As your mother always says, "It's better to be safe than sorry." Whether you are scaling the slopes of the Tetons or backpacking down under, it's important to head out into the wilderness prepared -- just in case. Nonetheless, it's not practical to haul an arsenal of supplies with you. You need just enough to support you should anything go awry. How much safety equipment you need will depend on the location, weather, terrain type and your personal health. Before buying kits (there are many pre-packaged survival kits available on the Web) or packing up your own homemade version, consider what elements will really be most vital to your safety for each particular outing you plan to take. And no, a Swiss Army Knife is not enough to get you by.
Basic Survival Kit
The key to survival in any event is heat/fire, shelter, water and food, most often in that order. Below, are some of the most basic supplies you might want to bring to cover just about any situation you could get yourself into, especially in the case that you get lost, which is when these items really come in handy. Remember though, these items are like gold in the hands of someone with the basic survival skills to go along with them. However, if you don't know what you're doing, they could quickly be worth less than a sack of dirt in the great outdoors. The point is that you should practice your survival skills before venturing into situations where you might seriously put yourself at risk. Take a class, read a book or browse the Web. Then put your knowledge to the test in your own backyard. If possible make sure that you will be competent enough to use the tools in your survival kit should there come the time when you must use them for real.
Heat & Light
Water & Food
Items Needed to Get You Home
If you get lost--really lost--you need a way of finding your way back to civilization. Unfortunately, when stranded in an unfamiliar location and without any way of establishing your bearings (you should have brought that GPS device) a few basic tools may make the difference between sleeping in a tree or snuggling in your bed at home.
Handheld GPS Devices
In the 21st century, it's important to stay connected. With today's technology you can have a satellite-connected communications and positioning center in the palm of your hand. Just try getting lost with one of these. All of these handheld GPS devices are waterproof and durable.
First Aid Kits
A compact first aid kit is useful in just about every situation, no matter if you are out for a long expedition or just a casual outing. The longer and the farther away from civilization you are going, the more important it is to have first aid supplies. To learn more about packing a first aid kit, please see the complete guide to First Aid Kits.
Pre-Fabricated Survival Kits
Here are some kits that are packed and ready to go with you, ranging from the smallest, most minimalist of designs to all-encompassing packs.
* Mace: Stop, drop and assume fetal position. And then? Bring some mace or bear spray along with you when hiking. Usually they are very compact and lightweight and in the case that you are attacked or about to be attacked, it could just help save your life. Remember that mace is a very powerful tool. You MUST learn to use it properly, otherwise you could put yourself in more danger.
* Bear-Proof Container: Bears have a great sense of smell and they'll track that trail mix from miles away. Protect yourself while hiking or while camping with a secure container that can be strung up between two trees, the best place to keep food while in bear country.
* Bear Bell: These are little bells attached to a strap. The noise will help keep bears away. You can also purchase some bells from a craft store and sew them onto a piece of fabric of your choosing.
: To learn more about what you can do to stay safe in bear country, please see this informative Web site on Bear Safety.
Cold Weather & Avalanche Safety
In cold weather, the stakes are slightly against you. If you are going to be venturing into areas where avalanches are likely to occur, you need to have a few special items with you to protect yourself besides the items mentioned above.