Building a Hunting Survival Kit: 15 Must-Have Items, and How-To

I have hunted a lot in my life. In fact, that is what I spent most of my time doing when I was growing up. Looking back on those years I realize I never carried a true survival kit. Although I did carry items on me that could be used as such. 

having a hunting survival kit is a must

As I became older, and through certain experiences, I realized that proximity to safety was a false sense of security and I really should have been carrying a survival kit. I have heard stories of woodsmen who have died during whiteout conditions when they were only one hundred yards from their cabin. They were so close to safety but they still perished. 

But some hunters venture out into truly remote locations where help can be extremely far away. For me, it does not matter if you are hunting on a friend’s farm, public land surrounded by country roads, or in a truly remote wilderness. You should always be carrying the essentials. 

Hunting Survival Kit: What To Include

Water Container and Filter 

how to make a water filter

A water container and a filter is a must. Hunting is physically taxing which means hydration is even more important than normal.

You can choose between a water bottle, canteen, metal cup, etc. but make sure you have a way of collecting and cleaning water.

I prefer a metal container because it gives the option of boiling water and the Sawyer Mini water filter has always worked well. 

Most people do not drink enough water as it is and I would venture a guess that many people are already dehydrated before evening setting foot on the trail. Get a head start and make sure that you are fully hydrated at the beginning of the hunting trip. 

Food 

Again, since hunting can be so physically taxing there should be a way of keeping your energy up. Freeze-dried meals are a great option because they are lightweight, easy to cook, and taste great.

But if you do not want to cook then at a minimum a variety of snacks should be packed. Trail mixes, nuts, emergency food bars, or whatever you like that is easy to carry and will help to keep energy levels up.

Fishing Kit 

Fishing supplies in hunter’s survival kit? That right, because in a survival situation food will need to be obtained from every possible source.

A fishing kit, even a robust one does not take up much space so I always recommend having one even if you do not plan on fishing.

At a minimum, pack a spool of fishing line and plenty of hooks. Additionally, fishing supplies can be used for gear repair and in other means of trapping.

Cordage 

Cordage is helpful for all sorts of things. From gear repair, shelter construction, making traps, to fishing, it uses are near endless. A hundred-foot hank of paracord is lightweight and doesn’t take up much space. 

First Aid 

Every survival kit needs first aid supplies. But as it pertains to hunters there are three things to think about. Usually, hunters are alone, they are a long way from help, and they travel by foot.

Pain management, controlling blood loss, and dealing with twists, sprains, and broken bones are things that should be known how to handle.  

Extra Ammunition 

There will be those that disagree with this recommendation and that is okay. There is no magic number I can suggest. Ammunition can be bulky and its weight adds up quickly. I know, been there done that. But it is my opinion that more ammunition should be taken than you think. 

I once knew an individual that would only take one round of ammunition when he went hunting. His philosophy was that if he couldn’t get what he was after with one round then his hunt was over. While I agree with this sentiment as it relates to honorable hunting it does nothing to help out in a worst-case scenario.

If no ammunition is available then the firearm becomes dead weight. As I mentioned I can’t say how much should be taken but at least take a handful more than what you think you will need. 

Clothing

Exposure to the elements will take us out quicker than not having water. Proper clothing should be worn that works best in the environment you are hunting in and an extra set of dry clothes including socks should be ideally packed. Do not forget rain gear! Being wet for prolonged periods is not only uncomfortable but can be a dangerous position to be in.

Check out our guide on the best survival boots you can buy.

Knife

This one almost goes without saying as I have never met a hunter who does not carry a knife. However, sometimes these knives tend to be on the smaller side or are skinning knives, which makes sense. I would add in a larger fixed blade knife. It does not have to be a huge knife, a four to the six-inch blade is about the perfect size.

Check out this guide if you are looking to buy a top-notch survival knife

Chopping Tool

Choppers are not highlighted much but they should be because they are an incredibly versatile strong tool.

Kind of like knives, what kind of chopping tool you should carry is a personal choice. Ax, tomahawk, hatchet, take your pick but pick one of them.

Just like there are tasks a chopping tool is not good at, there are tasks that a knife is not good at. But when paired together they form a strong partnership. 

Multi-tool 

Other than Swiss Army Knives, I did not use to concern myself with multi-tools. But I have come to love them. I found that a quality plier style multitool, like a Leatherman, is invaluable to have in the absence of other tools. Hunters carry gear and that gear will have to be maintained, adjusted, fixed, or cannibalized for other purposes. A multitool will make all of this possible and easier. 

Check out our top picks for the best multitool in the market

Blanket and Tarp

An additional item for keeping warm should also be packed. Mylar emergency blankets or space blankets work decently, are cheap, compact, and lightweight.

I like wool blankets. Yes, they are heavier but they are durable and still insulate well even when wet. Plus they can be used as a pillow, blanket, coat, sleeping pad, impromptu pack, and a temporary poncho. 

A tarp should also be packed to provide some protection as a temporary shelter. Tents are great but they are bulkier and can only be used as a tent whereas a tarp can have many uses.  

Fire 

No survival kit would be complete without a way to make fire.

Fire’s uses are many. It provides warmth, light, can be used for cooking, boiling water, making tools, signaling for help, and keeps insects and other unwanted guests at bay. There are many tools available for starting fires and everyone has their favorite method. Having said that, pack a butane lighter. In fact, pack several.

In a survival situation, you do not want to be messing around with bow drills and other slower methods. Other fire tools should be packed as well but as backups. A lighter should always be your number one fire starting tool. To make things even easier, do not forget to pack some tinder as well.

Check out the following guide on building a Survival Fire Kit

Navigation

best gps case

A physical, hard copy map of the region you will be in should always be packed as well as a compass.

Make sure you know how to use both and familiarize yourself with the map before setting out. GPS devices are more affordable and accurate than ever so if this is within your budget I would recommend one.  

Communication 

The easiest form of communication we all have is our smartphones. But depending on the region you will be in it may not work well or at all. If phone calls do not work try texting, email, and any other available avenues on the phone. These other methods can sometimes get through when calling will not. 

An emergency signal whistle is a great short distance communication device when help may be nearby. Some whistles can be heard up to two miles away. The JetStream and the HyperWhistle are two great examples. 

Signaling

I think that it goes without saying that most hunters wear camouflage or neutral-toned clothing to blend in with their environments. This is great for hunting but terrible for a survival situation. Rescue teams have a hard enough time trying to locate lost people, let alone ones that blend in with the surroundings. 

For this reason, it is a good idea to pack some items that could be used to signal for help. In the previous section, I mention emergency whistles which are great audio signals. Now, it is time for some visuals. Here are a few items to consider for this purpose.

  • Brightly colored marking tape 
  • Signal mirror 
  • Brightly colored t-shirt or bandanna 

Hunting Survival Kit at a Glance 

  1. Water container and filter 
  2. Food 
  3. Fishing Kit 
  4. Cordage 
  5. First-aid supplies 
  6. Extra ammunition 
  7. Clothing 
  8. Knife 
  9. Chopping Tool 
  10. Multitool 
  11. Blanket and Shelter 
  12. Fire 
  13. Navigation 
  14. Communication 
  15. Signaling 

Wrapping it Up

The above list of items is my personal choice for a hunting survival kit. The list is by no means perfect nor should be thought of as the only items that should be carried. But I believe the list is a good place to start and covers the basics without being overly difficult to haul.

Lastly, as with all outdoor adventures, make sure that you leave a detailed plan of the trip with someone you know. Should a hunting trip turn into a survival situation, this information could help in expediting a rescue.

Do you carry a survival kit or items that could be used as such while hunting? If so, sound off in the comment section below and lets us know your thoughts. Thanks for reading and stay prepared!



Bryan Lynch
Written by Bryan Lynch

Bryan grew up in the Midwest and spent every waking moment outdoors. Learning how to hunt, fish, read the land and be self-reliant was part of everyday life. Eventually he combined his passions for the outdoors, emergency preparedness, and writing. His goal was to spread positive information about this field. Recently, Bryan authored the book Swiss Army Knife Camping and Outdoor Survival Guide. Read more of Bryan's articles.

2 thoughts on “Building a Hunting Survival Kit: 15 Must-Have Items, and How-To”

  1. Bryan,
    What a very informative article. My husband and I hunt together on private property which gives us a false sense of being safe. Several items, fishing kit, clothing,blanket, shelter, extra ammo, communication and signaling, I have not thought about carrying. We do not have cell service and it would be quite a hike to go get help. There are big canyons and it would take a long time for anyone to find us. Thank you for bring to our attention what we are missing in our pack.

    Reply
  2. Article makes a lot of sense, small folding saw might not go amiss, but what you carry in your head is more important than what you carry on your back! Regards

    Reply

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