During the month of October and November, and even into December, many people take to the woods for hunting and hiking. This happens in all states during this time of year, as autumn and early winter is when most states around the country have their annual deer hunting seasons and when trees start to turn colors. I live in the Midwest State of Wisconsin, and most areas in Wisconsin are not overly remote where you are more than a few miles from a farm or cabin. However there are regions within the state that are dozens of miles away from anything. Hunting with bow or gun takes place in every nook and cranny around the state, and it does not matter how far out in the woods you choose to go, even if you are only planning on being out for a few hours for some small game hunting of rabbit or squirrel or the like, it is a good idea to have a field survival kit as part of your hunting gear.
I bring up this subject because I was talking with some people at my local gun club who were saying they travel light when they hunt. I asked what they meant by traveling light, and the most typical answer was the clothes on their back, a gun (or bow), some rope, and a good knife for field dressing their wild game. I countered back that I travel light as well, but that I also include a small pack with some survival gear. I was asked where I hunted that I needed to carry a survival pack with me. My answer was that I usually don’t hunt more than a half mile from a country road. A few guys in the conversation thought I was wasting my time and energy by carrying around a pack for such a short hike into the woods to hunt.
Reasons to carry a field survival kit are numerous, here are a few common reasons:
- You get turned around and lost in the woods. It starts to get dark out. Do you decide to keep moving and try and find your way out of the woods, risking that you will trip or fall in the dark and make matters worse, or do you hunker down for the night and make a fire and eat some rations and try and get comfortable until daylight returns?
- You are walking along and fall and break your leg. Do you know enough first aid to take care of yourself? Are you able to gimp your way out of the woods? It you can, great! Having some extra water and some food to keep your energy high will go a long way. If you don’t think you can get out of the woods on your own, having some food, water, and some other survival gear in your pack will hopefully keep you comfortable until help arrives. Hopefully you told somebody where you were going to hunt or hike so that when you turn up overdue people will know where to look to find you.
- You are hiking along a cold stream in winter. You slip and fall in getting yourself soaked. Hypothermia can kill you pretty quick out in the wilds. Having a way to make a fire and an emergency survival blanket could save your life. As you sit wrapped up in your survival blanket in front of a fire you may be able to dry your clothes without burning them – para-cord can help make a quick clothes line over a fire.
- Maybe you don’t get lost or hurt, but are hunting deer when two teenagers come out of the woods looking scared, cold, exhausted, and in desperate need of help because they are the ones that got lost. While they are not prepared for survival, you are and can help them by giving them some food and some water and leading them out of the woods. This actually happened to me a few years when I was hunting. It was starting to get dark and the day was coming to an end when I was getting ready to walk out of the woods. I was able to help a couple people because I was prepared. They were not. And to this day I get Christmas cards from the both of them.
A field survival kit does not have to be a huge backpack. I usually carry a small messenger style bag slung diagonal across my chest. I don’t weigh it down with lots of stuff, just some basics items in case I need to stay overnight in the woods for a day or two. I’ve yet to really need to use my field kit to such an extent, and if I ever did I would not be surviving in high style and comfort, but I would survive until I managed to get out of the woods or until help arrived.
Here are some of the basics I carry in my field survival kit:
- A pack of water-proof matches and some fire starting tender in a sealed plastic bag
- A compass
- A signal mirror
- A whistle
- A folding knife
- A small hand saw, Gerber makes one that collapses into the handle
- Two emergency survival blankets
- 50″ of para-cord
- 1-2 bottles of water
- 1-3 energy bars
- a single MRE
- pair of leather gloves
- extra pair of shoe-laces
- small first aid kit
Of course when hunting I also have a rifle with me and a good knife on my belt. When I am out for just a quiet hike or walk in the woods I also carry a good knife and usually a 1911 chambered in .45ACP (I live in bear country).
If you find this post interesting you may want to check out a few other post I have made on the following subjects: