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According to the 2021 North American Camping Report released by the organization Kampgrounds of America over 10.1 million households camped for the first time last year. A total of 48.2 million households camped overall. This trend is expected to continue this summer.
If you’re planning on spending a few days in nature, you should go into your trip completely prepared. Camping and hiking are generally safe if you follow official paths, but accidents can still happen. It’s easy to get lost in the woods, and a poorly-timed hike could leave you stuck in the rain, or struggling to find your way back to camp in the dark.
Fortunately, it’s never been easier to be prepared for those types of situations. We’ve collected all the gear you’ll need to create your own personalized survivalist kit. Each piece is designed to solve a particular problem, from getting a nasty cut, to realizing you’re lost.
It’s important to remember that your smartphone probably won’t have service in the woods. Our recommendation is downloading a map of the area you’re staying using your GPS app of choice, so you have a point of reference. You should also read up on the area you’re staying in, so you know what type of wildlife is typically found there. Having this information, plus a few of the items below, can help ensure you’re ready for anything nature throws your way.
1. Johnson & Johnson All-Purpose Portable Compact First Aid Kit
The first, and arguably most important, tool to keep in your outdoor survival kit is a First Aid Kit. This one from Johnson & Johnson has 140 items, including bandages, gauze, travel-sized medicine, burn cream, plastic gloves, and sanitizing wipes. These medical tools can treat most basic ailments.
You may not need to take the entire kit with you all the time (keeping it in your car would be a good move), but be sure to pack at least a handful of bandages when you leave camp.
2. Anker Super Bright Tactical Flashlight
If you find yourself outdoors in the dark, a bright flashlight is an absolute necessity. Most of us rely on the flashlight built into our phones, but you don’t want to waste its battery. We’re recommending Anker’s Rechargable Flashlight because it’s waterproof, lasts up to six hours per charge, and has a maximum brightness of 900 lumens.
At maximum strength, the flashlight’s beam can illuminate objects almost 1,000 feet away. Anker says the LED in its flashlight lasts up to 50,000 hours, so you don’t have to worry about it burning out. To charge the flashlight, plug it into any power adapter you have using the provided Micro-USB cable.
3. Oceas Outdoor Mylar Emergency Blankets (4-Pack)
Unexpected changes in the weather can turn a casual camping into a treacherous time, but Oceas’ Outdoor Mylar Emergency Blankets can help keep you warm.
It’s made out of a NASA-developed thermal material that can reflect 90% of your body heat back toward you instead of escaping. Each blanket is seven feet long and five feet wide, which is appropriate for both children and adults.
When they’re not in use, the blankets are designed to stay in a case, which makes them easy to store. You should have no problem fitting them in your backpack before a hike. Despite their large size, the blankets are lightweight, which makes them easy to carry.
4. Maximum Strength Bear Spray
Bear attacks are extremely rare, but it’s better to be safe than sorry if you’re out in the woods. Mace’s Maximum Strength Bear Spray is made out of natural ingredients, including hot peppers, which will deter a bear from following or approaching you without any risk of harming it.
The spray takes nine seconds to fully deploy, and works from a distance of up to 20 feet, so you don’t have to wait for the bear to get very close to you before using it. We like that Mace’s Bear Spray has a locking mechanism and cap, which substantially reduces the risk of accidentally deploying it. Despite these safety measures, it won’t take you very long to open it when it’s necessary.
5. Garmin eTrex 32x, Rugged Handheld GPS Navigator
Your phone may not be of much use when you’re deep in the woods, but a dedicated GPS may be able to help if you’re lost.
Garmin’s 32x can connect to two major satellite systems, and can store up to 8GB of offline map data onto its onboard memory. An integrated compass can help you find which direction you’re going, too. We like that Garmin’s GPS shows a topographical map, so you can track changes in elevation when you map your hike. Garmin says the 32x can last up to 25 hours using a pair of AA batteries. It may not be as fully-featured as a smartphone, but this uni-tasking gadget is a must-have in any survival kit.
6. Omni 20+ 20000mah Laptop Power Bank
Part of camping and hiking is disconnecting from the outside world, but having a dead phone in the middle of an emergency can lead to serious trouble.
When it comes to rugged, outdoor-friendly battery packs, Omicharge’s Omni 20+ is the clear choice. It has enough juice to fully recharge a standard smartphone multiple times, and supports features like fast charging, which is crucial if you need to top up your phone’s battery in a pinch.
This power bank has two USB-A ports, one USB-C port, and a 100W outlet for portable appliances. The battery pack’s screen will display how much juice it has left, so you know when to charge it. We don’t recommend packing many gadgets in your survival kit, but this is an important exception.
7. Steve Kaeser Fatwood 100% Natural Firestarter Sticks
It’s very difficult to start a fire with damp wood, but you can improve your odds with Steve Kaeser’s Natural Firestarter Sticks. The kit comes with 36 wooden sticks soaked in soy wax, one bag of sawdust, and a striker to help you create a spark.
A fire is one of the most efficient ways to keep yourself warm if you’re stuck outdoors (especially at night), but be mindful of your surroundings. Make sure you’re starting your fire in a clear area with no dry brush around, and keep fresh water around if possible in case it spreads.
8. Sirius Signal SOS LED Electronic Visual Distress Signal
Although it’s designed for nautical use, Serius Signal’s SOS LED Electronic Visual Distress Signal is an important tool to keep with you on any outdoor trip.
It flashes the Coast Guard’s SOS signal, and is bright enough to be seen from up to 10 nautical miles away. If you’re trying to flag down help from a plane, or need to make your location known to fellow hikers who are trying to help you, this tool is invaluable.
Sirius Signal says this tool can last for several hours, and includes the three C batteries required to power it in the box. The company also includes a Marine-quality whistle, which can serve two purposes if you’re stranded: helping people find your location, and scaring off certain wildlife.
9. Wesn Allman Knife
There are dozens of reasons to keep a knife in your survival kit, from cutting rope to slicing open the packaging on your rations.
We recommend Wesn’s Allman, a high quality pocket-friendly knife that we’ve had the opportunity to test for several months. Its blade is ultra-sharp, able to cut through any material we pitted it against with ease. Its locking mechanism prevents the blade from deploying in your pocket.
It may look simple, but Wesn’s Allman is arguably the most useful piece of gear you can keep in your survival kit.
10. LifeStraw Personal Water Filter
Having a ready supply of water with you at all times is essential if you’re stuck outside of your campsite. LifeStraw says its Personal Water Filter removes 99.999999% of water-based bacterial (including E. coli and salmonella), micro-plastics up to 1 micron, and 99.999999% of water born parasites.
Using the straw is extremely simple: stick the bottom into your water source, and drink through the hole on the top. Lifestraw says its water filter will provide 1,000 gallon’s worth of water, so you shouldn’t need to replace it if you only use it during emergencies.
Lifestraw also offers a water bottle called the Lifestraw Go, which has its straw built into it. This allows you to carry a fresh supply of filtered water with you.