10 things that could save your life in the wild
Adventure entails risk and when it comes to survival; these ten things are an absolute must to have in your travel kit. This isn't an exhaustive list but the very minimum you should take with you when venturing outdoors. The worst thing to do is to be careless—even after so many years of literally being in the woods, I would never leave home without them.
Source of fire
A matchbox (weather proof/water proof/ storm proof is best), lighter, magnifying glass (can be used to burn dry leaves or papers under bright sun), flint stone, few extra strips of matchbox strike edge etc and few small pieces of dry wood. Almost anything can be used for burning, but starting a fire is the most important step. I normally carry high quality long wax-coated matchsticks (wrapped in double plastic), a box of matchstick heads and a storm proof lighter.
Source of light
A headlamp with at least one spare bulb and fuse and several sets of spare batteries in a watertight pack. During normal operation configure headlamp for optimum battery usage. A smaller back up headlamp is advisable.
A standard 16 function Victorinox Swiss Knife will get you through nearly all possible emergencies. Among other things it has a tiny screw driver, tweezers, scissors, bottle opener, pen and a pin.
A real lifeline when you need one. Always carry a 5m long regular six-eight mm rope that can be used for webbings or as runners. A rope has so many applications that your own mind and imagination is the limit.
A prismatic compass with embedded spirit level for determining true horizontal is recommended. It is invaluable for finding general directions to the nearest road, habitation, river, hill ridges etc anything that can get you back to safety. In a real emergency your first concern is to return to a recognizable landmark from where eyeball navigation will lead you to safety.
Source of Food
This is only for survival situations and not for regular consumption during the trip. Include food items with a high mass to calorie ratio, which are easy to carry, needs no preparation and are enough to sustain you for the first 48 hrs. I prefer chewy bars with nuts and raisins, glucose cubes, lump of butter, cheese, peanuts, dehydrated fruit bars etc. Please remember that these are not to be consumed otherwise and if nothing happens then they should return home along with you.
Go for a clean, sturdy and large (you should be able to pack in your upper or lower half into it with room to move) polythene bag of at least 50 microns thickness. Carry two or three such packets. This has multiple usages like collecting and storing water, catching moisture or melting snow, insulation, rain shelter, floatation etc.
A sturdy plastic whistle is better than a metallic one. Ideally, the Swiss-knife and whistle should be tied in one string which is always around your neck or waist. Go for a high pitched whistle and all the members in the team should ideally carry the same sounding whistles (if not then do get acquainted with the different sounds). Within a team you can also devise a whistling system in case of emergencies to call out for help.
Toilet Paper Roll
I discourage use of toilet paper in outdoors since water is better no matter how cold; even soft snow is a good substitute. But do carry a small roll for real emergencies.
Small Medical Pouch
Basic stuff like medicated tape, water purifying tablets, pills for common ailments like stomach infections, fever, headache and body-ache, clean cotton balls, small plaster roll, pain relief spray etc. This is over and above the medical items that you will carry as a part of normal group gear.
In an emergency your best bet is your common sense with which you can use these things in multiple situations. Chances are you will never face an emergency but if you do; stay calm enjoy the experience, apply your basic human instincts, and you will survive.