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Survival Gear: Ultimate Survival Kit

Want to make it out alive? Consider packing these 17 items carried by a veteran Yosemite search-and-rescue ranger.

The undisputed experts when it comes to key survival equipment? The rangers who save hikers who go astray. Jeff Webb, a SAR ranger at Yosemite National Park, has worked on more than 200 rescue missions. The 38-year-old has also seen action in Big Bend, Yellowstone, Canyonlands, Joshua Tree, and Rocky Mountain National Parks. This is the emergency kit he crams into the lid of his pack whenever he heads out into the wilderness.

Bic lighter
“Cheap and small,” says Webb. $2; widely available

Brunton 15TDCL compass
Webb doesn’t cut corners here. This compass has a signal mirror and a built-in sighting line. $81.20;

CamelBak Omega Reservoir
This convenient water carrier comes in four different sizes. Webb likes the 35-ouncer. $20;

Cell phone
Webb says cell phones are “pretty much mandatory” as survival items today. They’re lighter, cheaper, and less bulky than satellite phones. Just don’t rely on a cell alone to save you, he cautions. You might not get a signal.

Coghlan’s Emergency Tinder
It burns readily, is easily portable in an empty pill bottle, and so light and small there’s no excuse not to carry a few. $3.50;

Coghlan’s Magnesium Starter
A cheap, widely available backup for the Bic lighter. Webb recommends having redundancy in firestarters. $9;

GU Energy Gel and Clif bars
Together they have enough punch to aid in muscle recovery and deliver a nice energy jolt. $1,; $1.50,

Homemade first-aid kit
Webb’s includes an aspirin- and ibuprofen-filled pill bottle wrapped in duct tape and medical tape, a couple of gauze pads bound in a rubber band, and a standard gauze roll and a Kerlix gauze roll. It’s enough gear to “stop a bleed and wrap it tight with the tape, or wrap a sprain and take the pain meds,” he says. Webb packs it all in a Norelco shaver case.

Klean Kanteen
Indestructible stainless steel 27-ounce water bottle. Webb brings an empty one along as a backup. $33;

Nike Lance 4 wristwatch
Webb recommends a watch with altimeter, barometer, and compass. The readings give you a good reference point, he says. $259;

Patagonia Houdini
Webb calls this 4-ounce shell “a good all-around windbreaker that’s also ultralight.” $125;

Petzl Tikka Plus
This compact LED headlamp has four settings, including strobe. It’s great for emergency use, he says, but not bright enough for bushwhacking at night. $35;

Potable Aqua iodine tablets
Lighter than a filter, and if you’re really thirsty, you won’t mind the taste. $6;

Small tea light candle
Set one up under wet wood to speed drying, Webb says. $1

SmartWool Trekking Heavy Crew sock
Webb carries an extra pair of wool socks because they stay warm when wet. $18;

Smith and Wesson Baby SWAT knife
Sharp 2.5-inch half-serrated blade locks open to prevent accidents. $30;

Heatsheets Emergency Bivvy
Having spent several uncomfortable nights in space blankets, Webb opts for this one, which is preformed into a sleeping-bag shape. The wind can’t catch the edges and you don’t come unwrapped. $15;


  1. jplewis02gmail-com

    Theres some good stuff there on the original list but a also lot of expensive crap that is just not necessary. If you are backpacking any distance on a tight budget then weight and cost are important. A platypus or less expensive water container is all you’ll need. These days a cell phone is a really good item but few people will have any coverage deep in the backwoods. Nothing beats set a plan and stick to it, Let friend and family where you are going when you will check in and when you are officially late and overdue.
    $35 dollars is a lot for an emergency only flashlight. Carry a good one for your main light and a cheap but decent mini flashlight in your emergency kit. Keep a spare set of batteries too. ALAWAYS BUT ALWAYS test your lights before you go out.
    I carry a 2 oz leakproof bottle with BBQ lighter fluid in it is in my emergency only kit and works better than denatured alchohol because its a bit more oily and does not burn off as fast.
    Bic Lighter for sure and I change it out once or twice a season. its a spare in my emergency only kit.
    Also in the Kit is my emergency Whistle. A steel referees pea whistle $6.99. Its VERY loud and more reliable than a $1.99 special. remember 3 Long, 3 Short, 3 Long Blasts if you are in a true emergency state and you hear or see people around you.
    Emergency flasher mirror
    Emergency only Compass.
    Emergency Blanket and 33 or 4 Gallon Trashbag
    My learned best practice is to have an emergency only kit that I check regularly before departure but don’t use unless there is an emergency situation. It weights 11 oz. Does not include emergency food, or my first Aid kit. Its light inexpensive and based on high reliablity stuff. Many other things are expendable in my pack neither the emergency kit or first aid are. either for full day hikes or weekend backpack trips…

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  2. bob-s

    I like the Adventure Medical products but not everyone can afford to spend that kind of money for something they might never use.

    A $2.00 mylar survival blanket wrapped over your shoulders and covered by a contractor size garbage bag with head and arm holes can keep you alive. There’s a critical difference between being uncomfortable and suffering hypothermia.

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  3. canon40dman

    Rather than buy fire starters, one can make his own with cotton balls and vaseline and keep in an old pill bottle or other lightweight container, or use dryer lint and dab some vaseline on parts of that, leaving some dry bits to catch sparks from flint and steel. A couple minutes of work, a few dollars saved.

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