Whenever you head out in the great outdoors, always bring along a few items that, just in case you need them, will better your chances of survival. So what do you grab? Well, that depends. Where are you going? What’s the activity? What time of year is it? Narrowing it down to just one or two things to throw in your pockets can be tricky given the variables involved in outdoor adventure.

If you’re sending me off on a winter trek in Canada and you’re giving me just three choices of what to bring, for example, I’d likely choose a sharp axe, a waterproof butane lighter and, as long as I’m already dressed properly, a small pot to boil water in. Now I have a way to split wood, make a huge fire and boil up some spruce tea. In the summer, meanwhile, I’d trade in the axe for a good tarp. This is the minimalist approach, however. 

Ideally, you want to carry five main things with you at all times, either in your pockets or in a fanny pack: something to start a fire with; something to boil water in; something to make a shelter with; a hunting or fishing device; and something to split wood with. Do not share a survival kit—if you get separated from the person with the kit, you have nothing. 

You must also know how to use everything in your kit. But don’t let that give you a false sense of security—no single item is as important as some actual survival training. Kits can be lost, after all, so survival should depend on your ability to adapt and your will to live, not on a single item you left back on the portage trail. 

First aid aside, here’s what you need at the minimum for a survival kit. Keep these items in your pockets or hanging from your belt at all times. 

  • Sharp, high-quality belt knife 
  • Multi-tool with a saw blade
  • Compass
  • Solid matches and striker in a waterproof container
  • Butane lighter 
  • Magnesium flint striker 
  • One or two large orange garbage bags (for signalling)
  • Metal cup (for boiling water)
  • Rope or parachute cord
  • Whistle

Also carry these items in a fanny pack or small container, such as a coffee tin with a lid that you can also use for boiling water.

  • Dried foods
  • Insect screen (seasonal)
  • Signal mirror
  • Small flash-light with spare batteries
  • Snare wire
  • Fishing lures, hooks, sinkers, line
  • Small folding saw
  • Candle
  • Flares

Check out the all-new season of Les Stroud's Survivorman on T + E. See travelandescape.ca.