Australia is a vast country and many Australians like to travel off the beaten track to see wild “untouched” places in order to experience that feeling of being at one with nature. Many however go into these places ill-equipped and with insufficient planning in case something goes wrong, often resulting in people getting lost, injured or even worse…dying.
The most common group of people who seem to get themselves into trouble are the “day hiker or visitor”. This group of people generally think ”She’ll be right, I’ll only be gone for a short time…etc”, and don’t tell anyone where they are going or when they will be back. They don’t take a hat, enough water, warm clothing, a shelter or even have the ability to make a fire!
If you are going into a wilderness area on a planned trip or even a local bushwalk for only a couple of hours, there are two key things you should do first.
Tell someone where you are going and even when you expect to be back. Even if you are only going on a short day hike for a couple of hours.
Dress appropriately. Dress for the environment you are going into. Wear long sleeves and take a hat to protect against the sun and have wam layers for the evenings.
The following are 12 important items that everyone should have in their daypack when venturing into a wilderness area. Every item should be durable, portable and have multiple uses. The first five of these items are the crucial, or "must-haves", as they are the items that are the most difficult and time-consuming to produce in nature if you don’t have them.
Knowing what these items are will help you prioritise what is important and also what to manufacture from nature should you find yourself without them.
1. Cutting Tool (knife)
This is probably the most important tool you need in your kit. Ideally, it should be a full tang 5” (11cm) carbon or stainless steel knife without serrations or saws built into it as these inhibit its practical use. MORAKNIV make good affordable general-purpose knives for the outdoors including the Companion, Bushcraft Black, Eldris and Garberg. A Leatherman multitool is also a good smaller option. To make a cutting tool in nature requires flint and knowledge of flint knapping.
2. Combustion device (Ferro Rod)
If you don’t have a lighter or matches, the best thing you can have with you is a sparking tool such as a Ferro Rod, also known as a metal match or fire flash. This is a mixture of magnesium and different alloys that produces a hot shower of sparks when struck with an object that has a sharp 90-degree angle (eg. the back of a knife). MORAKNIV offers a number of knives that are bundled with a Ferro Rod. It doesn’t give you a guaranteed flame, so you will have to learn how to find and prepare tinder. To make fire from nature you will have to learn how to create fire using friction methods.
3. Covering or shelter.
This could be a re-usable space blanket/tarp which reflects up to 70-80% of your body heat back to you, or a large heavy-duty garbage bag which can be used as a raincoat, moisture barrier, ground sheet, water carrier, filled with leaves for insulation or cut open and tied into a shelter. To make a shelter from natural materials (lean-to, wickiup, A-frame etc) is very time consuming and requires a lot of resources. A good option is the Emergency Blanket from ATKA. This product is strong, lightweight and packs down to an easily
4. Metal Container
Ideally pack a metal container and a nesting cup, as you need a way of carrying water as well as heating water. Boiling is the best way to ensure water is safe to drink. If you don’t have both, you should at least have a metal nesting cup to boil water in.
KLEAN KANTEEN make an assortment of good brushed stainless bottles such as the single-wall Wide models which can be used in a pinch to boil water for drinking. To make a container from natural materials requires a knowledge of how to make a coal burned bowl, a folded paperback coolamon or bark containers, all which you can boil water in using hot rocks.
5. Cordage - MUST HAVE ITEM
Parachute cord is a wonderful survival tool as it has 7 inner strands and each one of these 7 strands can be broken down into 2 smaller fibres. If you break the cord down to these fibres, you can use them for fishing line, trap making and
repair cord etc.To make cordage or string in nature is very time consuming
and requires a knowledge of plant resources and string
6. Duct Tape
Used for mending things, waterproofing, cordage, first aid,
even to make an improvised waterproof cup. A small roll of
Gorilla Tape is a good choice.
This allows you to stay on course when moving from A to B and aids in direction finding. A “sighting compass” also has a mirror that can be used as a heliograph or for first aid. If you don’t have a compass you will need to learn about
natural navigation and finding direction from the sun, stars
and other means.
8. Cloth Bandanna
This has multiple uses: head/neck scarf, filtering device, triangular bandage, sling, cordage, improvised bag, net, if 100% cotton can be used to make char cloth etc. An orange bandanna can also be used as a signaling device
If misfortune or accident should occur while on your day hike which makes it impossible to get back to civilisation before the sun goes down, you're going to want a good source of light - not only so you can see what you're doing to make survival preparations, but also to signal anyone trying to find you. LEDLENSER make excellent head torches and portable lights, such as the ML6 Lantern or any of the Outdoor Series headlamps like the MH8, both of which provide bright, long-lasting illumination.
10. Small Frist Aid Kit
This is personal choice but should carry any prescribed medicines for you or anyone in your group, items to deal with small cuts, scratches, bites and stings, iodine and alcohol preps, antiseptic ointment, a small vial of Condis Crystals
(Potassium Permangenate) and an assortment of needles including a cloth sail needle for kit repairs.
11. Dry Bag
A well made dry bag is a great addition to your kit when venturing out into the wilderness, as it can serve multiple functions. It can be used for waterproofing, as an extra water container or a general carry bag. OVERBOARD make excellent dry bags in a range of different sizes from a mere 5 litres up to a massive
60 litre capacity, however to keep the size of your equipment load down to a minimum, I'd recommend a 5-litre model as it folds down nicely for easy stowage in your daypack.
12. Small Bag/Pack
To carry all these items, you're going to need a sturdy and comfortable daypack.
Fjällräven have a number of durable bags and mini packs in their range, including the Kånken that these items will fit into nicely. The Kånken family packs are designed for easy carry and are made to last.
About the author: Gordon Dedman is the founder of Bushcraft Survival Australia (BSA), an outdoor bushcraft survival school dedicated to teaching genuine and authentic modern and traditional outdoor living skills through carefully designed
Gordon has trained at and completed numerous Survival and Bushcraft courses. Gordon is a former member of the Australian Army 1st Commando Regiment and is presently a survival instructor in NORFORCE, an Australian Army Reserve Regional Force Surveillance Unit (RFSU). NORFORCE conducts patrols in the remote areas of Northern Australia, working closely with Aboriginal communities and certifications worldwide at schools run by Paul Kirtley, Ray Mears, Dave Canterbury, Lofty Wiseman and Bob Cooper.