Camping

Wilderness survival kit: 7 low-tech staples every outdoorsman should pack

Gear such as this helped frontiersmen survive in the harsh wilderness.

Gear such as this helped frontiersmen survive in the harsh wilderness.  (Tim MacWelch/Outdoor Life)

Whether they were native people or the pioneers of a new frontier, our ancestors didn’t have access to the high-tech items we carry today for camping, hunting and wilderness emergencies.

But whenever possible, they did carry a kit to help them survive.

Today, bushcrafters, classic camping enthusiasts and living history re-enactors are building kits that would have been very familiar to our forebears, and these modern folks are often in for a pleasant surprise. Many of the items are both effective and fun to use.

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Here’s a look at the basic supplies for survival, with historically appropriate gear.

1. Waterproof tarp: This is for shelter roofing, and it is often a canvas tarp soaked with waterproofing oils or waxes. You can buy a tarp that’s ready-to-use, or make your own using an “oilcloth” recipe. Set the tarp up as a lean-to, and you’ll be sheltered from the elements.

2. Bedroll: The bedroll is an assortment of bedding for a warm night’s sleep. Wool blankets are a mainstay, and they’ll keep you warm even when wet. The bedroll and the tarp are typically the heaviest part of your kit, and the most important.

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3. Cook kit: A metal pot with a bail handle will suffice for boiling water and preparing meals. A metal cup or mug makes a nice companion to it, as does a spoon.

4. Fire kit: You’ll need this for the obvious task of fire-starting. Choose from flint and steel, matches or some other historic method, plus a supply of dry tinder.

5. Tools: These are for work and repairs. A knife and some cordage will get you pretty far, and you can add an axe and saw for building your camp, cutting wood and splitting wood.

6. Candles: These are handy for lighting and fire-starting. Choose beeswax candles, as they burn for the longest time (when compared ounce-for-ounce with paraffin candles).

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7. Food: For enjoyable nourishment, bring some old-school staple foods. Things like flour, cornmeal, salt pork, jerky, salt, sugar and lard can make great meals, providing you have some camp-cooking skills.