The 7 most important things to have in the wild
When people discover that I love to go into the wilderness with only a few items they are always curious what possessions I would take with me: “If you were going to a deserted island what would you bring with you?”
Basically there are a few things that all primitive cultures needed to survive comfortably. Compare primitive cultures across the board and you will find there are a few core things that people use to live and beyond that, there isn’t much else for possessions. With proper practice, training, and wisdom from the previous generations, these few items are ideally the only things that someone would need to survive in the wilderness. The best model I have seen to remember the things you should bring with you (or learn to make in the wilderness) is Dave Canterbury’s 5 c’s of survivalbility. I have altered his list a bit, adding on some metaphysical aspects to give us the more complete 7 c’s.
1. Cutting Tool
I often regard the cutting tool as the most important. A machete, knife, hatchet, etc. allows us to make a lot of the other items on the list, but I believe the most important thing that a knife allows is to make a nice shelter, tools, traps, weapons. If you know what you are doing with a blade you can make almost anything you need in the wilderness.
This is an often overlooked aspect of survival until you find yourself getting soaked in the rain at night and wanting to die. Trust me, the most miserable nights I have ever experienced were being wet and cold because I lacked good cover, so if you are ever camping or living somewhere where you know there is a good chance of rain make/find yourself some good cover. It can be a tarp or a thick wool blanket (my personal favorite) or just some pine boughs or debris that you cut and put over your head. The cover material can also be used for a backpack, sunscreen, warmth, char cloth, and a ton of other useful survival items.
Or fire, is the thing that everyone thinks about when they think of living in the wilderness. Some examples include a lighter, flint and steel, ferro-rod, or if you want to get more primitive hand drill, bow drill, fire plow. Fire is extremely important because it provides you with warmth, light, cooks your food, and without it you often cannot purify the water you might have available. Fire also makes you feel safe. It is amazing how people in our modern world still gather around a fire even though it isn’t needed as much as it was for our ancestors. There is something that is so satisfying that is beyond words when you make fire in the wilderness. Perhaps some deep ancestral itch is being scratched.
Cordage, or rope is a lesser-known survival essential. Cordage is really useful for things like shelters, primitive fires, traps, snares, baskets and nets. Recently, I learned the life lesson of how valuable good cordage is. I was primitively camping and had only brought a cutting tool (tomahawk) and a container on my expedition. Eventually, I was kicking myself for not bringing some good cordage with me, because the cordage I made in the wilderness was not the best. I recommend 3mm paracord for most trips, but if you are taking the primitive route, I really like cordage made from animal sinew, dogbane, yucca, etc.
A container, like a canteen or anything that can hold water is an invaluable resource in the wild. If you are lucky enough to find water in the wilderness, you want to be able to store it, sterilize it and carry it with you. I am a big fan of stainless steel canteens, because they are durable and you can through them in the fire to sanitize the water. I have used my steel canteen for over 330 days in the wilderness and it is still holding strong.
If we only look at the physical side of life we are missing half the equation. Most survival experts are amazing at the physical skills needed for survival, but they often overlook the mental side of living in the wilderness. Without the right mindset, all the gear in the world will do you no good.
Consciousness breeds consciousness. The most valuable skill anyone can have in life is the skill of consciousness. If you are aware, you can learn and overcome anything. For me consciousness, consists of always trying to keep your mind in the present moment and also being aware of what is happening around you and why. Being present keeps your mind and body connected and gives strength and purpose to your actions. If we are mindful in the wilderness, we will notice, the birds nest above us, the thistle plant at your feet, and the sound of water trickling nearby.
Curiosity spurs us forward to move around and examine things. Childhood like interest makes us engage, and in turn, learn, more about our environment. There are numerable instances where I have been curious about something and then later found it to be extremely valuable to me.
Like I have mentioned before(insert Link) there is a wonderful thing that happens when you realize how little you truly need to live and enjoy this life, whether you are in the wilderness or at home. This is my list of what I need to survive, both physically and spiritually, but I want to hear what YOUR LIST looks like. Post, share, discuss!