By Tom Sheppard
Hunting season is definetly one of the most fun times of the year. Whether it’s stalking elk in the mountains, chasing turkey through the woods, or just heading to deer camp, there are just so many parts that make you feel great inside. For many of us, hunting is the best way to clear our thoughts, reset the mind, and become one with nature. It’s an experience that you just don’t often get in today’s modern world.
And even when its off season, most of us can’t help but think about next season and work on our skills and improve our equipment. It’s a passion and a lifestyle.
With that said, because of the excitement and energy that we have, we just can’t wait to get out in nature. However, we often forget that sometimes, nature can get quite dangerous. Say for example if we somehow get stuck in the outdoors due to injury, weather, or some other natural cause. Are we prepared if that happens?
Something like that seems so rare, so we usually fail to prepare for it. For those that it has happened to, sometimes they are lucky to make it out alive. I often engage both hunters and survivalists a lot. Based on their experiences, I often write up a lot of the lessons learned over at Trek Warrior. You’d be surprised how often someone can turn their luck around by thinking ahead and having the right gear at hand.
It turns out that there are only a few things that we need to have on us to be prepared and able to handle a survival situation. The gear is inexpensive, doesn’t take up much space, and is pretty lightweight.
In this article, we are going to look at the six essential pieces of gear that all hunters should carry on them regardless of how long they plan on being in the outdoors. This list is not a complete rundown by far, but it is a great foundation to which you can add other items to give yourself, even more, coverage of possible scenarios that you may or may never run into out in the woods.
The list is based on the fundamental facts of survival. You can live up to about three hours in severe weather, three days without water, and around three weeks without food. I’m willing to bet that if people know somewhat where you are, that you have a good chance of being found within three days, so shelter is the priority in this gear list.
However, in cases where that may not be true, we are throwing in a lifesaver for water in case you are out there for a few weeks. Let’s check out the gear next.
1. Military Poncho
The body has an unbelievably great way of maintaining its temperature when you keep two factors off of it: wind and rain. In fact, staying dry is one of the most urgent necessities when you find yourself in a survival situation.
If you get wet and it’s a bit cold outside, you can end up with hypothermia relatively quick. Did you know that around 1,500 people die from it each year in the United States? That’s why it’s critical to have protection in place to keep both the wind and the rain from lowering your body temperature.
A great solution here is a classic style military poncho. A regular rain jacket or rain suit may work well for an individual, but a military poncho has two functions to it. It not only can be used to keep you dry, but you can also use it in combination with cordage to make it into a temporary shelter. This works a lot better for two or three people and can also keep your gear dry as well. The reinforced grommets along the edges and at the corners let you make a pretty strong shelter.
2. Thermal Blanket
The next item on our list is in cases of extreme temperature drops, or if you become injured and start losing blood. You want to prevent your body temperature from dropping to avoid hypothermia, so a great solution here is a thermal blanket.
The way thermal blankets work is by using a very reflective material. Usually, you have two ways that heat will escape your body, by either radiating off of you or by cooler things touching you and absorbing heat off of you (whether it’s the cold ground or cold wind). A thermal blanket will bounce the heat radiating off of you back on to you, keeping you warmer than you would normally be without it.
Thermal blankets usually come in a variety of forms. The cheapest and smallest is the typical Mylar type material blanket that is a big sheet and folded neatly into a small packet. These are great one-time use items that are always perfect to throw in your gear.
You can also pay a little more and get thicker material that isn’t as easy to tear. They come in many colors, and if you want to be found, the bright orange or gold versions are the way to go since they are easy to spot in nature.
For those that want ultimate protection, you can upgrade to an actual bivvy, which is the same kind of material but pre-formed in the shape of a sleeping bag. The highest versions of these even have a zipper incorporated in to make it easy to get in and out of. The SOL Escape Bivvy is a fantastic choice here because it has breathable material so that you don’t build up condensation inside the bag.
3. Fire Making Kit
Building on the gear that helps you to maintain your core body temperature, the ability to make fire is critical. Not only can you generate heat, especially in cold environments, but it will also let you dry out clothes if you somehow get wet.
If you are in wet terrain, there may be little that you can do to get a fire going. However, chances are you can always find some fuel around that is semi dry, and once you get a fire going, you can start drying out wood that you plan on burning next to keep the fire going.
The best tried and true method here is going to be a classic lighter. However, a system that is the most reliable when it comes to making fire is the good ole fashioned Ferro rod and striker. You can get these items separately or in a kit.
One of the best Ferro rod and striker kits is the Gerber Bear Grylls fire starter. I’ve used this kit many times in the woods, and it works great.
Remember that making fire takes practice and is definitely not easy like many people think. When you don’t have lighter fluid, it’s downright difficult. You find this out the first time you are stuck in the woods and need a fire, unless you practice ahead of time. You have to use the concept of tinder, kindling, and fuel to build up your sparks into raging flames.
The next item on our list is, of course, a typical outdoor knife. A knife comes into play where you need to better process wood for your fire or expand out on your shelter making capability.
You may also need the knife as a fallback defense weapon against predators in situations where either your gun or bow may be out of commission. A knife that is great for these situations is the type that we usually call a survival knife.
A survival knife should be around 10 inches in overall length, have a full tang, spear tip, fixed single edge blade, and a great pommel. These features give you the best combination of capabilities for processing wood, building shelter, and possibly fighting off threats.
I carry the Ontario Black Bird SK-5. It’s a bit expensive so that you may want a cheaper option. The Gerber Big Rock is a great budget knife that is perfect here if you don’t already have a good hunting knife that you like to carry.
Paracord can be a lifeline in the wilderness. In fact, cordage has been saving mankind for countless generations. Whether you need to make a much more robust shelter with that military poncho that you use as a tarp, or you want to tie together a bunch of branches and leaves to block the wind, paracord is the item that lets you put it all together.
You want to get decent quality for your para cord, and typically the strong stuff will be rated and tested to be able to withstand 550 pounds of force. Keep in mind that paracord is strong, but is not great at sudden and sharp forces. So you wouldn’t want to climb down a mountain face with it, you need a different rope for that.
6. Water Filtering Straw
Last, but certainly not least, we need the ability to drink safe water. If you are stuck for more than three days, water is critical to surviving. Drinking water from a pond or stream without purifying it is the best way to get majorly sick from microbes. The obvious symptoms include vomiting and diarrhea. It will certainly take you out of commission, and then you don’t have very good chances of making it out alive.
The best solution here is some technology that has been developed over the last decade. It is a lot of filter material crammed into a small straw form that will remove the microbes from the water that you drink, keeping you safe.
The most popular options are either the LifeStraw or the Survivor Filter. Both of these products are fairly inexpensive and work amazingly well.
About the Author
Tom Sheppard likes spending his spare time hunting and camping in the great land of Texas. He often writes about his experiences and best lessons learned over at Trek Warrior http://www.trekwarrior.com/.