Wilderness Experts Recommend the Best Survival Kits

Wilderness experts provide a list of the best survival kits, including kit lists from The Boulder Outdoor Survival School, Outward Bound USA, Webster National Outdoor Leadership School and MOTHER's staff survival kit.

| July/August 1985

Wilderness survival experts agree a good survival kit can save your life. Learn what the experts think as they list the components of their best survival kits. (See the survival kit photos in the image gallery.)

If four wilderness skills experts were given $50 each to put together survival kits, how would their choices agree and how would they differ?

When asked by a greenhorn Easterner if he'd ever been lost, Jim Bridger—one of America's most intrepid explorers and mountain men of the early 1800s—is said to have replied (and we paraphrase), "No, don't reckon I was ever lost . . . but I was powerful turned around for three weeks one time."

Less than half a century later, Mark Twain wrote (in Roughing It) of having been stranded with two fellow travelers in a blinding snowstorm somewhere in the remote sagebrush deserts of eastern Nevada. Too fearful to part company and search for shelter from the storm, the trio—tenderfeet all—huddled together like a covey of quail against the cold and tried to get a fire started. Failing that, the luckless pilgrims slumped into a general depression and fell to confessing their sins and offering to repent if only they might be allowed to outlive their predicament. They survived the storm—but barely—and, with the light of morning, discovered that they'd spent the entire night just a few steps from the safety and comfort of a stage station.

Those two stories represent the extremes of wilderness survival preparedness: Mountain man Jim Bridger, though he might at times have wandered the wilderness alone for weeks before finding his way out, never considered himself lost—a word that to him indicated a sense of helplessness—because he was absolutely at home in the wilderness at the opposite extreme, Twain and his fellow greenhorns came very close to perishing as much from despair as from the elements . . . with safety just a stone's toss away.

If you were out hunting, fishing, or hiking one day and suddenly found yourself "confused" and very much alone, would you react like a Bridger . . . or a Twain? Wilderness survival experts agree that nothing can replace experience as the best backwoods life insurance. But they're also unanimous in their conviction that next to experience comes preparation in the form of a light, compact survival kit that can be carried along anytime you venture off the beaten path.

8/11/2014 11:03:08 AM

These are interesting survival kits and a great starting point. One thing to consider is what the survival kit will be used for. For example, if you're hiking its unlikely you'll be willing to carry a 3+lb survival kit, but if it's for your car that may be acceptable. For wilderness survival, it's also important to have first aid items so you can get off the mountain. If you need survival tools, it may very well be because you or a friend were injured. You can get our survival kits which include both survival and first aid tools at www.axpkits.com. Check it out and see how it compares.

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