How to Prepare to Bug Out into the Wilderness

The outdoors offers us wonderful experiences, but an unexpected trip can lead to disaster. Nature is unforgiving to those who are not prepared. It's not my intention to scare anyone. Concerning preparedness, I'm reinforcing reality. You never know when the SHTF, so you've got to be prepared when you need to bug out into the wilderness.

One very simple step for any prepper to take is assembling a personal survival kit. If you end up all on your own, having safety gear in hand could prove invaluable. There are many lists for survival kit contents available. No one list will be suited for every person. I have broken my list into functional areas so you can make decisions on how to tailor a kit to match your unique needs. The entire personal survival kit should easily fit in a small waist pack. If you don't carry it, you can't use it.

  • Direction and Orientation
    • Map and Compass - If you have any experience using a map and compass it would be a good idea to carry them along with you on a trip. Maps can be printed on water resistant paper and compasses don't need batteries.
    • Portable GPS - There are pocket GPS receivers on the market that only weigh a couple of ounces. Combined with a spare set of batteries, a small GPS might be worth carrying in your survival kit.
  • Shelter
    • 50 Feet of Nylon Cord - Useful for hanging a sheet of plastic or tarp up for shelter.
    • Small Tarp or Sheet of Plastic - Keeping dry goes a long way towards improving morale and reduces the chances of hypothermia.
    • Rescue Blanket - A good way to conserve body heat in a small package.
    • Adventure Medical Thermo-Lite Bivy Sack - A major step up from a space blanket. It is waterproof, windproof, and reusable. The bivy sack could even be used as a sleeping bag on ultralight backpacking trips. According to the manufacturer, the bivy sack is about the size of a can of Foster's beer stowed and weighs only 6.5 ounces.
  • Warmth and Water
    • Metal Sierra Cup - Useful for melting ice or snow for drinking water. If you throw a little instant soup into your kit, it will seem a luxury during an emergency and great for morale.
    • Fire Starter Kit - There are many options here. Starting a fire on a cold, wet night isn't easy, even for an old scout like me. Your choices can be waterproof matches, butane lighter, candles, homemade fire starters, commercial fire starters, magnesium sticks, and more. Try a couple choices out before you need them to really work.
    • Water Purification - Choices here include tablets or liquids based on iodine or chlorine. It's in your best interest to follow the directions. Another choice is a mechanical filter. Technology has made these much smaller and easy to pack. A good example is the Katadyn Mini weighing in at 8 ounces.
  • Utility Items
    • Knife - A small pocket knife is truly useful. Some ultralight kits include scalpel blades. These are sharp but difficult to use with cold hands.
    • Flashlight - Two good choices are a small penlight like a Mini Maglight or a LED headlamp like the Petzl Tikka XP. Both use AAA size batteries. Carry a spare set for your light.
  • Signaling Equipment (In case anyone is left to help you)
    • Signal Mirror and Whistle - Both are small and easy to carry
    • Laser Flare - A new idea in distress signals, the Greatland Rescue Laser Light can fit on a keychain and be seen at over 20 miles at night and up to 3 miles in daylight. Made in Alaska!
    • Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) - Backcountry visitors can now utilize the same technology used for the emergency location of vessels and aircraft. NOAA has posted a web page on the PLB system becoming activated nationwide. Weighing just a few ounces, a PLB might be a great item to carry.