When planning any outdoor activity from a day-hike to a put-in-to-take-out canoe float trip to fishing out on a lake, it’s wise to always consider the possibility you might have to spend the night. It’s a very low probability, but it could happen. That’s why it’s smart to have a basic survival kit stowed in your pack or even your pocket.
“Survival kit” isn’t probably even the right term for it. “Comfort kit” would be a better, less intimidating choice.
In the Lower 48 states the vast majority of lost, uninjured hikers, hunters, etc. are located within 24 hours of when they are reported missing. So assuming you let a responsible person know when you were supposed to be back and the general location you were going to be, spending more than one unexpected night outdoors is highly unlikely.
Staying comfortable during that night is important because it keeps you and your companions from panicking — which is the worst possible thing you can do. When you have determined you’ll be spending the night, find a location where you can stay dry and out of the wind. Clear an area where it’s safe to build a fire and gather plenty of nearby dry wood to burn.
A campfire is your best friend because it will keep you warm … and frankly, it keeps you company. Focusing on a fire is a great way to stay calm – again avoiding your worst enemy – panic. Fire is also a terrific signal to those who will be looking for you. Both night and day it acts as a beacon and something out of place that attracts attention quickly.
Since starting a fire is so important if you spend an unanticipated night outdoors, woods-wise veterans recommend carrying a comfort kit that includes at least three ways to make a fire. That way, if one or even two fail you, there’s still another to fall back on. Redundancy gives you confidence, and confidence repels panic.
For conserving space, easy carry, light weight and simplicity, you can’t beat these choices:
- A lighter (filled with fuel).
- Waterproof/windproof matches in a watertight match safe.
- A ferro rod and carbon steel striker.
You’ll get your fire started fastest if you also bring along your own tinder. That can be waxed wood shreds, cotton balls, or even lint from the clothes dryer. Whichever you choose takes up no space and weighs virtually nothing.
That’s your basic comfort kit. Adding to it is great – most folks do – but this will get you through the night, and that’s really all you need to do!