Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Survival Packs: You Don’t Need to Survive a Week in the Woods, Just a Day

The dedicated hunter of the modern day is a weekend warrior. They work 40 hours a week and patronize relatively nearby timber at the end of the week. They don’t go on week-long excursions miles away from civilization. With this in mind, they don’t need the same survival gear as those hunting thousands of acres in the middle of nowhere…they need a functional pack they won’t be afraid to use. This is my list of the top 15 pieces of equipment the everyday hunter should have when they take to the woods.

Everyone likes to be prepared when they enter the woods. While my largest concern seems to be on making sure I have all the hunting gear I need, I have started to neglect the concept of a “Survival Kit” for two reasons. First of all, I never really end up needing the equipment in a traditional survival pack. Like many hunters, I’ve always wondered how well I could fare in the wild by myself for over a week with a broken leg, a box of matches, and only twelve rounds left in my rifle, but let’s face it…these fantasies of survival are, for the most part, unrealistic. In my local hunting endeavors, I won’t use water purification tablets and waterproof fire starters. The second reason: If I do end up needing a part of it, I never want to use it. The concept of the survival kit is exactly that…to survive. If I don’t think I’m going to die with my problem, I simply leave it for a time I might. I’m glad to report that I have never been in a serious life or death situation in the woods, but there have been many times I could have utilized a cheap rain poncho or band-aids, but neglected using them both and decided to be soaked or bleed a little instead. I wasn’t dying from the rain or cut, so I deemed it unnecessary to use.

Here are 15 items that prove to be very functional in many outdoor situations:

1. Bottle of water-I never know how much walking is in store for me or how long I will stay out in the woods. Even slight dehydration can set in fast in the woods and put an end to your outdoor adventures.

2. Candy/jerky-Just like dehydration, low blood sugar can take a toll on the body. Something like candy or jerky can put that extra spring in your step when you’re deep in the woods and you need to keep moving.

3. Cheap rain poncho-Why do we as hunters endure precipitation constantly? Buy a few $1 ponchos and don’t be afraid to use them.

4. Rope-Sometimes you just never know. Rope has helped me in situations such as dragging out deer and hanging some equipment in my treestand.

5. Camp Saw-Be it turkey hunting, deer hunting, or even squirrel hunting, a cheap camp saw can always come in handy for clearing brush or getting through thick bones while field dressing your kill.

6. Multi-tool- A multi-tool is one of the handiest tools ever. Fix your weapon, your treestand, or anything else that needs semi-simple fixing in the woods.

7. Sharp knife- The knife is the universal tool of the outdoorsman. Anyone from a hunter to a hiker can utilize it.

8. Compass-If you’ve ever tracked a deer after the sun goes down, you know it is quite possible to lose your bearings in the dark. If you can get a general direction from a compass, you’ll save a few hours of walking in the wrong direction on the hike back to the truck.

9. Extra Sweatshirt- This is a no-brainer…keep from getting cold!

10. Band-aids of various sizes- You won’t be able to dress a gaping wound, but you can take care of any small cut with ease.

11. Whistle- The whistle is for the day that something bad happens and you truly cannot walk out of the woods. A whistle can be heard from very far away and you’ll be able to save your voice from hours of screaming.

12. Flashlight- This always becomes a necessity when it gets dark.

13. Bug repellent- I hate being pestered by bugs when I’m outdoors. A small can of this stuff can save a lot of grief.

14. Toilet paper- This holds two functions; the first is obvious. Sometimes nature calls and it is always better than dried oak leaves. The second function involves tracking deer in unfamiliar territory. Placing pieces of toilet paper on trees every ten or twenty yards while you track can help you get back to your land in the dark. It also makes the blood trail easy to pick up if you leave the deer overnight.

15. Cellphone- Be smart and carry a cellphone. I know reception can be low at times, but it can be the difference between living and dying in the woods.

I usually take a backpack when I enter the woods. Most of these items are small and they can be put in outside pockets of my pack, leaving plenty of room for the rest of my hunting gear. Some people like to take the minimal amount into the woods with them. I think of my father taking only his bow, three arrows, and a knife. While the simplicity of this is appealing, the items I put in my pack keep me out in the field longer and keep me more comfortable. With this “Survival Kit,” you might not be able to survive a week alone in the wilderness, but you’ll definitely be able to survive a full day of high quality hunting.


  1. very good post. In this day and age that is really all you might need.

  2. Excellent list of essentials! I have been turned around in woods I hunt every year, and compasses NEVER lie! Extra outerwear is good as long as it's not cotton! Cotton kills! Jack