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Basic Essentials for Adventure and Preparedness

By Denis Korn

This list will give you suggestions for the very basic items required for outdoor recreation and emergency preparedness survival; especially if you must be mobile and respond quickly.  While this list covers most short term scenarios it is vital that you adjust these basics and perhaps add other items if your physical conditions or geography is extreme or possibly hostile.


An obvious necessity for everyone. Know what water sources are available to you during an emergency, or in the outdoors. Plan accordingly and don’t hold back preparing for this essential category.

Determine whether or not you want to purify water for viruses.  Not all water filters are designed for this purpose – look for water purifiers that specifically state that they will kill viruses.

Options include:

  • Filters and purifiers – hand pump and/or bottle design
  • Purification tablets – Chlorine Dioxide (no unpleasant taste and is effective against all microorganisms) is recommended
  • Appropriate containers
  • Specially packaged purified water in small sizes – 4 to 8 oz – with a 5 year shelf life


Numerous options are available. This category must be accessed carefully and the quality and quantity of foods chosen should be appropriate to the anticipated length of time of the emergency or outing, and severity of circumstances you anticipate might occur.  For shorter term scenarios foods in most situations should be nutritious and ready-to-eat; however you might want to consider some foods requiring only the addition of cold or hot water.  If you do need hot water you must plan for the appropriate means and equipment to heat your water.  Options listed have a longer shelf life and are suitably packaged for kits or backpacks.

Options include:

  • Food bars – generally two types – energy/protein bars that are available everywhere, and life raft bars (5 year shelf life bars consisting of primarily white flour and sugar)
  • Freeze-dried/dehydrated pouched meals – the kind used by backpackers
  • Canned – preferably small cans of meat, sardines, vegetable & bean dips
  • Ready-to-eat foods in flexible retort (precooked and shelf stable) foil pouches – examples include MRE’s (meals-ready-to-eat, military type rations), and other numerous retort foods available in supermarkets such as fish and meats, entrees, and side dishes


When your health and survival during a medical emergency is at stake, you don’t want to rely on cheap or inadequate medical supplies. This is an important category to thoughtfully evaluate. Don’t forget medications or products needed for those with special medical conditions.  If your pre-assembled kit doesn’t include one, make sure you get a good book on medical emergencies.

Options include:

  • Kits assembled by trusted and knowledgeable companies
  • Do-it-yourself kits assembled after careful evaluation


Protection from the elements and insects is essential, especially in a harsh climate.

Options include:

  • Proper clothing
  • Poncho
  • Emergency blanket/sleeping bag
  • Tarp/plastic sheet/large plastic trash bags


Numerous unforeseen situations or just routine conditions occur during an emergency or during an outdoor adventure. Be prepared and secure with the proper quality tool.

Options include:

  • Fire starter
  • Knife/multi-tool
  • Rope/twine
  • Compass/maps


It is important to keep informed during an emergency with friends, family, and appropriate governmental agencies and emergency organizations. When in an outdoor environment, unsettled weather considerations necessitate weather alert radios. Avoid a sense of isolation during serious emergencies.  If you get lost or are separated from your group signaling can be crucial.  Since electronic items are included in this category, you may want to consider a small solar power device.

Options include:

  • Radios – hand-cranked, solar, long life battery, two-way, weather-alert
  • Cell phone
  • Strobe light
  • PLB – personal locator beacon – used during life threatening circumstances, especially in remote locations
  • Whistle – very loud
  • Signal mirror
  • Pen/paper


This is an essential category to address when anticipating any situation where you may be in darkness. Not only for a sense of security and comfort, but to be able to see clearly and act accordingly if emergencies occur in the dark.

Options include:

  • Flashlight/small lantern/headlamp – hand-cranked, solar, battery – in an emergency situation you may want to consider a LED (light emitting diode) bulb device because of durability and long burning life with minimal power required
  • Candle
  • Light sticks

Personal protection

For some this may not be an essential basic category.  Each individual must decide the extent to which they will or will not provide protection for themselves and their families from physical harm by others or wild animals.

Options include:

  • Weapons
  • Tazer
  • Mace
  • Bear repellent

This article provides a very basic list of suggested items we believe are essential for emergency preparedness and outdoor recreation; especially if space, weight, and mobility are important.  For an expanded list of suggestions read our article Emergency Kit and Outdoor Recreation Essentials List.