Any adventure in the outdoors could potentially turn into a survival situation. Lose a paddle, get lost, encounter bad weather or sustain an injury and you might be stranded outside for a night or longer. When Murphy’s Law kicks your ass, a survival kit with a few basic tools will help you roll with the punches.
To remember the items you’ll need to survive an unplanned overnighter, use your ultimate goal as an acronym: B.A.C.K. H.O.M.E.
8 Essential Survival Tools to Carry on Your Kayak
1 Blaze and Burn
Fire separates man from the wild, producing heat that can provide warmth, cook food, disinfect water and boost morale. Store a lighter and a pack of matches as well as effective tinder, such as cotton balls coated in petroleum jelly or tufts of lint from your dryer, in a waterproof container. For extra insurance, add a sparking device, such as a ferrocerium rod or magnesium fire starter, which can spark even after submersion.
2 All-Weather Blanket
Shelter is most important for fighting off hypothermia, a serious threat for a castaway. An all-weather blanket can be used as a roof, a floor or a sleeping bag and it folds up to fit in a pocket. Shiny Mylar reflects heat to keep a victim warm and the brightly colored material makes a highly visible signalling device.
Carry at least 30 feet of 550 parachute cord. This versatile material can be used in a number of ways, including lashing together a shelter, setting a snare or even making a tourniquet. The seven inner strands can be removed to use as fishing line or sewing thread.
A high-quality knife is an invaluable tool. I use a four-inch, fixed blade knife with a full tang, which means the metal in the blade runs all the way through the handle. Look for a glass-reinforced nylon handle with a stainless steel bar that will cut through anything and double as a wedge or pry bar.
A waterproof headlamp will provide hands-free light through the night and its strobe function can be used to signal for help. Look for a lamp with a red lens cover to protect night vision and a low-power setting to preserve the battery.
6 Orienteering Tools
GPS is great until the battery dies or the signal is lost. A topographical map of the area, mirrored sighting compass and the knowledge to use the two should ensure you always know where you are. If you do become lost, remain in place until help arrives. The acrylic mirror on the compass can be used to signal rescuers during the day.
7 Metal Canteen
Most people cannot survive more than three days without water. A durable, stainless steel water bottle will store and carry fresh water. It can even be used to boil water.
8 Emergency Signal
Anything a victim can do to draw attention to his location will aid rescuers. Tether a pealess marine whistle to your PFD and carry flagging tape, signal flares and a battery-operated strobe light. After all, the first priority in any survival situation is rescue.
Fire separates man from the wild, producing heat that can provide warmth, cook food, disinfect water and boost morale. | Feature photo: Jack Richland