Surviving is a handy skill, even if it’s just getting through your mate’s stag do in one piece, but sometimes the going gets tough and we have no option but to channel our inner Bear Grylls.
It’s all about digging deep, staying mentally strong and keeping it together – as well as having the right kit to hand, of course.
We’ve picked out a broad range of tools that’ll see you right in almost every situation – although if zombie apocalypse kicks off you might want to add a chainsaw and sawn-off shotgun to the list for good measure.
1. Make the call
Probably the first thing to think about in a real-world survival situation is attracting help, and the best tool for that is likely in your pocket right now. Mobile phones are the ultimate survival device, given enough battery to make a call (keep the EnerPlex KickrIV to hand) and a waterproof bag to keep them operating in real damp conditions.
If you’re headed into the wilds then consider downloading an emergency app like (Echo112 or the Uepaa mountain rescue app) that simplifies the rescue-calling process, which can’t be understated when the doo-doo is really hitting the fan.
If you constantly find yourself in extreme survival situations, you may which to purchase a super-rugged phone built for the outdoors. The Land Rover Explore smartphone is the perfect device in this scenario. It has a huge battery and can work in freezing temperatures.
2. No signal? No problem
Obviously, phones don’t work everywhere, your battery might have died, etc, so having other options is a great idea.
The best scheme all-round is the PLB (Personal Locator Beacon), which most commonly blast out a radio SOS on the international emergency frequencies 406 MHz and 121.5 MHz when triggered.
Those frequencies are monitored 24/7 by a network of orbiting satellites, leaving you pretty certain of an imminent rescue on the vast majority of the earth’s surface.
3. All at sea…
However, for the paranoid and those unlucky enough to be in a marine survival situation (where staying at the location you fired the PLB from isn’t easy) the old-school tactic of lighting lumps of magnesium still has a role to play.
Tech innovation has had an impact even here though, with the rise of the laser or LED flares, a much safer, longer lasting and much cooler version of the traditional flare.
While the batteries will stay charged for years if unused, pretending it’s a lightsaber is likely to flatten them pretty quick, sadly.
4. Stay warm
Assuming you’re not seriously injured or in a desert, the next element of survival is to make sure you’re not getting hypothermia during the day and overnight.
A versatile jacket like the Montane Icarus is a brilliant option, being very warm but highly resistant to wetting out, so even in the pouring rain you’ll still be relatively warm.
If you have time to add more to the scales, then an ultralight shell (like the Rab Spark) to really banish the rain, and something for overnight warmth like the Thermarest Parsec sleeping bag will see you pretty nicely set up, albeit minimally.
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5. Take to drink
Staying hydrated is essential in any situation, so getting hold of clean water and storing it to drink comes high up on a survival list.
Wide neck versions are best for ease of filling from awkward sources, or when adding freshly boiled water. Said boiling is a fuel-hungry method of cleaning suspect water, so another fire-free option is the Lifestraw Universal filter an ingenious addition to your favourite flask that will clean 1,000 gallons of water through a two-stage filter.
6. Make the cut
A knife is the classic survival tool, and whether you’re keen on a Rambo-style serrated number with safety pins and fishing line stashed in the hollow handle, or a multi-tool Leatherman-type offering, a knive will serve you well, the latter perhaps in a wider range of situations.
If you are tempted by the full-fat jungle survivalist angle do consider a simpler version of the Rambo knife, like a parang or machete. These super-robust tools will chop up or chop down pretty much anything, and won’t break in a real emergency.
7. Light your fire
Fire, the oldest survival tool in the book, and a pretty essential one in colder climes. Depending on the materials you have to hand, starting and maintaining a fire for warmth, drying clothes, cooking and general cheer is a relatively simple task.
One way to make it even easier is to pack a fire steel, the modern versions of this ancient tool (originally with flint and steel) spray burning magnesium onto your tinder, which gets fire on the agenda a lot quicker than rubbing sticks together.
8. Stay healthy
Easily forgotten in the present day of Amazon Prime, but left untreated even small grazes and minor cuts can hinder survival, and even prove fatal.
A mini-first aid kit won’t weigh you down, but will fix a wide variety of minor incidents without slowing you up.
The AMK Adventure versions are not only well stocked and ultralight, but also waterproof, which makes them pretty much perfect for the job.
9. Get out
Sometimes when help is taking too long to arrive, or you know that civilisation is near, it’s worth getting your walking head on and marching out.
Given advance warning you’d be wise to pick some decent boots as footwear (like the AKU Tengu GTX boots) or hybrid shoes (such as the Adidas Terrex Voyager), but either way you’d best be on top of the navigational challenges.
Learning to use a basic compass and map in non-emergencies is a key skill to have, while of course having a GPS unit such as the ever-popular Garmin Etrex is also wildly helpful.
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10. Stay sheltered
If you’re staying put next to your PLB, you’ll want a shelter to keep the weather off, and if you’re trekking out to the nearest town having overnight accomodation won’t go amiss either. The most portable options are the tarp and bivy, which can weigh so little as to be packable ‘just in case’, unlike a proper tent.
Check out the Terra Nova tarp range, from the Adventure tarp down to the frankly ludicrous Ultra 1 tarp, which weighs in at 88grams, or for bivvy-based dryness try MSR’s E-Bivy, a massive 236 grams (but less than a can of Coke).