A survival knife is just one of the essentials help you in the wild

When you head off the grid, it is always important to have the right equipment, so you are fully prepared, whether it’s your best air rifle or hunting knife. But always be sure you have the essentials, as they can help you out when it’s a matter of life and death – not that it should ever come to that.

Three experts in the US put together nine essential items you should bring with you when you head off on a wilderness expedition. Suzie Hockmeyer is a wilderness and whitewater guide based in Maine; Paul Kimbrough is a professional downhill mixed with cross-country skier and avid rock climber, and Jack Towt is a canyoneering, rock climbing and mountain biking guide based in Utah, near Zion National Park. The three came together to decide on the basics everyone should bring. Of course, the season and the location of your off-the-grid trip play a part in what to bring, but the essentials are as follows:


Rather than a tent, wilderness pros prefer the use of a tarp. It is lighter, takes up less room in a backpack, and is also much more adaptable to various terrain than a tent is. Just a good tarp and rope can make a pretty good shelter that packs up really well.

Sleeping bag

You need to have a good night’s sleep and be comfortable when you do, as you are very active when out in the wild. Getting a good sleeping bag is ideal, and it is best to splash out a bit to get a good one.

The right clothes

Like the sleeping bag, getting the right clothes is important, and they need to be comfortable too. If you aren’t prepared on the clothes front, you get cold, which burns a lot more calories. If you are wet and cold, this can lead to hypothermia. “You want to have a good pair of long-johns”, Hockmeyer said, “And socks!” Socks keep you warm and comfortable and help with blisters.

Quality backpack

You will be carrying it everywhere, so you don’t want it to be big, but your backpack does need to be sturdy enough. The ideal quality backpack should be able to hold all your gear without falling apart, and also not be too severe on your back.


A survival knife is pretty important when it comes to the wild. Get one which suits you best, and make sure to keep it sharp, as it can get you out of a lot of difficult spots. A decent knife has many uses and is essential to surviving in the wild. Check out our blog about using a knife in the wild here.

Portable stove

A lightweight, compact stove and pot combo which uses propane is very handy, and using one means you don’t always have to rely on making a fire. Fires leave a mark and can be impactful on the environment. A fire also means you are depending on finding dry wood when you pitch camp, unlike a stove.

Non-perishable food

Freeze-dried, just-add-water or ready to eat meals are great for long trips in the wild. Dry snacking food is also good to help rehydrate. Food which is light, keeps for a long time and provides lots of protein will be needed. Don’t forget some things like coffee and tea, to help with a caffeine boost on the early morning starts.

First aid kit

Hopefully, you won’t need a first aid kit, but it is always safe to have one, even if it is left at the bottom of your backpack. Every time you head out on a wilderness expedition, check it is fully stocked with plasters, bandages and antiseptic wipes or liquid.

Bug spray

Insects are expected when out in nature, but too many midge bites can ruin a trip. Remember to pack up some heavy-duty bug spray, and keep it on hand, especially when in a wooded area, or near water where bugs are more commonly found.