Tools You Will Want in an Outdoor Emergency

When preparing an emergency kit for the car or camper, or for a compartment in your backpack, keep in mind that usefulness must be combined with situational likelihood. If a vehicle malfunction leaves you stranded on a forest service road in the mountains, you may need certain items that aren’t all that necessary if your car breaks down on the interstate highway. Likewise, if you’re on a backpacking trek, you might need to fend for yourself for longer than if you encounter bad weather and flooding at a campground.

In addition to the obvious inclusion of energy bars, dried fruit, Mylar thermal blankets, rain jackets, and matches, consider packing some special tools that will come in handy. The following list contains essential items that you may want to keep in a separate duffel bag in your car or SUV, or in a special container stowed in a larger backpack.

1) LED Flashlight

These are lightweight, the battery lasts far longer than a light with an incandescent bulb, and most of the outdoor-suitable models are practically unbreakable. In fact, it’s a good idea to have at least two LED flashlights on hand, one of which is head-mounted for hands-free use.

2) Collapsible Shovel

The best models are the ones that have a simple, pull-out handle that is then fixed tightly with a twist mechanism. The shovel head should be made of high-strength steel. This tool can be valuable if your car gets stuck in thick mud or gravel, and it can also be used to dig a fire pit. Choose a model that fits into a stowaway compartment on the SUV or laid flat in the bottom of an outdoor preparedness duffle.

3) Lighters and Fire-starter

Several disposable lighters should be packed in a watertight compartment in the emergency kit or in a zip-loc style bag in a backpack. In addition, invest in a Magnesium Fire-starter. These come as two blocks that are struck together and come on a chain. Make sure to practice using it before you head out into the wilderness. (APN recommends these fire starters. Jalapeno Gal has one and it is her personal favorite.)

4) Multi-Purpose Knife and Fixed Blade Knife

A Swiss Army knife or similar model is one of the most invaluable tools you can have with you should you become stuck in the wilderness. It only takes a little practice to memorize where the various blades are located. Make sure the model chosen has a mini-sized saw blade, a small pair of snippers or shears, and a metal file. Keep a fixed-blade knife with at least a five-inch blade in the emergency kit in addition to the folding knife.

5) Stainless Steel Water Bottle

It’s important to have plenty of water, and most of the supply can be stored in plastic bottles. However, keep at least one steel water bottle in the emergency kit as well. It can serve as a container for boiling water if necessary. Stainless steel has naturally occurring anti-septic properties that will keep your pumped water cleaner than most other bottles.

6) Outdoor Wallet

Although fashionable to carry in public, a camo wallet is actually designed for easy location of cards, folded maps, and small tools. Some of the best dual- and tri-fold styles have separate cash pockets and checkbook inserts. When taking one with you on a trip, keep a list of map directions to nearby destinations inside. If your phone or GPS goes dead, you’ll be glad you did.

7) Map and Compass

You might not think of these as tools, but they can save your life. Don’t rely on GPS devices if you get stuck in the middle of nowhere. Make sure you have a paper map that shows the area where you are traveling, and download a map onto your smartphone as well. Keep a compass in the emergency kit, separate from those you carry on your person. Remember to keep the emergency kit compass in its own container, and don’t store it next to anything else that is magnetic.


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