Recently, I was reading a blog where the author listed 7 essential items he never left home without - it was a good read but the more I considered the authors options the more I started to think about it and to disagree with him and the more I disagreed the more I wondered at the type or view we take of what we consider or call essential items.

ESSENTIAL = items we can not do or live with, i.e essential to our survival is oxygen, without it we will die!

I'll explain why shortly but first let me give you the list -

1 First aid kit
2 knife
3 sharpening stone
4/5 waterbottle and metal mug
6 fire steel
7 compass

Now I have nothing against this list - its his list and he is perceived to be a knowledgable fella - i dont know him so I cant say overwise, but his choice of kit is in my mind limited. It doesnt matter if your highly experienced or a complete novice the items you leave home with which will save your life if your stuck out over night or longer are the same, maybe the rating will change from summer to winter but the basic items are the same.

These would be -

1 A shelter - tent or tarp for example - making a natural shelter is hard work. Even a poncho or space blanket will save you hassle and keep the wet and wind off you if its raining or snowing.
2 A sleeping bag - summer bag for warmer climes, winter bag for colder

3 A ground mat to insulate you from the ground

4. A cutting tool - preferably an axe, but as Sir Ranulph Fiennes says, "generally speaking a swiss army knife will meet most of a outdoorsmans needs"

5. A reliable means of ignition - firesteel if you know how to use one for example

6. A stove - can you light a fire 100% of the time?? On a snow covered hillside in the cairngorms, above the tree line??

7. A cooking pot - goes without saying its uses

Now think about it - what do these items all do or enable us to do?? They help maintain our core body temperature - why are they essential more than a compass or a sharpening stone? Because "mountain exposure" as the old term used to be, will kill you in less time than your knife will go blunt or you'll need to worry about your bearings.

So the essential kit is really your basic camping set up! After all if it werent essential why would every person who has hiked or camped out for the millenia or so carried a version of these items?

If thats the case whats this all about knives and compasses and first aid kits then??

Well I think its not the essential term we should tag them with, but useful in the right enviroment tag and even that might not be 100% accurate for example if I had to have one cutting tool I'd rather an axe than a knife and a compass is only of limited use without a map and the knowledge to use both!!

I'm not putting down the blog post or anything like this I am merely trying to point out dear reader that sometimes our view or the view of ours which we hear or read about may be either slightly off course or more specific to them and not really pertinent to us. A skilled woodsman can do wonders with just a knife and a billy while a novice will need much more gear to achieve the same ends (potentially)

And thats the reason for my writing folks - beware the information, some people say knowledge is power - some good people will share information with you that reflects their experiences and their experiences mught not necessarily be of any use to you. While others, mostly lacking in experience, will just rehash information (right or wrong) they read elsewhere or worse they believe to be correct in theory.

I can understand what the author was "getting at" and agree the relative merit of each item in the first list, and agree my day sack kit list isnt so far different but it would be wrong to suggest you can live happily ever after with just those items - they are not essential to your survival (in the right hands they will aid your survival of course)

And the growing you tube experts are just as bad - I remember for example the outdoors expert who posted a video telling folks how wonderful the civilian trangia was/is ............ even as he put the set together in completely the wrong order and way - proof it if were needed that the guy wasnt actually as "good" as his own ego believed he was or at least in this case he'd never actually used the trangia - so how can his opinion be counted??

Mis-information in some respects can be fun - especially if you know better but it can also prove deadly if you blindly believe everything to read or are told!

So next time you read a blog, google so some info, watch a tv programme or similar take the info given with a pinch of salt and temper it with your own skill and knowledge - there in lays the path to outdoor wisdom and a true essential kit that will work for you.


Perkunas said...

Youre pretty much right on spot.

One thing that i am fed up, in these kit listings for different amounts of days, and with various allowed numbers of items. Its the fukking "kit" thing.

Man, if You ( not, you kind sir), are told to list lets say, 7 items,then you are only making your self a joke if every item tunrs out to be a KIT...." fire kit with bic lighter,zippo, twine, flint & striker, firesteel,bow drill"...."shelter kit" thats made out of superb 3-piece sleeping bag system, a hilleberg tent and tarp and tent light, etc.

What i wanted to ask, without any pointing fingers towards You, is what are referring to, with "stove" ?

The only reliabe long term survival stove, in My region would be a simple twig&stick burner, and i would never concider an alcohol, nor gasified fuel stove,as in survival situation, in which i donno the time ill be forced to cook, i would not enjoy, for long perioid, lets, say, a 400gr gas canister, and the modern jet stoves are pretty fragile too.

But, i think i would not include a stove in My country, i would gladly replace it with sackfull of dried meat ;)

Lee said...

I also disagree with your list. Ha ha.

I agree that thermoregulation is key to survival, but if you are talking about everyday, including going to work, then I would really look at the following:

1. First Aid Kit - What are you more likely to experience during your day? A bear attack or someone in distress including you? I ride the subway everyday and at least 3 times a week the subway is delayed by someone hitting the emergency alarm.

2. Proper clothing - What happens if you have to walk home in the rain. And appropriate to the season. If it is winter, bring winter gloves, even if they stay in your bag.

3. Proper footwear - What happens if you have to walk home? If you are wearing high heels or dress shoes, why not bring some light hiking shoes or flats...

4. A phone - everyone has one and with it you can call for help. Works like an upgraded whistle. Even when I am canoeing or hiking, I have my cell on me in a waterproof container.

5. A knife - I have a swiss army knife. I do not carry a leatherman but I have one. I could theoretically build a bow drill fire with this tool alone.

6. A water bottle - I carry a Nalgene. Thermoregulation in the summer by keeping hydrated. When you are dehydrated, you can deteriorate fast. A 2% drop in your body's water level hampers your cognitive functions by like 20%.

7. Food - I have energy bars. They are light and have a high caloric return and are shelf stable.

In the woods. I can build a debris shelter with no tools and be able to SURIVIVE down to -50 celsius with enough insulation. In an urban setting, there is always material for a debris shelter if you look hard enough.

A lighter is nice to have. Simple and cheap. I also carry a head lamp. Skills will trump tools to carry and if you know what you are doing, you can survive anywhere.

Survivall said...

Thanks for the replies guys -

Perkunas regarding a stove and thinking emergency usage bear in mind what I said about being above the tree line where there is no wood as this is the nightmare scenerio anywhere else natural materials are available.

Lee as I say the whole idea of a list or at least me or anyone else suggesting is list is wrong - YOUR experience will denote what items you need to carry as such technically every list is wrong for everyone else but the lists author - but beware of theoritically being able to do anything, I assume you have experience with bow drill and building natural shelters??

Thanks for the comments - excellent replies.

Paul Kirtley said...

Hi Gary,

Interesting to read your thoughts.

It would have been worth you listing the full title of the article which is "Essential Wilderness Equipment – 7 Items I Never Leave Home Without".

Note I didn't call it "...7 Items you shouldn't leave home without".

As for people making up their own mind about what to take with them under different circumstances, I think I made it fairly clear what my view is in the following paragraphs (taken straight from my article):

"Even though many of us like shiny things, bushcraft isn’t about gear. At the heart of bushcraft is knowledge and skill. Some gear does make the application of your knowledge and skills a lot easier and other aspects of your trips quicker or more comfortable.

The more skillful, knowledgeable and experienced you become, the less you will need to rely on equipment and the less stressful it will be to lose some of it or have some of it break. That’s not to say you should be sloppy with your kit, though! What it does mean is that when you are planning a trip, you get to make the choice as to what level you want to rely on equipment and how much you want to rely on your skills and natural materials. Do you take a tarp or build a shelter? Do you take a stove or cook over a fire? Do you use matches or carve a bow-drill set?

This is closely tied to the aims of your trip. Maybe you are after covering distance quickly and a modern, lightweight camping outfit is what suits you best? Or, maybe you intend to spend more time in each place, so you take a few tools and employ your camp craft skills to make many of the items you need around camp? Or, maybe you plan to test yourself, living from the land, relying heavily on your bushcraft and survival skills?

For some people reading this, the idea of spending a night or two out in the woods with only the 7 items I’ve highlighted would be a nightmare. For others, this scenario will read like a holiday/vacation, as it’s something they’ve done, perhaps many times, and enjoyed. For others it will be an attractive challenge yet to be tried.

Everyone has their own comfort zone and what is superfluous to one person may be essential to another. I could manage with less but above is my list of kit that I always like to have if I have the choice."

Anyway Gary, thanks for the opportunity to discuss this.

Keep up the good work. I enjoy reading your blog posts.




Survivall said...

Thanks for the reply Paul

Glad you enjoyed the post - likewise I enjoyed yours hence the brain juice used - such posts are excellent and if they get us thinking they are well worth the time to write and read.

The opportunity to discuss bushcraft matters with like minded individuals are rare these days so I am pleased to hear from you anytime.

Likewise mate keep up your excellent posts - I particularly like your clothing for the northern forest posts


and have even "nicked" ideas from your packing list


Thanks for share that one!

Ross Gilmore said...

Great post. I think these days we have developed a standard "bushcraft/survival" essentials list that keeps being put out there over and over again. I think the important items often get ignored because they are not sexy, or do not make you look "bushcrafty" enough.

You are right, many of the items in the list I would not consider essential at all, and there are others that I would rather have with me. More importantly, as Perkunas said, this whole "if you could only have X number of items, which ones would they be/5 piece, 10 piece, 100 piece kit, is a horribly annoying way to bump up post on Google search. What is the point? Why do we start posts with "kit is not as important as skill" if we are going to follow it up with a kit list?

Sorry, just venting. I'm just annoyed with the whole cookie-cutter bushcraft thing. Love the post.

Survivall said...

Thanks for the reply Ross always good to here from you buddy