The Survival Gear You Want When Things Go Wrong in the Backcountry

Critical survival gear all capable for motion.Jeff Wilson“Don’t run to your death” is a prevalent Navy SEAL announcing that grew to grow to be into intended for the battlefield, then again it works pretty smartly in the backcountry too. The concept here, of course, is that taking matters slowly and methodically will maintain you out of trouble—and maintain you alive.It’s true: Most bad cases in the desert can be resolved with no tool other than common sense.But some risks can’t be avoided, no be counted how a great deal logic and caution we apply. Bears cost.

Mountain storms brew in an instant. Hunting friends get grew to become around. Accidents happen.And while they do, this is the gear that you’re going to desire stashed in your backpack, buckled to your hip, or strapped to your chest.Bushcraft KnivesTops Fieldcraft 3.5Tops Fieldcraft 3.5 • Price: $145Jeff WilsonBlade Length: 3.75 in • Overall : 8.25 in. Steel: 1095 • Handle: Tan canvas Micarta Weight: 5.5 ounces • Price: $145You can do all forms of things with a sensible bushcraft knife: hone a spear, strike up a fire, or dispatch a charging boar. But in reality, you’re going to use one of these blades to carve and baton wood for hearth and shelter. You’re also going to use it to chop the random heavy stuff that your pocketknife can’t handle.

For mild carving tasks, you need surgical sharpness. For brute-force chores, you desire durability. So, to test this field of bushcraft blades, I ran them through a battery of three tests: First, I batoned hardwood into 20 pieces of kindling; then I hacked away at whitetail antlers to verify durability; and finally, I carved a feather stick to move to simply how accurately the knife may tackle after the use and abuse. To be successful in these different tasks, either bushcraft knife crucial the proper metal and aspect geometry.When the paintings changed into done, Tops Fieldcraft became into the clean winner. Lean and lightweight, this knife has a slender profile even however it’s made from the thickest knife stock in our test neighborhood (4 mm).

The grip is nice, and the brownish-tan Micarta handle scales are perfectly shaped. As for the sheath, there’s a lot to be talked about for the effective click that comes from locking your blade into Kydex. It might not appearance as “bushcrafty,” however who cares?

It was the most faithful sheath in the field.This graceful blade, with a classic Scandi grind part and black traction coating, made brief work of the kindling. It also chopped into the antler for 10 tough hits without maintaining any harm or massive dulling. When it came time to carve the feather stick, the grind didn’t allow me down. This knife turn into the best all-purpose bushcraft blade in the group.Morakniv Garberg Morakniv Garberg • Price: $110Jeff WilsonBlade Length: 4.3 in. • Overall: 9 in. • Steel: Carbon steel • Weight: 9.6 ounces • Sheath: Leather or black Multi-Mount • Price: $110 • knife became into robust, but now not so heavy that it felt unwieldy. I opted for the Multi-Mount sheath kit for versatility. This MOLLE-compatible kit permits for many carrying alternatives, and it corrects an old Morakniv problem—sheath retention. This system has a strap that wraps over the handle to comfortable the knife. My best complaint changed into that the tackle fabric felt jarring against my hand. In the antler chop, the knife bit in deeply and suffered no harm after 10 hard strikes.

The traditional facet profile carved curly wooden shavings with minimum effort.Gerber Spine Gerber Spine • Price: $40Jeff WilsonBlade Length: 3.7 in. • Overall: 8.4 in. • Steel: 7Cr17MoV Weight: 6.6 ounces • Sheath: Green glass-filled nylon Price: $40The Spine’s contemporary constituents and atypical sheath are pretty much futuristic in appearance, yet this knife has a traditional profile and feels familiar. It’s also the most low cost knife in our check.

I enjoyed the handle correct away—it’s so grippy and comfy, and I became pleasantly surprised via how it conducted.

The Spine batoned well, and its rubber grip become the greatest at ease to paintings with. In the antler chop, the aspect picked up a few minor chips. If you’re shopping for an economical, do-it-all bushcraft knife, the Spine is tough to beat.Buck Compadre Buck Compadre • Price: $125Jeff WilsonBlade Length: 4.5 in. • Overall: 9.5 in. • Steel: 5160 spring steel • Weight: 7.1 ounces • Sheath: Black leatherThe Compadre is a hollow-ground drop-aspect knife, making it fairly various from the other blades in this field. It has a black Cerakote Cobalt coating, and the canvas Micarta tackle scales are well-contoured, comfortable, and grippy without feeling rough. It passed the baton check with flying colors. It was the best knife for that task, even even though it caused the coating to flake off. Unfortunately, it suffered the worst harm in the antler chop—there were at least six spots on the part with damage, adding chipping and rolling.Helle WabakimiHelle Wabakimi • Price: $160Jeff WilsonBlade Length: 3.3 in. • Overall: 7.9 in. • Steel: Triple-laminated stainless • Weight: 4.8 ounces Sheath: Brown leather“Gorgeous” is the easiest way to describe this knife. The curly birch handle is a element of beauty, as is the brightly polished stainless blade. It elements a three-quarter tang that is automatically fastened to the birch address with two beefy brass pins and a small brass tube, which acts as a lanyard hole. The polished blade skated through the baton paintings, well splitting the kindling. On the chop check, the Wabakimi did exhibit a couple of spots of harm from the 10 aggressive moves opposed to the antler, but it still carved up the feather stick nicely.Chest-Rig HolstersNorthwest Retention Systems ScoutNorthwest Retention Systems Scout • $150; $70 extra shellJeff WilsonThere are a number of methods to carry handguns in the backcountry, each with its pros and cons. Chest rigs have the competencies of being ready to ride under and self sufficient of a pack, keeping the handgun with you, and accessible, at all times.I use chest rigs both at the same time as hunting and fishing in bear country. The most constructive wonderful downside is that they don’t work great with bino harnesses—even though there are a few hybrid rigs that combine the two pieces.The Scout from Northwest Retention Systems positions the handgun in the middle of the chest with the grip canted at a 45-degree angle. Adjusted correctly, the three-point harness snugs the holster tight opposed to the body, preventing it from moving around.I have Kydex shells for both a Glock G20 and a Smith & Wesson 629 for my Scout. They are convenient to change out, and either do an dazzling task of keeping the handgun secure at the related time as allowing for a smooth, easy draw. The level of retention can be altered by means of tensioning screws on the shells. Most Scout holsters come with this feature.The Scout can be ordered in varied configurations offering alternative-colored straps, buckles, shell interior, and exterior, and they’re ready to accommodate guns with different sight heights, weapon lights, and red-dots.All accessories on the Scout are outfitted to continue to exist the elements. The stainless-steel hardware, Cordura straps, Resolene-coated leather, and polymer buckles will stand up in fairly plenty any environment.Gunfighters Inc. Kenai Chest Holster Gunfighters Inc. Kenai Chest Holster • $150Jeff WilsonThis well-designed accessories is one of the maximum comfy and comfy for sporting a handgun in the backcountry. The huge straps distribute the weight of the firearm across the back and chest, and the easy-to-adjust straps snug the gun firmly opposed to the body, disposing of excess movement.The best of the shell for my S&W 329 PD, and the amount of retention it provided, change into top-notch. The Kenai doesn’t come with tension-adjustment controls, in spite of this in this case they weren’t needed.

The Kenai shall we you draw and reholster the firearm smoothly and smoothly.

When ordering one, there are myriad tradition options to decide on from so you can tailor the rig to your true needs.Blackpoint Tactical Outback Blackpoint Tactical Outback • $140Jeff WilsonThis is the maximum minimum of the Kydex-holster chest rigs. The Outback has a unmarried buckle to attach and remove the holster, compared with three on the other systems. The straps—made of a fabric known as Ultracomp, which is durable and abrasion-resistant—are narrower than those of the other chest rigs here.Because of the thin straps, I discovered the Outback wasn’t as at ease to wear for multiplied categories of time. And whilst it did a sensible activity of securing the holster in the center of the chest, it had pretty more play than the other systems. Nonetheless, I became in a position to draw and reholster my G20 with ease, bringing the pistol into movement without a hiccup.Viking Tactics Big Rig Viking Tactics Big Rig • $90Jeff WilsonThe nylon pouch on the Big Rig comes in two flavors—one for a semi-auto, the other for a revolver. The prevalent fit offers it more flexibility than Kydex molded holsters, permitting the user to switch between handgun varieties more smoothly.

But in order to draw the firearm, the shooter need to unsnap a FastTech buckle on the retention strap, adding a step to the process.To preserve the holster in place, the Big Rig has an additional drop strap that hooks into a belt loop, preventing it from flopping around.Molle webbing on the holster lets the user attach extra items, such as a mag pouch. The Big Rig also has belt loops so that it can be worn on the hip if desired.A left-handed version will soon be convenient.Hill People Gear Heavy Recon Kit Bag Hill People Gear Heavy Recon Kit Bag • $115Jeff WilsonThis chest pouch has a rear compartment that closes with a zipper, in which the user can preserve a handgun. Typically, I preserve the strong-hand aspect of the pouch unzipped so I can get my hand on the gun quickly if necessary.For maximum protection, I blended the Kit Bag with a Fricke Zacchaeus holster ($28) that snaps onto the cause shield of my G20.

The holster has a lanyard that can be tied off to a loop in the bag. When the pistol is yanked unfastened of the bag, the holster slips off the trigger safeguard.This bag is supercomfortable to wear and has the added utility of a front compartment that can be configured with pouches and Molle-compatible accessories.Assemble an IFAKForget Band-Aids—this is the individual first-aid kit you definitely needJeff WilsonIf you spend adequate time around firearms or edged tools, faster or later you are likely to see an individual get shot, sliced, or stabbed. Here’s what a former U.S. Special Forces medic recommends wearing in case it happens. You may just keep that person’s life.An emergency trauma dressing (ETD) or “Israeli dressing” is a gauze pad sewn to an elastic wrap that shall we you cinch the dressing tight opposed to a wound. It is an most suitable pressure dressing nevertheless is also versatile adequate to be used on any wound. Once you have packed a wound, a pressure dressing facilitates keep the gauze in place. The last thing you desire is for the wound packing to work its way loose and have the bleeding begin again. Although available in 4- and 6-inch versions, we find the 4-inch size more valuable in civilian trauma. Both PerSys and NAR sell good ETDs.Applied correctly, a tourniquet provides direct force around the circumference of a limb. Though basically a hundred % beneficial on an arm, a unmarried tourniquet might be best 70 percent valuable at stopping blood glide on a thigh, which is why I put forward sporting at least two in an IFAK. Two tourniquets implemented facet by manner of facet on a thigh can be 80 percent positive.

I opt for NAR Combat Application Tourniquets because evidence accumulated from the field exhibits they work the best.

No commercial tourniquet has been shown to paintings better.Gunshot wounds to the chest bleed little externally. Medical specialists debate whether they desire to be “sealed.” Sucking chest wounds, even if dramatic, are now not necessarily life-threatening. If you include chest seals in your IFAK, you want one that will allow air out, or is “vented.” Russell chest seals conducted easiest in a fresh study.Disposable nitrile gloves are the easiest coverage from blood-borne diseases. Light-colored gloves are optimal on account that blood is not as visual on darker ones.Individuals in surprise from blood loss all of a sudden change into hypothermic. Also, it is critical to remember that cold blood does not clot. An cost-effective space blanket is the best option in a small kit.This is a 6-inch wood dowel with a 3/8-inch diameter. If you craft an improvised tourniquet with a cravat (visit No. 10), use the dowel as a windlass to tighten it down and cease the bleeding.Technically referred to as a nasopharyngeal airway, this soft tube can be located thru the nose to help a casualty breathe better. A water-soluble lubricant makes insertion easier. If you don’t have a nose hose, the average Red Cross head tilt and chin lift that is taught in classic CPR classes can aid open the airway.Having safety shears to cut away apparel and reveal a wound is helpful. You can do this with a knife nevertheless chance cutting your victim. Shears come in 5- or 7-inch sizes. Either is fine for this kit.The classic military triangular bandage, or cravat, is made of muslin cotton. It is a multiuse medical item that can be employed as a sling or an improvised tourniquet, or to secure splints, range a force dressing, or create a tight bandage over a gauze-packed wound. Military cravats are made of improved material and are of higher first-class than their competitively priced civilian counterparts.The safety pin has been a versatile piece of equipment for more than 150 years. Each military cravat comes with two.For junctional injuries in the neck, groin, or armpit, which are too top for a tourniquet, you will want to pack the wound. This involves forcing gauze deep into the wound at the point of bleeding. Although basic cotton gauze works, hemostatic gauze, which is impregnated with an agent that encourages blood clotting, can be more valuable.

Of the commercially on hand hemostatic gauzes, Combat Gauze has the most evidence supporting its use. In my Army Special Forces career, we robotically packed massive junctional wounds with cost effective cotton Kerlix gauze. Studies show this works just as smartly as hemostatic gauzes if you understand what you are doing. I put forward sporting at least two rolls, which I’ll often pull out of their personal packaging and vacuum-seal together. Unfortunately, you can go thru a lot of gauze packing a wound. If you can find the money for to add Combat Gauze to your IFAK, I’d recommend it.Make certain the bag suits all the accessories you desire to include and mark it with red so it is convenient to identify in an emergency. This Condor Rip-Away EMT pouch is one I like to use.GPS & Satellite DevicesFrom Left to Right: Garmin inReach Mini, Garmin GPSMAP 66i, Iridium Go!, and SpotX Communicator.Jeff WilsonGarmin inReach Mini • $350The Mini from Garmin combines GPS mapping and navigation with satellite text-message communication.

It also has an emergency SOS button that will summon rescue services to any place you are. The GPS mapping and messaging functioned perfectly here in Alaska (extreme latitudes can sometimes be trickier for satellite gadgets), and it also functioned smartly on the other aspect of the globe at the identical time as I validated it on a hunt in South Africa. The unit is ruggedly built and can smoothly clip onto your backpack or be stowed for ready get entry to.

True to its name, this thing is tiny—it weighs best 3.5 ounces. The unit is designed to be used thru your telephone by the use of Bluetooth for all applications, notwithstanding it does have a small display, so classic purposes and SOS can be conducted manually inside the unit if you lose or drown your phone.

You must acquire a records plan thru Garmin, and an app on your telephone presents you get entry to to mapping, navigation, and verbal exchange.

As a default, both text message you send is followed through a pin dropped on a topo map to the recipient. The battery will final for more than a week if used sparingly. The inReach Mini is most desirable for backpack hunters who want to utilize basic GPS purposes and navigation along with two-manner communication.Garmin GPSMAP 66i • $600inReach era, which enables you to use satellite conversation through your cell phone anywhere in the world, is one of the best improvements to hit the backcountry inside the beyond decade. These gadgets have stored lives and given many family participants peace of mind. The 66i is the first Garmin to utilize inReach technology in a more basic, full-length GPS unit.The 66i’s predecessor, the inReach Explorer, had a undemanding GPS screen, even so it wasn’t as built as top-end GPS devices.

This unit is most efficient for individuals who aren’t involved approximately weight and need a committed GPS unit with a significant reveal at the comparable time as also having the benefit of satellite verbal exchange.

I’d love one of the ones fastened on my boat console at the comparable time as running remote rivers in Alaska. The inReach text and SOS applications are well-nigh the same as the Mini’s, and the 66i also interfaces with your telephone by the use of Bluetooth, nonetheless it uses different apps. Aside from messaging, you won’t desire to use your phone as tons with this unit because the buttons and menus are convenient to navigate on the unit itself. You can download a variety of maps at home and then use them in the field. The 66i truly shines whilst it comes to tracking, marking waypoints, and navigation purposes.Iridium Go! • $900 Iridium has the acceptance here in Alaska as being the maximum dependable satellite network for communique.

Its satphones are the most constructive ones you will find here in the bush (in fact, the inReach gadgets also paintings on this dependable network).

For traveling outdoorsmen and -women, however, the usual satellite phone is effortlessly changing into outdated, and Iridium is keeping up with the times by means of its new Go! unit.This is a satellite communicator that permits you to use your iPhone or Android as a satphone, and you can even use it as a text or calling hotspot for multiple gadgets.

You can also send and obtain email, and post to some social media platforms. Just are expecting calls to have identical audio excellent and hold up as with any satellite telephone.

While trying out the unit in Alaska, I found it to be intuitive and perfectly functional. As with other communicators, the Iridium Go! has an outside SOS button, which will send an emergency signal and start off a rescue to your place.

The Go! is a bit larger than greatest two-manner texting communicators (at 10.6 ounces, it’s about the weight of a commonplace satphone), on the other hand if conversation in the backcountry is what you in fact desire, this unit is the manner to move.SpotX Communicator • $250Spot grew to change into into one of the early names in satellite verbal exchange, providing a way to send prewritten messages, vicinity tracking, and emergency indications in a package that became a lot more affordable than a satphone. These devices were groundbreaking, then again one-manner conversation is now outdated. So the new SpotX is a welcome upgrade for backcountry hunters.Like the other units, it interfaces with your telephone by means of an app, supports two-way text messaging, posts to a few social media platforms, and has an emergency SOS-signal characteristic.

The SpotX is slender and lightweight, expenditures with a normal mini USB cord, and aspects a BlackBerry-like manual keyboard, which makes composing messages on the unit itself rather a bit easier. Your text messages are accompanied with a coordinate link to your actual region, so your enjoyed ones can tune you. Coverage is everywhere excluding satellite dead zones, and I was in a position to use it reliably on a hunt in South Africa. SpotX uses the Globalstar satellite network; in testing, it appeared to be somewhat slower than the Iridium network, nevertheless I didn’t have any messages fail to send. This is an low cost option for folks who now and again task into the wilderness but still desire to send messages back domestic.GPS WatchesLeft: Suunto Traverse Alpha; Right: Casio Pro Trek WSD-F30RGJeff WilsonSuunto Traverse Alpha • $349Smartwatches aren’t just for counting your steps—there are a few exceptional watches on the industry with legitimate satellite GPS purposes.

The Traverse Alpha is one of the front-runners, from a logo that has a attractiveness for generating rugged yet feature-rich accessories.

This watch has first-class components, including a composite housing and a knurled, stainless-steel bezel (which is the area that takes most of the abuse on any watch).

The canvas wrist strap provides a secure grip that isn’t clammy like some watches with rubber bands. The demonstrate features a night-vision-compatible backlight and flashlight, and you can easily cycle through the basic function monitors for time, barometer, compass, and elevation. It interfaces with your telephone by means of an app, so you can song exercises and health stats, as well as lay a tune on a map. The reveal on the watch itself doesn’t show topographical elements, having spoke of that you can easily set waypoints, tracks, and navigate to waypoints employing simply the watch, which is convenient while you drop your pack for an evening stalk in the mountains. The battery will final a long time on classic applications, notwithstanding tracking eats up the cost more effortlessly.

The watch is juiced up through a proprietary charger, so you’ll doubtless want to order a spare.Casio Pro Trek WSD-F30RG • $550This smartwatch from Casio brings a lot of aspects to the backcountry, adding a durable, dual-layer LCD color touchscreen and a large number of alternatives for show settings. The watch syncs with your telephone by way of an app, and additional apps can be downloaded to the watch itself. It also elements a outfitted-in microphone for voice-activating apps and controls while you want to move full James Bond mode. The watch comes with a barometer, a compass, and other basic purposes you’d are expecting in any smartwatch made for the barren region.

But it also features complex path tracking, which contains detailed, downloadable maps on the watch itself (no longer simply thru an app on your phone), so you can in reality use this component to navigate. It’s also great for recording workout stats as smartly as hiking routes and waypoints. With so many facets jammed into such a small kit, getting used to the functionality takes some time. The most advantageous exact trap is the quick battery life. On the upside, it can be set to battery-saver mode, in which you can predict a week or more out of a cost.

But whilst you begin jogging the more advanced functions, you’ll desire to cost the watch each and every day. The Pro Trek also uses a proprietary magnetic charging cord, which is cool—just don’t lose it.