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The 10 Essentials for Outdoor Survival

  • 6 min read

For those who love being outdoors and going on adventures, the thrill and excitement of the unknown are some of the best parts of it all. Still, nothing ruins a good adventure faster than being unprepared. With all the excitement, lead-up, and thrill of the unknown, one can easily get distracted from remembering that it’s always best practice to be prepared for any scenario. We are responsible to our loved ones and ourselves to ensure we return home safe and secure. That is why whenever you plan an adventure, you also need to prepare for the worst.

In the outdoor world, it is recommended that a person carry 10 essentials for outdoor survival. Most of my adventures stem from either hunting, scouting, or a combination of them both. In this article, I detail my list of items I carry, why I chose them, and a few extra things I always keep on me.

1. Navigation

In the days before technology, most people would assume that navigation required a compass and a map. Even though that is true, technology has come a long way. Even though the tried and true method of map and compass is the ultimate failsafe, most outdoors enthusiasts might opt for a more modern approach. With the growth in global positioning satellites (GPS), navigating and communicating with others has grown easier. Nowadays, most people carry cell phones that can download offline maps. Of course, you will need a mapping software or app; the one I prefer using is onXmaps. They make a hunt, backcountry, and offroad versions that allow users to mark waypoints, track their movement, download offline maps, and toggle between satellite and topography views.

OnX Hunt Maps

2. Light Source

When packing a light source, your options are a flashlight and a headlamp. I prefer to opt for a headlamp so I can go hands-free. Headlamps come in multiple lumens, sizes, features, and price ranges. If price is your biggest concern, you can go to any hardware, auto parts, or outdoor store and typically pick up one for cheap. It might not have the same bells and whistles as others, but it will do the job. Most of these headlamps run off 3 AAA batteries, and I always recommend carrying extra batteries for emergencies.

I chose a rechargeable headlamp because I got tired of not knowing how full the battery was every time I went afield. I also decided on a rechargeable because I carry a portable power bank for all my battery-powered items. Therefore, I am covered for power as well. When I am hunting, I always keep a small pencil flashlight in my bino harness. It doesn’t take up much room and is super helpful and convenient in a pinch.

Lastly, if you always leave home with your cell phone and you are concerned with going minimalist and ultralight, then using your cell phone as your light source is an option you could choose as well. Most modern-day cell phones have a flash that you can turn on for a backup flashlight.

3. Sun Protection

This is often ignored depending on the type of climate or region you live in. A hat and sunglasses suffice for people in environments where sun exposure is not a huge issue. However, sunscreen, hats (preferably with a large brim), and shirts that are UPF rated along with chapstick are highly recommended for others.

Sun Protection

4. First Aid Supplies

When it comes to first aid kits, the sky's the limit with how severe or intense you want your kit to be able to handle. I recommend the Day Hike - First Aid Kit for your average minimalist kit. If you want more, read this article (Read Here) on first aid kits and decide what you want to include or leave behind. A few items I always recommend adding to your kit are chapstick (which can be used as sun protection and waterproofer) and a tourniquet.

5. Knife

When it comes to knives, there are an unlimited number of options. Even when hunting and carrying a skinning knife, I always keep an extra pocket knife in my bino harness that I can access quickly and easily in an emergency. My knife of choice is costly. However, it holds an edge, and you get what you pay for. The value of knives comes from the type of steel used. Whether it is a softer steel that dulls quickly but resharpens easily versus a more rigid steel that maintains its edge longer but can be more challenging to sharpen.

Knife and survival tools

6. Fire Starter

You can bring many different options for a fire starter, ranging from flint and steel, waterproof matches, and a light. The best and most efficient fire starter for space and weight that I like to carry is a classic Bic lighter. One addition to the lighter is to wrap duct tape around it. This allows me to bring something extra and helpful without taking up much room or weight. Another option is pyro putty. It ignites easily and will burn for a while.

7. Shelter

Shelter is always tricky and often forgotten. For some, a shelter could be a tent, tarp, or even rain gear to provide comfort and or reprieve from the sun, rain, bugs, or any other element you might face. More often than not, I always carry a tent on most of my backcountry adventures. However, I am a big fan of bringing a backcountry tarp. It has multiple functions, from water collection to shade from the hot summer sun.

8. Extra Food

Packing extra food is the fun part of the 10 essentials. Identifying and figuring out what you like to eat that doesn’t take up space and isn’t too heavy while being packed with calories is a fun game I like to play. Food provides energy and a mental or spiritual lift when times are tough. This is why some foods are called “comfort” foods. For me, I like peanut M&M’s and or gummy bears. However, double-stuffed Oreos provide a substantial caloric punch without sacrificing weight or space.

If junk food is not your ideal food source, and I don’t blame you, then look into foods that are high in calories. A good resource is food items that ultra-marathon runners would carry, such as GU Energy.

9. Extra Water

Regardless of your adventure, carrying extra water and having the ability to clean and filter water is paramount to survival. There are many options: iodine tablets, to UV purifiers, and gravity filters.

Extra Water

10. Extra Clothes

Identifying what “extra” clothes you might bring for survival can sometimes be challenging. Consider the length and location of your adventure. Sometimes your extra clothes are as simple as a rain jacket or gloves. Other times simply understanding how layering systems work will be your best friend. A rule of thumb to follow is to always check the weather in the location where you will be spending your time. This will help you to narrow down what extra items you might need.


I carry these extras to ensure safety, comfort, return, and survival…

11. Garmin Inreach Mini

This device is a 2-way communicator and sos transmitter that requires a subscription. The device is also capable of receiving weather updates and sending location information. The inReach can work independently but works best in combination with a cell phone, allowing a full keyboard to be able to type.

12. Portable battery pack and charging cables

With the benefit of technology comes the need for it to have power. Carrying a phone that requires charging, Inreach Mini, and even my headlamp, using the correct cables and extra power storage can go a long way in survival, comfort, and returning on your adventure.



If you enjoyed this article and want to connect, go to and drop me a line. I would love to hear what items you would choose to bring along with you on your adventures. If you are looking for some cool hunting content, check out our show, Soul Seekers, on CarbonTV and listen to the Soul Seekers Podcast anywhere podcasts are found!

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