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Top 15 Outdoor Essentials

by stevenh
fact checked by dickensgirl

Here is a short list of items that you should take with you whenever you go on a hike or a camping trip. For general disaster planning, it is probably also a good idea to have the survival collection (from twelve to one) in a small box in the trunk (boot) of your car.

This website is viewed all over the globe, and no one list is appropriate for all times and places. There is probably no need to carry water when traveling down a fresh water river. Special situations usually require a special kit. Adjust this as necessary. Also, this is only a guideline – Be responsible for your own safety.

It was tough to make the list short enough for ListVerse, and yes I probably did omit some important things, but hey, in a survival situation do we really need toilet paper?


Good Quality Tent


Selecting from an ultra lights solos at a bit over 2 Lbs to family affairs that need a car to transport can be daunting. A tent should be chosen based on what and where you expect to use it. This is often the most expensive item in the kit, and depending on your sleeping bag, also the heaviest. It is most important to right-size and right season your tent. You should insist on putting it together in the store before you purchase it. If they don’t let you – take your money elsewhere. And after you bring it home, put it up in rain / dark / etc. – just so you know how.


Sleeping Bag


Like a tent the where and when are critical: wet / dry, warm / cold. Don’t over do the temperature rating. Buy for the coldest less a bit (10-20 degrees). There is nothing more uncomfortable than a minus 20 bag in a French hostel in the summer.
Take off your shoes in the store and climb in. Don’t worry when other customers think you are crazy – you probably are and it’s ok.


Camp Stove

Msr Xgk Stove-1

Also take fuel, a metal cup, and a soup spoon. I put these all together because these four items make the complete minimalist mess kit (the knife is at #3). The really cool stoves are tiny and can take almost any fuel. MSR has an XGK EX that I suspect can run on just about anything. Peak 1 has one called Xpedition with a twin burner but requires a propane/ butane canister.


Nylon Cord


Get it anywhere. 1/8th or 3/16th inch should do it. Not less than 10 feet, not more than is comfortable. Also about 20 to 30 feet of fishing line. Packs tight and, oh, so useful. Depending on where you are going, you should add a hook or two, but always take the line.


Whistle and Signal Mirror


Just a plain ball type whistle and a flat metal mirror will do. Or get fancy and find a signal mirror, one with an aiming sight. ACR make the Hot Shot, but there are others. If you travel with kids, the whistle should always be with them. Even at the mall. Make a family signal and teach it to the little ones.


Compass and Map

Suunto Mc2G-1

It is absolutely amazing how people can go into the woods without a map and compass. Sure Lewis and Clark crossed a continent without a map, but they had mad skillz! Don’t cheap-out on the compass. Read the instructions before you need it. Don’t rely on a GPS. Batteries fail and most electronics die when you fall into the river.




There are two types that never need batteries. A wind-up type or magnetic induction (Faraday). Neither one holds a light as long as a battery, you have to keep winding or shaking, but they will never go bad in the kit. Most have LED bulbs that last way longer than an incandescent.


Sun Protection

Pig-No-Sunscreen-Bacon Small-1

I hope I get no flack on this entry, but I suggest that there is almost nothing as debilitating as a really bad burn – or even a slight one. A hat or bandanna at all times is critical as well, especially for anyone who has thinning hair. People tend to forget sunscreen up top and a scalp burn is horrid. Oh, do the lip thing also.


Weather Gear


Sure the forecast says sunny. But don’t believe everything that you hear. The weather can change rapidly in the hills and nothing drops your core temperature faster than being soaked to the skin. I prefer ponchos to jackets, (except in windy conditions) they can also double as a tarp and rain collector. Some places sell emergency ponchos for a few dollars. Oh, and don’t wear cotton in the winter. Cotton holds the perspiration (humidity) next to your skin and you have a much better chance of freezing to death – not a good idea.


Space Blanket


Get one or more of these light weight life savers. They can reflect about 90% of your body heat. Or check out the orange Space brand bags – that way if you don’t make it, someone can find you.


First Aid Kit


A general purpose first aid kit is rather basic. Customize it for your local conditions. Each person in your party should carry at least a small basic kit. Remember that iodine can be used as a wound disinfectant and to purify water (3 drops per liter, let it stand for ½ hour).


Fire Starter


You can take water proof matches, but a flint stick is better – practice first. A basic flint stick is easy to carry and use. The Strike Master Magnesium makes an incredibly hot spark, probably enough to ignite whatever tinder that you can find. When you practice with this though, it probably best to do it outside.



Tm Leatherman Skeletool-1

Years ago the basic tool was a knife. I still carry my Spyderco just about every time I leave the house. But in my camping kit is a Leatherman Multi-tool. With all of the garbage that people leave behind, a good multi-tool can be used to turn trash into gear. I haven’t tried their new Skeletool CX yet, but it looks sweet.




OK, this is a tough one. Even if you are intending to be back home for an early dinner, throw a couple of bars (Clif or power – not breakfast) into the day pack. Take things that make sense, though. If you are going into a place where water tends to be scarce, freeze-dried beef stew is probably not a good choice. And when faced with a truly survival situation, start the hunting and gathering as soon as you realize that you may not be home soon. Getting food in the wild usually takes time, if you wait it may be too late.


Water Supplies


Assuming that you are in a low fresh water situation – take as much as you can reasonably carry. You will wish you had more. The human body needs this stuff more than anything else. I know there is controversy over the plastic, but I’ve been using the same Nalgene for years. In 2005, 22 billion plastic water bottles were tossed out in the US alone. World wide the estimate is 5 times that.

Contributor: stevenh

fact checked by dickensgirl