From hunting to kayaking, a lot of us enjoy the outdoors. Few things are as good as a weekend spent in the wilderness unplugged from our normal lives. However, we need to be prepared for unexpected emergencies if we want to ensure we make it back to our homes and families.
With that in mind, I found myself surfing the internet and looking for new gear and other emergency equipment that I could incorporate into my own readiness preps when I am away from civilization. As I was making a short list, I thought that some of you might like to see what cool survival tools I am currently using.
In no particular order, here we go.
Someone much wiser than I once said “forewarned is forearmed.” Having advanced information about a potential problem lets you prepare for it. The Midland EH55VP is a portable weather and hazard alert radio that can immediately notify you when a dangerous weather event, such as a severe thunderstorm or tornado, is bearing down on you.
As with most of the new weather alert radios on the market, Midland is compliant with the S.A.M.E. technology that allows you to receive specific county broadcast alerts. This is great for time spent in counties you frequent. You can even program one for your home and the others for travel for the most accurate information depending on where you are.
Don’t know your county code, or you’ve traveled beyond your normal area, no problem. The radio also has a scanning mode that seeks out the strongest signal. As you move and the signal weakens, the radio will find the next strong signal and send you information from it.
In addition to the weather alert capabilities, the EH55VP also has an alarm clock feature. When you are hiking for several days at a time, this can be a handy tool to ensure you are up at the proper hour for a full day’s hike.
The Midland radio is powered by a rechargeable battery pack. Additionally, it can run on 3 AAA batteries.
Water is one of the most important things you need in a survival situation. Without drinkable water, you can suffer from many serious ailments and even die in relatively short order. When heading out into the wilderness, I always take more water than I think I will need. I also take a LifeStraw with me.
‘What’s a LifeStraw?’ you ask. Well, it is a very light, portable water filter that allows you to drink from a pond, puddle or other water source while filtering out more than 99.9% of waterborne bacteria and parasites. It does not need iodine or any other chemicals to work.
The LifeStraw is good for 264 gallons of water filtering, which I would imagine should be good enough for any emergency you might find yourself in.
Note that this is not a water purifier. It cannot remove chemicals, desalinate or remove viruses. However, for the price, you get a lot of protection from bad water in an emergency. I wouldn’t use the LifeStraw to replace carrying water with me, but if I run out, I’m happy to use it. Since it is less than two ounces, it adds very little weight to my load out.
The LifeStraw has more than 5,000 reviews with a 4.5 out of 5 rating on Amazon. I guess I’m not the only one who likes these.
If you are taking a camp stove with you, consider upgrading to the BioLite wood burning camp stove. This is a rocket stove style cooker that burns very hot and very clean. It has an additional benefit that I think many of you will also like: it also charges your USB devices.
Built onto the BioLite stove is a power generator that works on the airflow inside the unit. This allows you to keep your phone, GPS or personal locator beacon charged up no matter how long you are away from civilization. If you are going to be gone for several weeks, this is a must to ensure you are powered up for communication in an emergency. (Skip down to the DeLorme inReach SE below for emergency comms.)
So, something like this is big and heavy you might say. Not really. It is only the size of a 1L Nalgene bottle and weighs 2 pounds. While 2 pounds can be a lot of weight if you are going light, it might still make sense if you are on an adventure where you plan on cooking anyway.
It all comes down to a cost-benefit analysis, and this one might not make the cut in many situations. For those times that it does, it can be an incredible resource for cooking and powering your electronic devices.
Knife – Take Your Choice
An edged tool should be considered mandatory for anyone wandering out of the house. I find mine very useful no matter where I go. The kind of knife you need is largely dependent on where you are going and what you might be doing.
For a general purpose knife, I really like my Spyderco Endura. I’ve carried this knife daily for nearly 20 years and it is still going strong. Mine has a completely serrated blade, though I think I might opt for a combination edge for slightly more flexibility in the field. I cannot recommend these highly enough. Click here for more information on these.
For a fixed blade knife, there are a lot of very good choices as well. This is going to sound a bit silly to some of you, but the Bear Grylls branded knife from Gerber is actually very good for most people. I previously reviewed the Bear Grylls Ultimate Pro knife here and was impressed by it. I’ve since used it a lot more, from carrying into the field to teaching my son how to start fires with it.
The Ultimate Pro has a drop point blade made of 9Cr19MoV steel with a combination blade. The rear serrations are great for cutting through rope and vine – trust me they work wonderfully in the field. The grip has a tough rubber overmold that feels great in the hand even when you are sweating.
Along the spine of the blade is a hard edge that works with the fire starting rod to produce a lot of sparks. A whistle is attached to the knife via a cord from the pommel. Holes in the knife handle allow it to be lashed to a stick for use as a spear or other tool. There is even a sharpener built into the sheath.
A quick word about the pommel. It is designed for hammering, and I found that it worked very well. However, very early editions of this knife (around 2010) had a problem with these breaking. It seems Gerber immediately upgraded the design and this is a non-issue now. Mine has seen a great deal of use, and I’ve not had any problems. Click here to see more than 1,400 reviews of the knife at Amazon.
I suspect that you already know about the infinite uses of paracord, and how having a bracelet of it can provide a lot of useful cordage in an emergency. However, I’ve generally avoided the inexpensive survival bracelets as I figured they were more gimmick than useful. Well, I was wrong.
At a recent gun show, my pre-teen son saw one of these bracelets and wanted one. The guy selling them is a local guide with a good reputation, so we stopped to talk and wound up buying one. Since that time, my son and I have given this bracelet a real work out and found that it is exceptional.
The scraping-type fire starter works very well. My son was able to manipulate it easily with his small hands, and I, with my much larger hands, was able to also start fires with it. The built in whistle is very loud.
I was also impressed by the small compass. I’ve often been disappointed by cheap, small compasses, but this one stays true. It isn’t a great compass for precision navigation, but as an emergency tool, it will help you keep your bearings and moving in the direction you want.
Considering these are both inexpensive and lightweight, there really isn’t any excuse to not have one when you set out on a hunt or other adventure.
I’m sure all of us carry a cell phone into the wilderness. Hopefully, you have it for making an emergency call and not for checking Facebook when you should be enjoying nature. But what happens when you are injured or lost and without a cell signal? That’s where a personal locator beacon (PLB) comes into play.
A PLB is one of those really cool gadgets that can save your life. When you activate it, it sends a signal via satellite to a monitoring center with your GPS coordinates. The monitoring service then dispatches search and rescue to help you regardless on how far off the beaten track you may be.
For me, I like the DeLorme inReach SE. This unit has a satellite-based SOS system, but it also allows for two way communication between you and the monitoring center. This allows you to describe your emergency and give responders an idea of what kind of problems they might encounter on the way to you.
The inReach SE does more. It also allows you to send 160 character messages with GPS coordinates to any e-mail or cell phone. So, even when there is not any emergency, you can notify your family of your location.
There are also options for tracking. Tracking allows you to automatically send GPS coordinates to someone at scheduled intervals. That way your spouse or other family member can keep track of you.
If you need a navigation system, there is an upgraded version of the InReach SE that displays maps and allows you to set waypoints. This version also has an altimeter, barometer, compass and accelerometer to work with the GPS to provide very precise navigation functions. Frankly, I feel this is well worth the upgrade price.
Both models will pair with your Android or iOS devices for additional functionality.
I’ve put together a guide to personal locator beacons if you are looking for alternative products. Some are more simple designs that can provide an SOS call only while others are intended for open water use.
There really are a lot of exciting survival tools and outdoor gear on the market now. All of these can enhance your outdoor experience by offering an increased margin of safety.
Keep in mind that no activity is 100% safe, but as long as the benefits of the activity outweigh the risks, it is probably worth doing. These tools can help tilt the survival balance in your favor. But, you should also exercise good common sense, have a solid first aid kit and stick to the level of your training and experience when on your own.