This had been a very long running debate in the world of bush craft and survival. Many would agree, that a knife is of primary importance, but beyond that, there is little consensus as to what needs to be carried.
Naturally, this will be a case of each to his/her own. We believe however, that there are five items that are of absolute, paramount importance to wilderness living/survival. In other words, we believe these items to be practically indispensable.
1) Knife - The oldest and probably the most useful tool a man can own. Can be used for hunting, fire making, fishing, tool making, building traps, building shelter, clothes making and so much more.
2) Water vessel and baskets - Many societies have developed as a direct result of being able to create containers of all types. They can be used to store/cook/boil or gather food and water, making it safe for human consumption and more convenient to gather.
3) Ferrocerium rod/lighter/matches - Much more efficient and reliable than using other forms of ignition such as friction fires, focused solar energy or traditional flint and steel. A guaranteed form of ignition is truly a necessity when surviving in the wild. To see why fire is so important, please see our article "The importance of fire to wilderness living". Personally, we would recommend a large, military style ferro rod, usually with a manufacturer rating of at least 12,000 strikes (denoting its large size). This will, most likely, allow you to get hundreds, if not thousands of fire going, as compared to a lighter or matches, whose reliability can be sketchy, at best.
4) Cordage - Making cordage in the wild is often an involved and time consuming process. The likelihood is that you will never be able to replicate the quality or reliability, of man made synthetic cordage. Cordage can be useful in so many ways and is probably the greatest multi tool of all time (apart from a knife, obviously). We recommend either traditional 550 paracord or some braided synthetic cord, such as Dyneema.
5) BASHA or Tarp - Again, another very useful, multi purpose item that can indeed be a life saver. Use it to weatherproof a shelter, insulate yourself from the ground, use it as an emergency stretcher, use it for gathering water or food, game prep, weather protection for your fire or even using it to waterproof a small boat such as a coracle. There are many different options, but we suggest buying a lined version, designed to maximise the amount of body heat reflected, which subsequently traps more heat.
What have we overlooked? Many people would argue that other indispensable tools would include - an axe, saw, medical kit, hammock, tent, folding wood stove, machete, satellite phone, sleeping bag, bothy bag, water filter, flare gun, shot gun, AR15, spare inflatable boat, Jeeves the butler, etc.
Environment, climate and ability can all be deciding factors in choosing which tools to take. You can't be prepared for all situations, so being ready for the most commonly encountered problems makes sense.
We hope this has given you some good ideas and has got your outdoor juices flowing.
Get out there and enjoy!
We hope you have found this article useful!
The Bushgear Team