Sensational TV programs chronicling the spastic antics of so-called survival experts have pumped a great amount of phony survival information into the American brain.

These shows have promoted the idea that survival situations begin with the “victim” falling out of an airplane and landing on a deserted island with nothing but a large knife. The host then endures a number of misadventures, only to be saved by the well-timed discovery of a freshly killed zebra that’s been left behind by a lion.

In real life, survival situations don’t play out this dramatically. Instead, they begin when you wander away from your car or truck thinking that you’re going for a quick hike on a day’s hunt. Then you get injured or lost, and things go to hell.

The key to surviving these situations isn’t finding carrion or wringing water from a pile of animal dung; instead, it is proper planning and packing.  Besides logging your starting point with a hand-held GPS unit, a responsible hunter maintains a basic kit of essentials that he always keeps handy, either in a pack or a hip pocket, whenever straying away from a vehicle or other point of departure.

A good kit is not comprised exclusively of emergency survival material, as it should also contain a wide variety of small tools and materials that come in handy on a daily basis. Nor should a kit be static. I customize my kit before every trip, so that it’s always fine-tuned for the particular conditions that I’m likely to encounter. On a wintertime trip in the far north, for instance, there’s no need to let insect repellent take up space in my kit when an extra canister of fire-starting paste is way more appropriate.

A basic hunting kit for overnight ventures. Weighs under two pounds when loaded for several nights afield. Fits easily inside a hip cargo pocket or pack lid.
A: OR Backcountry Organizer, size medium.
B: Driver bits for basic firearm/bow/outboard engine repairs and adjustments;
compatible with the ¼” driver on a SOG multi-tool.
C: Black Diamond headlamp
D: SOG Dark Energy 240-lumen flashlight
E: Insect repellant wipes, Benadryl, Tylenol, Chapstick, lens cleaning towelette,
antibiotic ointment
F: Resealable waterproof envelope for adhesive bandages, gauze, alcohol prep
wipes, etc.
G: Adhesive bandages and gauze pads
H: wipes
I: Dental floss with heavy duty needle tucked inside container
J: Toothpaste and collapsible toothbrush
K: Fishing kit: A chewing tobacco container containing a few flies, split shot
and 20 ft of 6 lb test.
L: Spare batteries to fit flashlight, headlamp, GPS, and rangefinder
M: Waterproof matches in airtight container
N: Lighter wrapped with emergency supply of duct tape
O: Fire starting paste
P: Havalon Piranta and extra blades
Q: Snare Shop Survival Snare
R: 25 feet of 4 mm utility cord
S: Zipties
T: Suunto Compass