Wilderness Survival Must-Haves


May 11, 2023


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In Canada’s vast wilderness areas and dense woodlands, a good sense of direction is a valuable asset – nothing looks more like a tree than another tree, as they say. Hunters, anglers and hikers, notably, are well advised to sharpen theirs. But unfortunately, even with great precaution, no one is entirely safe from getting lost in the wilderness. Whether it’s a boat tied up too loosely at the campsite, a flat bike tire or a wrong turn during a hike… it can happen to anyone. The best strategy is knowing how to react and carrying a small wilderness survival kit

If you have the forethought to match your love of the outdoors, you will appreciate our helpful tips and suggestions of wilderness survival essentials! Starting your next adventure well-prepared and with confidence will only make it better.

In this article, you will learn more about the essential behaviours and equipment for wilderness survival:

  1. Smart ways to react if you get lost in the wilderness
  2. Good means of communication and essentials for wilderness survival
  3. Essential wilderness survival equipment

Smart ways to react if you get lost in the wilderness

There is one simple thing you should make a habit of doing before you even leave on an expedition: tell a friend or family member where you are going. It’s simple, indeed, but often forgotten, and it can really simplify the search if you ever get lost in the wilderness. Preparing for possible bad weather by choosing the right clothing for men or women is also a smart move.
If you do get lost out there, knowing the right course of action is essential. Before we cover the topic of survival equipment, let’s first focus on smart reactions and proper behaviour. The first thing to keep in mind: stay as calm as possible to avoid wasting precious energy – plus, it’s hard to make rational decisions when panicking. Take a step back and assess the situation: can your cell phone be used to call for help? Do you hear any sounds that could indicate human presence in the area?
Try to stay where you are – or close – to avoid wandering off even further. If you would rather keep going forward, don’t just go in any direction; leave personal belongings behind to mark your path and retrace your steps if it ends up leading nowhere.
Whether or not you have a wilderness survival kit, you may end up having to spend the night outside. The greatest dangers are dehydration and hypothermia, so finding a water source and building a shelter are two key priorities. It is also crucial to build a fire to keep warm and deter predators – and to be able to boil water to make it safe to drink. Chances of survival increase significantly if all these actions are taken.

Good means of communication and essentials for wilderness survival

Whenever you venture out in the wilderness, be it in search of the perfect fishing spot, on a hunting trip or for a long hike, make sure you have a way to communicate with the outside world. You should also pack a good wilderness survival kit and survival equipment.
Most wilderness areas have no cell phone reception, but some practical devices exist that actually save lives. Among those, the SPOT system is one of the most reliable and popular options on the market. This compact and reasonably priced device can send SOS messages with GPS coordinates to the nearest emergency service. Various apps can also be used to download maps that track GPS locations without a cellular network.

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Essential wilderness survival equipment

When preparing for your trip, think about the “5C” survival rule. This is a valuable tool for making sure you pack all the survival essentials. Keep it in mind, and check it before you go.
Containers provide proper storage for water and food supplies. Metal water bottles or containers are best, as you can use them to boil the water inside to make it drinkable. Water filters and purification systems can also be a great addition to your gear kit.

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Cutting tool

A good quality knife can be incredibly useful when you are out in the wilderness. It can be used to make traps, build a shelter, cut ropes… Consider carrying a multi-tool every time you head out into the great outdoors. Leatherman has a wide range of pocket knives and multi-tools that provide everything you need in one small accessory you can fit in your pocket.

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Combustible materials

Without the right tools, starting a fire can quickly become mission impossible. This is why you should always have appropriate equipment on hand, such as firestarters or stormproof matches. Even a simple lighter can save a life – small and lightweight as it is. Fire is essential to keep warm, boil water, prepare food, keep away predators… So make sure you always carry something to ignite a flame.

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If you get lost in the forest, you need to be able to maintain an adequate body temperature. For that, always bring men’s or women’s clothing that can protect you from the cold – even in the warmer seasons. Another option besides jackets is ponchos, which can double as a makeshift shelter if needed. Ideally, you should pack a blanket too, or better yet, a survival blanket. Both can shield you from the cold, but the latter has the advantage of being visible from a distance. A good tarp can also be a great ally in providing cover from the rain or optimizing the heat from a fire.

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Ropes come in handy in numerous situations, from reinforcing a shelter to making tools and repairing material… They are often included in wilderness survival kits for this very reason.

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A few more essentials for wilderness survival

It is recommended to pack some essentials like mittens, a tuque, and a windbreaker for your outdoor adventure, even if it happens during spring or fall. You will be glad you have them if you find yourself lost in the wilderness.
It is always wise to carry a fully stocked and up-to-date first aid kit when embarking on a camping trip, a long hike or a backpacking adventure. This will ensure you can access essential supplies like bandages, compresses, and antiseptics if anything happens – better be safe than sorry!
Another essential when spending the night outside (whether by choice or not) is a flashlight or a headlamp. And don’t forget to bring a whistle when you head out to explore the wilderness. Lightweight and easy to carry, it can be a great help to signal your presence. That’s why it is often included in trail running hydration packs these days!


A flat tire on a bike, wandering off on a hike or backpacking trip… Unfortunately, getting lost is a risk in any nature getaway, especially if you go off the beaten path. All expeditions must be taken seriously, even the shortest ones. Nature is magnificent, but it is still wild. With the right strategy and the forest survival kit we just discussed, you will be prepared for any eventuality!


What items for survival?

How to survive in the wilderness?


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