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Survival Skills & Gear Every Adventurer Should Have

Ask my wife, and she’ll tell you I’m a chronic under-packer. I typically have the mindset that I’ll figure it out when I get there. However, this is rarely the best way to prepare for any adventure, whether kayaking, hiking, or spelunking.

Over the years, I’ve learned what is essential for an adventure and what a nice-to-have item is, and I don’t mind roughing it more than most people, which is why I’m an underpacker. However, this has bit me in the hind end a time or two, and I’ve sat there wishing I had a specific item or skill set to make the adventure more enjoyable.

The gear and skills below are those that I consider necessary when things don’t go as planned, and your trip takes a turn for the worse.

Gear Needed To Thrive

We’ll begin with the essential items you’ll need on most adventures. This is by no means a complete list of everything you’ll need for every outing, but it’s an excellent starting point.

  • First Aid Kit
  • Food, Water, & Shelter
  • Protection
  • Bag
  • Maps & Compass
  • Flashlight/Headlamp
  • Communication

Your first aid kit should be easily accessible and packed with useful items. A few bandaids, Vaseline, tourniquets, gauze, anti-bacterial soap/cleaner, and a small sewing kit are some of the items I keep in mine. As you go on more adventures you’ll learn what you need the most and what’s just extra weight.

Survival gear

Our basic needs as humans are food, water, and shelter, so ensuring you have those three needs met will allow you to focus on safely getting home, whether that means bringing extra prepackaged food and water, as well as a tent, or learning to hunt and find food and make a shelter.

As cute and cuddly as wildlife might seem, nature can be ruthless. So, being prepared to protect yourself and your valuables is incredibly important. A simple car safe will help protect your valuables while you’re adventuring, and a high-quality knife & hatchet, pepper spray, and .22 rifle will protect you from wild animals and people intending you harm. 

While we’re discussing gear, you’ll need a way to carry it all, and the best way to do that is in a bug-out bag. It should be packed with everything you need to survive so you can grab it and go!

It breaks my heart to hear the stories of people getting lost when they were supposed to enjoy their time in nature. This is why I think carrying an old-fashioned waterproof map and compass is critical. Sometimes, your phone dies or won’t load the map, so you should always take a backup paper map of the area you are in. It’s a scary feeling to be lost. Trust me, I’ve been there, but it’s much more comforting to have a lightweight compass and high-quality map as a safety measure.

A good flashlight or headlamp is vital to survival when an adventure goes wrong. Whether I’m spelunking, hiking, or kayaking, I always have a flashlight on me so I can see and be seen by others.

Lastly, having a sound communication system can save your life. Yes, you should always carry your phone, but sometimes it dies, or you don’t have a signal to call for help. That’s when a quality set of radios or emergency beacons can help prevent things from worsening.

Knife and compass outdoors

Skills Needed To Thrive

Everyone loves buying gear, but fewer people talk about the skills needed to use it effectively. This is why I’ve listed some of the skills you must develop to stay safe.

  • Self-defense Training
  • First Aid Training
  • Wilderness Survival Training

Most explorers overlook self-defense training because we expect to be alone in the wilderness. However, in college, I hunted some remote areas with some buddies, and one day, on the news, we saw that a major drug operation had been busted in an area near where we had just hunted days before. You never know when you might encounter people performing scrupulous behavior.

Self-defense training should also be taken to protect yourself from wild animals. Being capable of stopping a charging bear, mountain lion, wolf, or moose can be the difference between making it home or ending up in the morgue. This can be as simple as paying attention to your surroundings and understanding animal behavior, but it should also mean learning to use a firearm, pepper spray, or another deterrent. 

My neighbor is a former paramedic, and he says that the most overlooked item is a first aid kit, but those who do carry one need to learn how to use the gear inside to effectively save someone’s life, including their own. This is why getting basic medical training is a must for those of us who love experiencing nature and everything it has to offer. 

Wilderness survival training encompasses various skills, from reading a topo map to starting a fire, hunting, fishing, and bushcraft skills like building a shelter. I’ll never forget going on a camping trip with some classmates in college. I watched as they attempted to start a fire with lighter fluid and a lighter for about 30 minutes. Finally, I’d had enough and stepped in to help them start the fire so we could eat dinner. It was an excellent reminder that just because you have the gear to do something doesn’t mean you have the skills and knowledge to perform the task.

Parting Shots

As we conclude, I recommend purchasing the essential items you need for your next adventure and then developing and honing the skills to use that gear as best you can. Now that you’ve finished this article, you are much better prepared for when things don’t go as planned on your next adventure!

Stay safe, and I can’t wait to meet you in the wild!

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