tool that combines a knife, saw, shovel, hatchet, machete, hammer, and rope cutter in one.


A campfire is one of the most vital survival tools for safety, sanitization, cooking, and comfort. While it is possible to start a friction fire, save your energy by utilizing a firestarter rod, lighter, or waterproof matches.

Learn how and when to build the best survival fire for your situation at this Survival World hub.


Supplement your campfire-building tools with a portable camp stove and a small cooking pot. Alcohol camp stoves are ideal for wilderness survival backpacking since they can use readily available hand sanitizer or grain alcohol as fuel.

This Trangia ultralight camping cook set with stove includes two pots, a frying pan, a kettle, and an alcohol stove. Learn how to use this gear and more by reading this guide to camp cooking.


The top two necessary navigation tools are a compass and a flashlight. Also, bring a map of the local area where you go hiking or a GPS device with built-in maps. You might want to pack a small notebook and writing implement to track your progress as you trek.

This Garmin Handheld Satellite Communicator is the ultimate wilderness survival navigation tool, equipped with GPS, maps, two-way SMS communication, and an emergency beacon.

Want to learn more about navigation? Explore Survival World’s navigation hub for in-depth guides on getting around in the wilderness.


Don’t mistake the following items for optional creature comforts. Keeping yourself clean, dry, and sheltered prevents exposure, which can be deadly in the wild.


The type of clothing to pack depends on when and where you’re camping. Ensure you have a comfortable long-sleeved shirt to protect against the sun wherever you go, and supplement this with a climate-appropriate change of clothes.

Generally, bring a thermal base layer like the Under Armour ColdGear Mock and Leggings anywhere the temperature drops below 60 degrees Fahrenheit at night. Add a lightweight emergency poncho or two to keep you and your gear dry in unexpected downpours.

Foot Care

Take care of your feet, and they’ll take care of you. Keep this in the forefront of your mind during long hikes to prevent grave complications like trench foot.

Wash your feet and dry them thoroughly with a microfiber camp towel daily. Afterward, apply an antifungal foot powder or cream to keep your feet healthy.

Pack lightweight shoes in your wilderness survival kit to protect your feet in the event of a blowout. Choose something breathable and compact like the Teva Sport Sandal. Use a pair of wool socks and a few sturdy plastic bags to turn hiking sandals into makeshift boots if your feet get cold.


Proper hygiene and sanitization prevent illnesses that can leave you critically injured or worse in the wilderness. Pack essential personal care items like hand sanitizer, soap, and oral hygiene products.

miswak stick is a fantastic solution for cleaning your teeth on the trail, saving you space and weight compared to a traditional toothbrush and toothpaste. Another dual-purpose survival hygiene product is this biodegradable citronella soap bar that keeps you clean while repelling annoying, disease-causing mosquitoes.

Shelter and Bedding

You’ll need a few crucial tools to build an emergency survival shelter, including rope, heavy-duty tape, and a tarp or rainfly. Supplement a basic shelter with a sleeping bag, thermal blanket, or emergency bivy bag to stay warm and dry at night.

Do you want a reliable shelter that’s ready to deploy? Read this guide to find the best one-person tent for your wilderness survival kit.

Packing a Wilderness Survival Kit

Keep your survival gear safe and ready to use through smart packing. Stow bulky items near the bottom and frequently used tools on top. Get more pro backpacking tips and learn how to pack a backpack here.

The Best Pack for Wilderness Survival Kits

Now that you have selected all of the essential tools for wilderness survival, you need an easy and convenient storage option that won’t weigh you down on long journeys. Look for a comfortable, durable bag with ample room for your kit and more. Check out the best survival backpacks to find a top-of-the-line bag built for survival.

Keeping Your Survival Gear Clean and Dry

Don’t let your gear get damaged and food spoiled by excess moisture. Instead, use Earth Pak waterproof stuff sacks to keep your wilderness survival kit organized and clean. These sacks provide reliable protection from water damage, ensuring your equipment is ready for use when needed.

Equipment Inspection and Repacking

Regularly inspect and repack your wilderness survival kit to ensure all items are in good condition and properly functioning. Replace any expired food, medications, or damaged equipment. Routine maintenance and organization will keep your kit ready for any emergency.

wilderness survival kit

Wilderness Survival Kit Frequently Asked Questions

What are the different types of survival kits?

There are various types of survival kits, including:

Mini Survival Kit

A mini survival kit is a compact and lightweight option designed for short-term emergencies. It typically includes essential items like a firestarter, whistle, compass, and signaling mirror. These kits are great for day hikes or as backups to larger kits.

72-hour Bug-Out Bag

A 72-hour bug-out bag can sustain you for up to three days during an evacuation or disaster. It includes emergency supplies like food, water, shelter, first aid, and tools. These bags are grab-and-go by design, providing essential items for survival until you can reach a safer location.

Get-Me-Home Kit

A get-me-home kit is for crisis scenarios where you must travel home on foot or by bicycle during an emergency. It typically contains everyday items like a map, cash, comfortable walking shoes, water, snacks, and a compact flashlight. This kit helps you navigate through unfamiliar terrain or transportation disruptions.

Vehicle Survival Kit

A vehicle survival kit is specifically designed for emergencies that occur while you’re on the road. It includes items like jumper cables, tire repair tools, a first aid kit, emergency blankets, a multi-tool, and non-perishable food. This kit helps you handle unexpected breakdowns or accidents while ensuring your safety and comfort.

Long-term Survival Kit

A long-term survival kit is built to sustain you for extended periods in the wilderness. It includes extensive food rations, rainwater collection and filtration systems, long-term shelter materials, seeds, gardening supplies, hunting and fishing tools, and comprehensive first aid supplies. This kit is essential for situations where rescue or resupply may take longer.

Military Survival Kits

Military survival kits are designed for armed forces personnel in combat or other high-risk situations. These kits include specialized equipment like weapon maintenance tools, tactical knives, camouflage gear, signaling devices, water purification tablets, and trauma medical supplies. They are optimized for the unique challenges military personnel face in survival scenarios.

What is the single most important wilderness survival tool?

The single most important tool that you should have in your wilderness survival kit is a reliable survival knife. A quality knife is an invaluable asset that can greatly enhance your chances of survival in various situations.

A survival knife is designed to perform a multitude of tasks. It can be used for cutting wood, preparing food, building shelters, crafting tools, and even self-defense if necessary. Its versatile nature makes it a vital tool that can adapt to different survival scenarios.

wilderness survival kit

Always Be Prepared With Your Wilderness Survival Kit

Now that you have your wilderness survival kit packed, there is one more thing you need. Knowledge is the ultimate survival tool and will mean the difference between life and death in the wild.

Are you ready to learn more about how to survive in any scenario? If so, dive deep into the many guides, reviews, and resources on Survival World.