However, because Homo sapiens left the life of a hunter/gatherer many centuries ago, most people have lost the ability to survive in the wilderness without certain creature comforts. Therefore, the means to build a shelter, build a fire, and obtain food are essential survival skills and thus any modern day survivalist must be properly prepared when they enter the wilderness because the tools that they bring with them will determine whether they live miserably or comfortably for the duration of their stay!
Hunter-Gatherers were the first survivors
So, what survival tools are most important to a person entering the wilderness? Well, first all, while knowledge is not technically a “tool”, it is the single most important part of your survival strategy. Therefore, in addition to your other “tools”, learning survival in the modern age is made easier when we hit the books and learn proven methods of survival used by hunter-gatherers, and other methods used by modern day survivalists and instructors in survival.This article is a primer to get your started on becoming a true survivor, knowing what survival items are key for your backpack, and which survival tools can save your life in an emergency when you have to turn to bushcraft in order to survive.
The dictionary defines bushcraft as: “the skill gained by or necessary for living in bush country.” In other words, bushcraft stands for the skills needed for wilderness survival.
Survival manuals that can teach you bushcraft
Well-written and instructed survival manuals such as Bushcraft 101 by Dave Cantebury or the S.A.S. Survival Manual by John Wiseman are great places to start from; in fact these are good survival manuals to keep in your backpack so that you can refer to methods taught on shelter making, emergency fishing, fire making, purifying water, etc. anytime you’re on a wilderness excursion or in your “get home bag.”Though this article will recommend several pieces of my personal choices for survival bushcraft gear based on my long life of experience in the wilderness, without knowledge of how to use them, the best survival tools available will do you little good. So, if you’re new to survival, definitely hit the books first, and start reading these recommended survival manuals!
Talk to some “old timers” about bushcraft
If you have the opportunity, meet and talk with “old timers” including farmers, hunters and fishermen and you can learn an arsenal of information for various aspects of providing food in a pinch or as a long term survival strategy.Also, while such manuals do provide you with detailed information on how to build various types of shelters, how to obtain water and, how to build traps and snares for obtaining food, they seldom provide the detailed information you need about various animal’s preferred habitats and habits and thus, additional books such as Trapper’s Bible by Dale Martin are an essential addition to your survival library.
Trapper’s Bible can quickly advance your survival skills for procuring food and before you know it you’ll have the ins and outs of trapping small game, and assuredly know how to feed yourself and your family in a pinch.
But, while having the proper knowledge in a survival situation is an extremely important part of surviving in the wilderness, it is essentially useless without the proper tools to accompany it. Therefore, the answer to the question of what tools are absolutely essential for wilderness survival is those tools that keep you warm and dry, those that enable you to build and sustain a fire and, those that enable you to obtain clean water and food.
Bivvy Sack / Emergency Bivvy Sack
Outer weather-proof bag that zips over a sleeping bag with a hooded enclosure, protecting you from wind and rain while you lay in your sleeping bag; on the other hand, an “emergency bivvy sack” is an emergency sleeping bag that reflects your body heat, keeping you warm in cold temperatures.While most people are aware that the human body can go two to three days without water and as much as 30 days without food, the fact is that hypothermia can kill a person far faster than dehydration or starvation by lowering the body’s core temperature below the point where it is able to maintain its autonomic functions.
Therefore, the first and, most important tool a person can carry with them is an emergency bivvy shelter (aka bivvy sack) which is designed like a sleeping bag but, is commonly made from a very thin but waterproof material such as polyethylene with a heat reflective lining such as Mylar. Thus, not only will such a shelter provide you with a means to retain your body heat on cold nights, it will also provide you with protection against wind and rain until you can build a more permanent survival shelter.
Once you’re in your survival shelter, your bivvy sack will still come in handy as even some of the best made shelters may not stand up to heavy winds and rain that take place if you’re caught in a storm, or even trying to sleep during a storm. That bivvy sack will be your best friend and one of your best pieces of survival gear, coming in handy again and again, helping protect you from hypothermia, which as mentioned is one of the surest ways a person can quickly lose their life. Bivvy Sack:Woodland Waterproof Bivvy Cover. Emergency Bivvy Sacks:TACT Bivvy Emergency Sleeping Bag, Survive Outdoors Longer Emergency Bivvy, TITAN Extra-Thick Emergency Mylar Sleeping Bag
Portable Water Filter
Next to the ability to stay both warm and dry in cold and/or wet weather, the ability to obtain potable drinking water takes precedence. Therefore, while most people are aware that boiling water found in the wilderness will kill the harmful microbes that often inhabit it, boiling water requires some sort of container to hold the water and a fire to heat it to the boiling point. Therefore, a far better solution is to carry a portable water filter in your day pack. However, it should be noted that not all portable water filters are created equal and that there are many different types that operate on different principals. Therefore, the most convenient portable water filter for survival use is a straw type filter such as the Life Straw from Vestergaard. Lifestraw Personal Water Filter, Sawyer Mini Water Filter, Lifestraw GO Water Filter
Although both an emergency bivvy shelter and a portable water filter are certainly essential survival tools, the fact is that a sharp, well made, truly reliable knife has long been Man’s best wilderness survival friend. Therefore, whenever you enter the wilderness, you should always carry a good survival knife. Kershaw Machete Camp Knife, Ka-Bar Kraton Handled Straight Edge Knife, Ontario RAT Folding Knife
While most people who have any interest in wilderness survival have seen videos of someone starting a fire using primitive methods such as a hand drill or a bow drill, the fact is that constructing such a means of building a fire requires a dry fire board, a dry spindle and, extremely dry tender which is not always available; plus it’s a lot of work! Therefore, rather than depend on primitive means to start a camp fire in a survival situation, a far better choice is to carry one of several different types of fire starters with you. For instance, both fire starter blocks of several different types and fire starter paste or gel are readily available and they make starting a fire far easier than using primitive methods because all you have to do is cut a small piece from a block or extrude a ribbon of paste or gel to place at the base of your pile of tender and kindling. That way, when you light the fire starter, it will provide enough heat to cause your tender and kindling to burn and thus, get your fire going much quicker and with far less effort than a flint-and-steel or other primitive methods. However, lighting fires with somewhat wet wood requires a tremendous amount of initial heat to dry the wood prior to ignition and thus, also carrying a Magnesium fuel block with an embedded flint rod is also a wise idea. Velocity Fire-Starter Sticks, WetFire Tinder, The Friendly Swede Magnesium Alloy Emergency Fire Starter
However, having both the means and proper materials to start a fire is completely useless without the means to light the tender. Therefore, while carrying waterproof matches is certainly a good idea, an even better idea to carry an butane lighter in addition to waterproof matches because a butane lighter will last far longer than a limited supply of matches and, it is far easier to use than a flint-and-steel. 5 Pack Bic Lighters, UCO Stormproof Match Kit with Waterproof Case
While it is certainly wonderful to have the means of building a fire readily available, the fact is that sustaining a fire requires fuel and, in most cases, the most readily available fuel source is wood. But, while gathering the fallen branches you need for kindling and starter is often a relatively simple matter, reducing the larger pieces you need sustain a fire in over a long period can be somewhat difficult. Therefore, another essential survival tool is a pocket chainsaw which you can easily use to cut even large logs into small pieces that are more suited for camp fire use. 18 Inch Pocket Chainsaw, Pocket Chainsaw by SOS Gear, 26″ Camping Pocket Chainsaw
In a wilderness survival situation, there is always a need for cord of various types and diameters for different purposes. For instance, stout cord is extremely useful for building some of the more elaborate survival shelters and, there is always a need for binding materials together such as when constructing submersible fish traps or constructing Atlatl darts and arrows. Therefore, while primitive cord can be made from by twisting plant fibers together, it is a wise idea to carry a length paracord, nylon string, dental floss, and nylon thread with you to accomplish the many different binding needs you may encounter. TITAN MIL-SPEC 550 Paracord, Darice Natural Waxed Nylon Cording, Black Hemp Cord
While all of the above mentioned tools are absolutely essential for wilderness survival, they all focus on a means of staying warm, dry, and hydrated. However, in a survival situation, the Human body also requires food in order provide energy and thus, having the means to obtain food is also paramount in a survival situation. Therefore, it is also wise to assemble a simple fishing kit consisting of a length of monofilament fishing line and numerous wire fishing hooks as well as some lead split shot; all of which can be contained in an empty medicine bottle. Outcast Survival Fishing Kit, Best Glide ASE Survival Fishing Kit, Eagle Claw 75Pc Tool Asst Hooks/Swivels/Sinkers
Of course, if you happen to find yourself in a location where fishing is not feasible, you will still need a means of obtaining food and thus, while collecting insects is a viable means of providing your body with much needed protein, a far more palatable choice for most people is to consume animal flesh. Therefore, it is also essential that you carry a coil of light wire with you so that you can use it to construct the noose of one of the many different types of animal snares. Survival Kit for Trapping by Thompson Snares, 200′ 16 Gauge Galvanized Steel Wire
Headlamp or flashlight
Last but not least, it is sometimes necessary to venture beyond the boundaries of your camp fire at night and, doing so without a means of seeing where you are going can be detrimental by causing to stumble or, even fall, over unseen obstacles. Thus, while you could conceivably remove a burning branch from your camp fire or, construct a primitive torch, carrying a small, lightweight, headlamp or flashlight is a far better idea since either will provide you with the light that you need to safely navigate in the dark Foxelli USB Rechargeable Headlamp Flashlight, Foxelli Waterproof Headlamp Flashlight, LED Headlamp
Survival bushcraft combines skills and essential supplies
So, while the ability to stay warm, dry, and properly hydrated is certainly essential to wilderness survival, it was both the ability to make tools and to make fire at will that set primitive Man apart from the other animals and, we still depend heavily on our survival tools today. So, unless you are one of those people who is comfortable surviving in the wilderness with nothing more than a sharp rock and your ingenuity, carefully considering various survival tools you choose to carry whenever you enter the wilderness just may mean the difference between returning from your sojourn in the wilderness and not returning at all.