As the big game rifle seasons open in Colorado this weekend for deer and elk, thousands of hunters will be heading into the wilderness, many for the first time in the unpredictable and potentially life-threatening Rocky Mountains. Wilderness hunting is very different than hunting in more populated areas; you are truly on your own. On the elk hunt I took a couple of weeks ago we were camped on a mountain in a 70 square mile wilderness area, and we didn’t see another human the entire time we were there.
A designated wilderness area means that it is completely preserved in the condition of which it was created millions of years ago. In wilderness areas the only forms of travel you can use are horses or your feet, you can’t even take a game cart into a wilderness area. You also cannot use any items powered by fuel, like a chain saw. Where we camped for our hunt is a three hour horseback ride from the nearest dirt road, which is about 40 miles from the nearest town. That is one of the main reasons I love hunting and fishing in that area, it is true wilderness, and I am pitting myself against nature when I go there. You get the picture, if something goes wrong, it’s up to me to deal with it.
I have written similar articles and mention continuously the need for a survival kit, one that is small enough to always have with you, even when you leave camp quickly to chase after a bugling bull, such as Rich and I did a couple of weeks ago without our packs. A few key items can make all the difference in the world when it comes to a survival situation. Below I am going to list what I believe you should have in your survival kit, and not just for wilderness hunting, survival situations arise in all types of outdoor activities all over the world. The main thing to remember is to be thoughtful of the contents, weight, and size of your survival kit, you want to always have it with you; it is the time you leave it behind because “you’re only going out for an hour” that you will need it.
The following discussion about a survival kit assumes that you also carry some of the other basic survival items in your pack, such as survival blankets, a knife, para chord, a flashlight, emergency food, and proper clothing. And as always I have to say that the first key to survival is to let someone know where you are going, and when you should be home. If you are in a desperate survival situation, it gives you hope to know that someone will come looking for you at some point.
There are survival kits that you can buy, but you can make a basic survival kit very easily. The first thing to consider is the container. Depending on your needs, a small Altoids tin makes an excellent container for the very basics. I use a little bit larger tin that came with a knife that I purchased. One of the reasons I like a tin container is because you can polish the inside lid with steel wool and use it as a signaling device if needed. Also remember that making fire is the most critical survival skill, so if you have to cut back on items in consideration for space, don’t skimp on the fire starting items.
Here are the items I recommend for a survival kit:
· Matches – While there are some nice, high-intensity butane lighters on the market, and it’s always good to have a regular Bic lighter, you should always have some water proof matches in your survival kit. You can also take ordinary, strike-anywhere matches and waterproof them by dipping the heads in melted candle wax.
· Candle – A candle is great to start a fire, or for light. You should shave the candle into a flat, square shape for easier storage. If you have ample fire starting materials and flashlights, this can be an optional item
· Fire Starter – There are many types of fire starting materials available today, I recommend Esbit Fuel cubes or Fire Ribbon, both work well in any conditions. You can also make your own by swabbing cotton balls with petroleum jelly, or using wads of brass polishing material. Whichever you choose, keep them in a container, like an empty medication bottle, or something similar.
· Flint and Steel – As a last resort I always like to have a flint and steel just in case everything else fails, which isn’t likely, but it could happen. With the fire starters mentioned above, a flint and steel can get a fire going easily.
· Water Purification Tablets – These tablets will allow you to have a clean water source, which is essential to survival. Don’t ever take the risk of drinking unpurified water, as that could lead to many other complications in your survival effort. These tablets take up very little space, and they can be a life saver.
· Button Compass – I always have my compass with me, but a luminated button compass (a small spherical compass that clips onto your shirt) is good to have as a backup.
· Fish Hooks and Line – This item may or may not be useful depending on where you are, but keep in mind that you can also catch birds with a fishing hook and line by baiting a worm or other morsel on the ground. Since it takes up very little space, I always include them, along with some small, pinch-on weights. I also keep these items in a small vial container.
· Snare Wire – Guitar strings make excellent snare wires, and they are very cheap and easy to carry. Get a few “E” strings to add to your kit. If guitar strings are not an option, you can also use the wire intended for hanging pictures, which can be found in most grocery and hardware stores. This wire can be used to set snare traps for small game, which you can read more about by clicking here.
· Needles and Thread – It is good to have a few different sizes of needles for various tasks, including one with an eye that is large enough to thread natural materials through, such as sinew or plant threads. Make sure you have some white cotton thread in case you need to stitch up a wound. I keep these items in a thin plastic tube in my kit.
· Medical Items – If you have any medications you need to take, make sure they are in your kit. It’s also good to have some aspirin, band aids, butterfly bandages, 2”x2” gauze pads, and a small roll of medical tape.
· Super Glue – Super glue has many uses, but one that I think is overlooked is for closing wounds. I have used Super Glue for years to close the splits I get in my finger tips, and I have also used it on some deeper cuts, and it works great to close wounds. This glue can also be used to make emergency gear repairs.
· Duct Tape – You can buy mini rolls of duct tape that are 2” wide by 50” long that will fit into your survival kit. There are untold numbers of uses for duct tape, and I am so glad that someone figured out how nice it would be to have mini rolls of duct tape. You can find these online by doing a simple search. It doesn’t work to make your own mini rolls of duct tape as you will be compromising the adhesive of the tape as you peel it away from the original roll. It’s well worth the small investment to purchase a few mini rolls of duct tape, which you can purchase by clicking this image. [easyazon_image add_to_cart=”default” align=”right” asin=”B004H87UGS” cloaking=”default” height=”160″ localization=”default” locale=”US” nofollow=”default” new_window=”default” src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51ZXNHm36KL._SL160_.jpg” tag=”bearmilloutd-20″ width=”120″]
With these minimal items you will have the confidence to be able to survive a difficult situation, and having the confidence to survive is really the key. Keep in mind that your will to survive is your greatest asset in a survival situation, and having the resources you need will help you achieve that. The most important thing to remember is to always have this survival kit with you; whether you are on a deep wilderness elk hunt, or an afternoon dove hunt. Survival situations can arise at any time when you are in the outdoors, and this small kit is always worth carrying in your pack, or the cargo pocket of your hunting pants, which is where I carry mine. You can use cotton balls, gauze pads, or newspaper to fill in the empty spaces to keep the contents from shifting or making noise, and those items can also be useful for fire starting material.
Happy hunting for all of you heading out this season, and hopefully these tips will help you be prepared.