Bear Grylls has been in many life-or-death situations around the world, and he makes sure to bring some essential survival items that he can use in any situation on every trip. His survival kit is packed into a small tin that looks much like one that would contain mints or tobacco.
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“Prioritize portability,” writes Bear in How to Stay Alive. “There’s no room for any luxuries… I only want to be carrying stuff around that I absolutely might need in a survival situation.”
1. The tin
The container itself is important. A tight-lidded tin—called a tobacco tin in some circles—keeps everything dry, which Bear ensures by keeping his sealed tightly with gaffer tape. Being metal, the tin can also be used as a container to heat a small amount of water over a fire, or to prepare tinder for your next campfire. To do this, place a piece of T-shirt or other cotton fabric into the tin bottom and heat it over a flame. When the cloth goes black and rigid, it can be stored away and used as tinder for the fire the following night.
2. Waterproof matches
Lighters can be unreliable in wet weather or cold temperatures. Waterproof matches are the best bet for starting a fire in harsh conditions.
3. A 9-volt battery and steel wool
This is a good backup for the waterproof matches. By touching the steel wool to the contacts of the battery, it will start to smolder, and you can use this to light tinder. In fact, Bear knows plenty of offbeat ways to start a fire in a pinch—even using chewing gum.
4. A button compass
Many phones have a compass app, but if you have no signal or battery, you’ll be lost (literally). A tiny button compass costs less than $1 and weighs nothing—and uses good ole magnetic north to ensure you’re always headed in the right direction.
5. Water-purification tablets
Finding fresh water is only the first step to satisfying your thirst—it also must be made fit for human consumption. Water-purification tablets, which contain iodine, chlorine, or chlorine dioxide to kill off illness-causing pathogens, “are the easiest and quickest way of making sure your life-saving water is safe to drink,” says Bear.
6. A tea light
This petite candle is hardly larger than the button compass or any more expensive. Yet it’s great in a pinch for some sustained light, especially if phone or flashlight batteries are running low. A candle is also useful if you have to dig a snow cave: As well as providing light, it will also indicate if the oxygen level is getting low—if the flame starts flickering, you need to make a hole in the roof to let more air in.
7. An unlubricated condom
The prophylactics pack small and are durable and leakproof by design, making one a surprising vessel for carrying water, holding up to two liters at full stretch. A condom can also keep tinder dry, or act as a rubber glove over fingers if you’re treating a wound.
8. A tampon
The absorbent material inside a tampon can come in handy for first aid on a bloody wound, and it makes good tinder if needed.
More from Bear Grylls
- How to Make a Toothbrush in the Wild
- Driving in the Snow
- How to Build Shelter in a Forest
- How to Survive Sub-Zero Temperatures
- What to do If You’re Bitten by a Snake
- How to Navigate Without a Compass