Joshua Schukman
by Joshua Schukman
Posted February 3, 2022

Living the true outdoorsy life can often mean backcountry camping in wilderness areas that are far removed from civilization and safety. By equipping yourself with the right survival tools for wilderness camping, you’ll open the door to some truly spectacular camping adventures.

But if you endeavor to camp off the beaten path, there are some must-have survival tools that you’ll want alongside you. While it is true that wilderness camping offers some of the most beautiful camping locations, the freedom to wander where you choose, and the thrill of being truly, utterly alone — failure to bring survival tools can result in misadventure very quickly. 

That’s why we’ve put together this outdoor survival kit featuring 15 must-have camping and wilderness survival tools. Stick with this to have the wilderness survival gear you need for the backcountry.

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15 must-have camping and wilderness survival tools

Building your own outdoor survival kit? Here’s what you need.

1. Firestarters

Fire is life in the backcountry. Fire is needed to boil water and make it safe for drinking, fire may be the only way you can cook on your wilderness adventure, and fire will keep you warm — making it the ultimate survival tool. For these reasons, fire starters must be part of the best wilderness survival kit.

Firestarters function by throwing off sparks into your kindling to get the fire process started. When you’re on a wilderness camp-venture, matches can easily get wet and lighters can easily malfunction. That’s why you should depend only on a fire starter for your essential survival gear.

Here are some of the best fire starters on the market:

Überleben fire starters — Robust construction and modern design make these stylish sticks a must-have for your survival tools kit. 

UST one-handed fire starter — This fire starter keeps it simple with one-handed fire sparking operation.

Carabiner lighter — For a slightly different take on wilderness survival tools, you could use this carabiner that doubles as a waterproof station for storing and lighting matches.

2. Water purifying bottle

You won’t make it long without water in the backcountry, so a tool for clean drinking water should be a part of any survival tool kit.

While you should generally boil water you find in nature, it is also wise to purchase a filtration system/bottle that’s designed for wilderness camping. Many of these bottles are very compact and will effectively filter out anything nasty that might be lurking in the water.

Here are some of our favorites:

MSR Guardian Gravity Water Purifier — This camping survival tool is a bag you fill with water and then hang to a tree or other tall object in nature. Gravity then forces the water through a series of filters to give your wilderness basecamp a steady supply of clean drinking water. 

Grayl GeoPress Water Filter and Purifier — If you’re going on some extreme wilderness camping — especially wilderness camping in other countries — you’ll want heavy-duty filtration and purification in your survival tools. The GeoPress will help protect you from viruses, bacteria, and heavy metals that can be found in wilderness waters.

3. Bear spray

Bear spray should be a part of any wilderness survival kit even if you aren’t planning to camp where bears roam. That’s because bear spray can be used to ward off any predator that might decide you’re a threat.

Bear spray is essentially heavy-duty pepper spray that can accurately hit a target from a distance. It will temporarily blind and shock anything that might want to snack on you in the wilderness. 

Bear spray isn’t cheap, but it is essential. Take your pick on this shopping list we curated.

4. Headlamps

Headlamps are must-have survival gear because they’ll allow you to see at night while still having use of your hands. Nothing is worse than trying to fumble with a phone or handheld flashlight when you’re trying to prep your wilderness campsite. Solve this problem by adding headlamps to your survival tools kit for every person in your party. Headlamps are also essential for any RV packing list.

Here are some great headlamp options:

Pelican brand makes excellent headlamps that often swivel and fold down to offer several different configurations.

REI also has a wide array of high-quality headlamps to add to your wilderness survival gear.  

wilderness survival tools

5. Multitool

Much like a Swiss Army Knife, a multitool is an all-in-one survival tool for wilderness camping. They’ll usually feature small scissors or pliers, knives that fold out, tweezers, and an attachable carabiner.

A multitool is a must-have survival tool because it’ll help you do the cutting, splinter removing, and general basecamp assembly that you’ll need to do while wilderness camping. 

These brands offer some of the best multitools:

Leatherman is a well known and high quality brand of multitool.

The same brand that makes the Swiss Army Knife also makes Swiss Army Multi-Tools.

6. Compass

It’s vital to know where you’re going in the wilderness and that’s why a compass needs to be part of your survival tools. Compasses have been guiding weary travelers for nearly one-thousand years because they are excellent at what they do — don’t be caught in the wilderness without one.

Here are some good compasses:

If you want to be an ultra-lux wilderness camper, check out the Garmin Fenix Watch. This watch is much more than a compass and will tell you your altitude, show topography maps, and much more. 

Cammenga Compass — This beast is shockproof, very water resistant, and a worthy addition to your survival tools.

Brunton TruArc 3 Compass — This is a great budget option.

7. First Aid Kit

In the wilderness, you’ll be on your own for patching up any scrapes, cuts, bruises, or any other medical situations that might arise. That’s why a first aid kit is essential survival gear.

Check out these pre-made kits:

Surviveware makes excellent first aid kits that are also highly compact. 

Adventure Medical Kits offer some serious first-aid equipment for wilderness travelers. 

8. Emergency whistle

If you get lost in the wilderness and search crews are trying to find you, an emergency whistle will literally be a lifesaver. These whistles are capable of creating a piercing sound with very little effort on your part. Most emergency whistles can be heard up to a half-mile away, making them one of the best wilderness survival tools in your arsenal. 

Here are a few great options:

Vargo titanium emergency whistle — very compact, wearable as a necklace.

Whistles For Life Tri-Power

HyperWhistle — The world’s original loudest whistle. 

9. Emergency GPS locator beacon

If you get lost in the woods, a GPS beacon will alert search parties to your location, making this an essential survival tool. 

Check out these GPS beacons:

Garmin inReach Mini

SPOT Gen 4

10. Paracord

This military-grade and uber-tough style of rope should be part of any wilderness survival toolkit because it is tough, durable, and multi-functional. It’s important for uses ranging from hanging a shelter to rescuing companions.

Here are some functional options:

Hero Company Emergency Paracord Bracelet — By wearing your paracord as a bracelet, you’ll always have it with you. As an added bonus, Hero Company helps pair vets with companion dogs.

Balit Paracord

11. Signal mirror

If you’re in trouble in the wilderness and choppers are searching for you, a signal mirror may be the only survival tool that’ll help alert authorities to your presence. These mirrors will catch the light and reflect it upwards so rescue personnel can get a bead on your location.

Be prepared with these mirrors:

Coughlans Signal Mirror — Compact and highly durable, this survival tool is capable of quickly reflecting lots of light far up into the sky. 

UST StarFlash Micro

MIL-M Military Issue Signal Mirror

12.  Dry bag

Wilderness camping often means your gear will get wet. Whether you trudge through a creek or face torrential rains, the result will be the same — wet gear. That’s why a vital part of any survival toolkit is a dry bag that is designed to keep important gear safe.

Stay dry with these bags:

Wise Owl Outfitters Waterproof Bags

Earth-Pak Waterproof Dry Bag

13. Hand axe or saw

Fire-making is life in the wilderness. To make a fire, you’ll need to be able to cut the wood down to size. That’s why some kind of cutting tool is a must-have survival tool.

These options get the job done:

Wakeman Hand Axe and Saw Kit

Gerber Camping Axe

Schrade Mini Axe/Saw Combo

14. Predator knowledge and preparedness

Whether you’ll be camping in the wilderness where bears roam or where mountain lions linger, a vital survival tool is your knowledge of how to respond should a predator attack.

The best way to prepare is to educate yourself with:

Backcountry Bear Basics book

Forest Service tips for safety around mountain lions

And remember to always watch wildlife from afar!

15. Sub-zero sleeping bag or emergency blanket

Even if you’re camping in a warm climate in the summer, it’s possible for it to get very cold when you’re camping out in the wilderness. Worse still, if you find yourself immobilized due to something like a broken ankle, you might wind up stranded and exposed to the elements for days. That’s why a sub-zero sleeping bag and/or emergency blanket should be part of any wilderness survival kit. 

These will keep you warm:

KUIU Super Down Sleeping Bag

Mountain Equipment Iceline Sleeping Bag — Protects to -22 degrees Fahrenheit.

Emergency Shelters

Build your wilderness camping kit

Having the right survival tools for wilderness camping can mean the difference between a fun trip and a disaster. Before venturing out on backcountry camping, be sure to take heed of the must-have survival gear we’ve listed above. It just might save your life!

Looking to rent an RV for your next wilderness camp-venture?

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Joshua Schukman


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