What should you pack in a survival backpack?

What should you pack in a survival backpack

When camping, hiking, mountaineering, or an extreme change in your surroundings, such as natural disasters, your survival in the wild hinges on your preparedness. The average human being can only survive without food for 21 days and without water for 3. Hence, carrying the right items in your backpack can significantly up your odds of staying alive.

Theoretically, carrying more survival items to an outdoor adventure translates to higher chances of survival. But overloading your backpack adds too much bulk and heavy to carry. 

Also, depending on factors like season and terrain, you may not need to carry everything in your bag. 

So, what should you pack in a survival backpack? Let’s find out: 

What Should You Pack in a Survival Backpack: Essential Systems

A standard backpack keeps you fed, hydrated, comfortable, and warm during your expedition. It contains essential systems in 3 categories: basic needs, sustenance kits, and devices. These systems include:

1.    Food: nuts, fruits, dry fruits, nutrition bars, or energy bars

2.    Hydration system: water, water bottles, water filter

3.    Clothes: underwear, outerwear, rainwear, shoes, and hats 

4.    Shelter: tarp, tent, or sleeping bag

5.    First aid: full kit, insect repellent, painkillers, and personal medicines (if any)

6.    Tool kit: knife, army Swiss knife, rope, duct tape, and Ziploc bags

7.    Fire kit: lighter, matches, or stove, and tinder

8.    Navigation: compass, GPS, map, altimeter, watch

9.    Lighting: headlamp, head torch, or flashlight, and extra batteries

10.    Electronics: portable charger, solar power banks, phone, laptop 

You can customize the items in each essential system to suit your trip according to factors like terrain, duration of the trip, location, and weather.

What Should You Pack in a Survival Backpack, Basic Needs:

1.    Food

Always carry food in extra supply, preferably enough for an extra day. Pick nutrient-dense foods that have a long shelf life and don’t require cooking like nuts, energy bars, or dried fruits. You can also carry a compact fishing kit to help you enrich your food intake.

Because you need to preserve space in your backpack, make sure to condense your rations. 

2.    Hydration System

As with food, carry more than enough water, preferably one liter per person per day. Make sure to account for unforeseen circumstances like spillage or changes in temperature. Try to use plastic containers and collapsible bottles to save space. 

Keep in mind, however, that you can’t possibly carry all the water you need. Bring along filters or chemical purification tablets and a stove for melting snow.

3.    Clothes

Weather conditions in the outdoors change abruptly. Consequently, most hikers and mountaineers prefer to dress in layers. At the bare minimum, your backcountry wardrobe must contain pants, socks, leggings, gloves, a scarf, underwear, thermal wear, shirts, a fleece, a rain jacket, a warm hat, and hiking boots or shoes.

You can vary this list according to the prevailing weather conditions and your personal preferences.

Carry extras for emergencies.

4.    Shelter

Things can go sideways really fast in the outdoors. You may get injured or encounter harsh wind, rain, or sleet. In such cases, you need to stay dry and warm. Thus, it is vital to have a form of shelter in your backpack at all times.

Your options include a tarp, tent, plastic bag, or sack. Whatever you pick, it should be lightweight and packable, but strong enough to weather the prevailing conditions.

What Should You Pack in a Survival Backpack: Sustenance Kits

5.    First Aid Kit

Accidents can happen during outings resulting in injuries, which is why your backpack shouldn’t miss a first aid kit. Use the length of the trip, the number of people, and individual needs to determine the contents of the kit.

Some people prefer to build their kits, but if you lack the technical know-how, buy a pre-assembled one.

A standard first aid kit contains different-size bandages, treatments for blisters, adhesive tape, gauze pads, disinfectant, over-the-counter pain medication, and gloves. 

Bring along any personal medication and a compact guide that details how to deal with medical emergencies.

6.    Tool Kit

The most critical tool in your tool kit is a knife. It is handy for meal preparation, first aid, gear repair, and other tasks. You may pack a single-blade knife or a multitool that includes things like a can opener, screwdrivers, or a pair of scissors.

Other important items to include in your kit are cords, zip ties, duct tape, fabric repair tape, safety pins, plastic bags, and gear repair parts.

7.    Fire Kit

Fire is essential to your survival in the wilderness. Have at least three reliable ways of making and maintaining one. You can carry a butane lighter, waterproof matches, and some tinder, or opt for a stove.

For tinder, most hikers prefer dry lint, priming paste, or wood chips or cotton balls doused in resin.

Practice how to build a fire before you embark on your adventure, so you feel comfortable doing it, even in the rain.

What Should You Pack in a Survival Backpack: Devices

8.    Navigation

If you get disoriented during a trek, veer off track and get lost, you need navigation tools to help you get back on course. They include a compass, map, altimeter watch, GPS device, and personal locator beacon (PLB).

Don’t substitute a stand-alone compass for the one included in your smartphone. A standard baseplate compass is light and does not run on batteries and will thus, be invaluable.

All your navigation tools ought to be light and waterproof.

9.    Lighting

As you may need to find your way through the wilderness and sometimes in the rain, it is advisable not to rely on fire for light.

The most efficient light source for the outdoors is a headlamp. It provides light while keeping your hands free to either hold your trekking pole or prepare a meal. 

Other viable options include glow sticks, flashlights, keychain lights, matches, or head torches. Ensure you carry extra batteries.

10.    Electronics

If disaster strikes, you may need to call for help. Remember to pack your cell phone, at least two ways to charge it, and a backup battery. Try portable solar devices with large power capacities.

Final Thoughts:

When it comes to preparing for emergencies in the wild, don’t leave anything to chance. Carry and learn how to use all the essential items mentioned in this article. Remember, you can add to, subtract from, or customize the list, so long as you don’t overpack or leave out essentials. 

Finally, your survival also depends on your ability to cope with harsh conditions. Before you embark on an expedition, prepare yourself physically and mentally.

Written by David Lee

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