10 Items You Need to Survive in the Wilderness

Courtney Wirth/Thrillist
Courtney Wirth/Thrillist

If you can’t take a seasoned survivalist with you to the wilderness, take the next best thing -- his stuff.  We spoke to last-man-standing Alan Kay, winner of the HISTORY'S original reality series Alone, which sends 10 expert survivalists into the forests of Canada armed only with 10 tools of their choosing. To help you make it the wild, Alan talks about the 10 items he picked and why you should pick the same… that is if you want to actually survive for 56+ days like he did.

1. A large 2qt cooking pot

Surprise -- you need water to survive and a pot in which to purify and boil it. According to Alan, a pot is one of the top three things a survivalist should bring, if not the most important. While boiled lake water probably won’t taste great, it definitely beats a crippling case of giardia.

Alan Says: “To improvise a metal pot would be almost impossible. There are ways you can do it, but it would involve so much more energy and it wouldn't be efficient."

2. A handy saw

Used for more than potentially freeing a limb while stuck between a rock and a hard place, the saw is pretty great for shorter excursions into the wilderness, due to its lightweight nature, precision, and unlikelihood of causing accidental bodily harm.

Alan Says: “If you’re fatigued, you can use it instead of swinging around a sharp object. It’s less likely to cause any injury.” During his sojourn into the forests of Canada, Alan used the saw mostly to build his shelter and cut logs down to a size where he could split them into smaller pieces for firewood -- something you might be doing almost daily if you’re roughing it.

3. An insulated sleeping bag

While you could technically make it without a sleeping bag, why would you want to? Not only does it provide insulation, you’re protecting yourself from the wet, cold ground. Bring a mat to put under that sleeping bag and you're practically living in woodland luxury.

4. A chop-it-all axe

All ten contestants took the ax with them to the perpetually rainy woodlands of Vancouver Island, but it’s a pretty solid choice whether you’re sweating it out in the rainforest or eating frog legs in boggy swamplands. The ax is a survivalist essential for every terrain, and unlike the saw, can be sharpened and looks badass when paired with giant blue draught animals.

Alan Says: “It’s quick and easy, albeit heavy. An axe would enable you to process bigger wood than you would would with a saw or a knife.”

Courtney Wirth/Thrillist

5. A spark-producing ferro rod

A ferro rod is also one of the top three items a survivalist should carry at all times. It’s a hunk of metal -- the man-made ferrocerium -- that produces a shower of sparks when scraped against a hard surface, usually a knife. While it does take a little bit of practice to use, a ferro rod is better than the alternative: depending on energy-consuming neolithic methods, like rubbing sticks together or cave magic.

Alan Says:  “I can make a fire through other methods, but because it’s such a wet environment up there -- they measure their rain in feet instead of inches -- I just felt like having a really solid way to get a spark would be a wise decision, especially because I would need fire on an almost daily basis."

6. A multi-purpose metal water bottle or canteen

A canteen can be used for a host of different things -- not just staying hydrated. You can use it to cook in a pinch, especially if the canteen is stainless steel or aluminum. You can boil water in it to carry your supply from one place to another, gather food, or even dig with it if you've totally lost your mind.

7. A small gauge gill net for creating an emergency food supply

A gill net is like a large volleyball net that can be set up and left unattended as you go about your day-to-day survival tasks. Dumb-as-hell fish swim right into the thing, catching themselves. Not only is it less effort than real fishing, important when you’re trying not to burn any precious calories, but it can also be used as a snare to catch wild game.

Alan Says: “I found that more more passive methods, such as the gill net and fish traps made out of bottles and things, yielded food on a daily basis pretty much.”

Courtney Wirth/Thrillist

8. A versatile knife

Joining the pot and the ferro rod in the group of top three most important things to have in a survival situation is a knife -- and not just any sharp blade will do. Alan chose the kukri knife for its ability to perform out of proportion to its size. It’s thick and heavy enough to split wood like a hatchet or a machete, but if you keep it sharp, a kukri knife is also able to do some very fine work, like cleaning fish or carving spoons, just in case you're expecting company and really want some spoons.

Alan Says: “I always think in terms of what if i was injured? With a knife like that, I’d still be able to use one hand if my other hand was in a sling."

9. A 3.5lb wire for “hey, I might need this…”

Alan was the only person who ended up taking the wire. It’s the type of thing that you might overlook until you really need it. It could help with anything from building snares to trap game or in shelter-building.

Alan Says: “My thought process in taking it was that wire would be very hard to improvise in nature. And it would be so durable and there are so many different things that I can do with it.”

10. A 300yd single filament line with 25 assorted hooks for fishing

Alan didn’t need to use this item as much, because the gill net didn’t require as much of his time and energy. However, and this is a big however, it’s a good backup, especially if you know your location has a fishy bounty. More importantly, a gill net that catches fish en masse is illegal in most places, and is only to be used in emergency survival situations... like if you've been lost for 10 minutes or something.

Click here to see what this season's survivalists on Alone are packing, and check out season 2, premiering April 21st.