By taking part in a pastime that necessarily involves an element of danger, we should always be prepared for times when the worst can happen.
Having a set of the important tools for survival is the first most urgent point.
Let’s have a look at these 3 items.
Of course,it really depends upon where you are lost….if it is a barren area, or solid frozen snow-covered wilderness or the desert, then we may require a few other items than those listed.
If we are in a dense forested area or a jungle (very rare in N America!), then these items will save your life, if used correctly.
The knife is one thing you DO NOT want to lose when you’re hiking….it is said no matter how honed your survival skills, if you don’t have a knife, you’re chances of survival are very low indeed.
What can a knife do? Well, a knife can offer you:
- Immediate protection and self-defense while you construct more suitable weapons.
- The ability to quickly sharpen a strong stick to make a spear for hunting and for protection.
- The ability to cut fruits or edible green matter
- The ability to cut vines and/or animal hides into thin strips to use as cord so you can make or build things.
- The ability to cut and build a variety of primitive traps and snares to capture wild game.
- The ability to properly skin an animal and slice the meat
The important thing about a knife is this….you cannot make a knife from raw materials if you are lost in the wilderness, period. You may be able to use things like broken glass for cutting edges etc but nothing as useful as a proper knife.
For this reason, I always carry not one but TWO knives, one is a folding one and the other a full length sheathed type.
Types of knives
There is a plethora of knives on sale for hikers and campers…it is up to you to make the correct choice and not be taken in by fancy marketing. First and foremost, my advice is not to waste your money on those Swiss Army knives…they may be good enough for the Swiss Army, but there are cheaper and better alternatives closer to home…we” come to that in a minute.
The best knives are those made of stainless steel…these will never rust and will keep their edges far longer than a non-stainless steel knife.
Also, the construction of the knife is of paramount importance….buy one on which he blade extends all the way back to the end of the handle….that will be a very sturdy knife compared to one on which the blade ends at the start of the handle.
A belt sheath is very useful indeed and ensures your knife will always be handy for immediate use.
The next item in order of importance is a fire. No matter where we are stranded, a fire immediately raises your morale and composure, making us less likely to give up survival.
And we all know that having a fire going will keep dangerous animals away, as well as providing much-needed heat for warmth and cooking….in some cases, a fire may well signal your presence to those searching for you.
Again, as with knives, there are hundreds of suggested ways of starting fires, but from experience, let me say this much….if you are stranded in an area where it is very damp, or raining, or snowing heavily, the so-called primitive fire method is almost next to useless.
Picture the scenario…you are soaking wet, the air is damp or freezing, you are depressed at being in such a situation and any sparks you are able to create, soon disappear due to the amount of moisture in the air.
As well, in extreme weather, one is very likely to become quickly irritable and fearful, so starting a fire using friction or other primitive methods is very difficult indeed during times of emotional stress.
At present, there are 3 methods of starting a fire….butane cigarette lighters, matches and magnesium fire starters.
There are many kinds of matches available that promise the ability to light fires in any terrain or condition, but they all depend upon you having the very best, dry tinder, as well as being dry themselves.
If at all your matches get wet, then it will be almost impossible to use them…I have tried reusing dried matches that have been wet, but the material on the match head just crumbles off, so keeping matches dry is paramount.
Next we have butane cigarette lighters….these are very cheap and cost around a $1.50 each. Bear in mind that one of these little beauties, though cheap and simple, has the ability to light around a 1000 fires…that’s one fire a day for THREE years….buy a bigger sized one and you’re talking about over 4000 fires. Butane lighters are very reliable and will light up in the wettest weather…I have used them in rain, sleet, high winds and snow with excellent effect.
Finally, we have the magnesium method. This involves shaving thin strips of magnesium off a block and creating sparks from the flint by striking it with your knife. This can also be very good and reliable, as magnesium catches alight very rapidly.
From my experience, it pays to have all 3 with you, as then you have a fail-safe system. Undoubtably, the best method I can vouch for is the butane method.
And then we come to the compass.
A compass is vital if you are lost. Even though you may not know zilch about map-reading or using a compass to find your way through to civilisation, it will at least allow you to walk in a straight line, hopefully to a road where help will be available.
Without a compass, your chances of walking in a straight line consistently are next to zero.
Always go for a decent compass….you can pick some up in dollar stores, but would you place your trust one of these? Not me!
There are very useful models available that have several life-saving features included in them…..some have the compass as well as a mirror (for signalling), a whistle (for attracting attention) and a small torch.
I have selected the very best items for you here, that I have used myself and that have proven their worth countless times over.
All these items can be purchased at Backcountry.com
The SOG Team Leader Knife exemplifies simplicity and versatility with its plain-edge AUS-8 stainless steel blade and no moving parts to gum up and fail in the field. The comfortable, no-slip checkered Zytel handle with lanyard hole and included leather sheath round out this simple, effective tool to ensure that you have every possible option for survival. Price: $62…reduced from $103.45
The Suunto MC-2G Navigator Compass features:
patented global needle that functions flawlessly anywhere in the world
additional sighting hole
luminous bezel ring
standard issue for Military Special Forces. Price: $75.56
Ultimate Survival Technologies Strikeforce Firestarter.
WetFire tinder wrapped and stored in the tinder compartment starts without hesitation. Price: $19.96
Matches and butane cigarette lighters can be purchased from any general store.