3 most important items if you are lost in the wilderness…

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.



Fire lighter

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:

  1. Immediate protection and self-defense while you construct more suitable weapons.
  2. The ability to quickly sharpen a strong stick to make a spear for hunting and for protection.
  3. The ability to cut fruits or edible green matter
  4. The ability to cut vines and/or animal hides into thin strips to use as cord so you can make or build things.
  5. The ability to cut and build a variety of primitive traps and snares to capture wild game.
  6. 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

SOG Knives Team Leader Knife

SOG Knives Team Leader Knife

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

Suunto MC-2G Navigator Global Compass

The Suunto MC-2G Navigator Compass features:

patented global needle that functions flawlessly anywhere in the world

large mirror

additional sighting hole

luminous bezel ring

magnifying lens

standard issue for Military Special Forces.  Price: $75.56

Ultimate Survival Technologies Strikeforce Firestarter

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.


What to eat to save your life in the wilderness




























A rather disturbing title and one which is even more important than some of the subjects we’ve covered here before, like fire, water or shelter.

Without food, and especially if we are stuck in a very cold or very dry situation, our survival will depend on what we have available to eat, be that in freeze-dried packs that you managed to bring with you, or whatever may be around you.

Let me say straight away here that if you’re a vegetarian, and you are very definitely not going to eat any animal matter to survive, then it could well be a case of kissing goodbye to your life!  In a life or death situation, life is more sacrosanct than ideological standpoints. Harsh as it may sound, given the choice of starving to death or surviving by eating animals, I know which one I would opt for.

So, let’s assume that you have decided that you will eat whatever is nearby or at hand. What do we eat?

Well, the biggest group of live food is the insects. Ok, ok…I know….instant yuck! Despite being some of the most horrible or ugly-looking creatures on the planet, once we overcome our very natural aversion to eating them, it’s surprising how much nutrition they can provide in an emergency.

Fine; now a little friendly advice…if you have a weak stomach and get queasy just at the mention of eating insects, look away now! I’m about to tell you how to go about collecting, preparing and eating various creepy-crawlies!

Where do you find them? Depending upon terrain, the most likely places will be under stones and rocks, in rocky crevices, in rotting trees or logs, even under loose bark of live trees.

Beetles, grasshoppers etc all have hard shells, so either remove them before eating or throw them onto a fire if you have one going; they will die almost instantly and be ready to eat in less than 30 seconds or so. If you are in a dire emergency you can of course eat them as they are.

Th taste will vary, but remember we are not interested in that at the moment…it’s a pure survival thing we are aiming at.

If you cannot eat them as they are, they can be ground up into a paste and eaten that way, or by heating them in a pan over the fire. Earthworms can be washed and eaten raw or thrown in a pan and boiled.

If you are stranded in a watery environment, then water-living creatures are a good bet. Almost all kinds of fish can be eaten, but do remember that some species may be carrying dangerous parasites, in which case always cook the fish first. Some fish may have poisons within their bodies, especially saltwater fish, so you should either know which types of fish are poisonous or if unsure, leave well alone.

The same goes for shelled molluscs. Most are harmless, but beware of eating molluscs that are not covered by water at high tide, as these may be poisonous. All molluscs can be eaten raw, but it’s better to boil them in water to kill any parasites that may co-exist within.

Which insects and animals do we need to avoid? Well, Nature provides us with a very important signal — any insect or animal that is brightly coloured should be left well alone; the colour is a warning sign! The same goes for any insect, frog, lizard etc which smells bad….

I have deliberately left out any information regarding bigger animals such as deer, hogs, etc etc as capturing these may not be possible when you are stranded, and indeed may well take far too long, by which time your energy levels will be severely diminished. Leave that prize moose you always wanted to shoot for another day!

At the end of the day, your survival depends on preparation. Always, always make sure you pack enough emergency rations. That way, you may not need to fall back on the horrible critters we’ve been talking about here!