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Stuff that works | Ten pieces of gear an outdoorsperson should have

This Mora cleaned this limit of trout and was shaving sharp at the end of the job. The soft, non-slip handle was safe to use, even when covered with slime, scales and fish guts.
300 175 Survival Common Sense Blog | Emergency Preparedness

Those who have hung out in the woods or wilderness areas for any length of time come up with favorite items that do the job.  A good description might be: “Stuff that works.”

By Leon Pantenburg

Somebody commented: “The Ten Essentials survival gear is a given. That should go everywhere. But what are some of the other things you should have to thrive in the outdoors over a long time period?”

Everybody’s definition of  “thrive” is probably different. And different locations and microclimates  will have unique requirements. Personal survival skills have to be taken into account, and it goes without saying that a first aid kit should go on every outing.  Truthfully, there probably isn’t a gear  list that would work everywhere. To make this manageable, let’s limit the list to 10, and the items must all be portable.

Here’s my short list:

My Ruger 10/22 is light, accurate, and absolutely reliable.

My Ruger 10/22 is light, accurate, and absolutely reliable.

Ruger 10/22 rifle: A .22 rimfire may be the most useful rifle you can own. Ammo is cheap and and used to be easily available. The round has virtually no recoil and is quiet so it is the best choice for starting newcomers out shooting. But in the hands of an expert, a .22 is capable of taking larger game animals.  In the hands of a cool shot, with the will and determination to use it, a .22 is a self-defense round.

I bought my Ruger 10/22 for $54 in 1966. For years, it was my go-to squirrel and rabbit rifle. It has harvested many small game animals, and provided me with countless hours of plinking enjoyment. Today, after at least 40,000 rounds through it, the  Ruger is still as reliable as the day I bought it. Everybody needs a good .22.

Mora-style knife: A good knife is probably the number one tool needed in the outdoors. Mora is a brand, and a Mora -style

1-2010 backcountry hunting knives 020

Any of these Mora-style knives will be a valuable tool.

knife typically has a four-inch blade and is about 8.25 inches long. The Scandinavian grind is easy to sharpen, and the steel typically holds an edge well.

The design is one of the most useful you’ll find. A hunting buddy of mine has used his $15 Mora model 840 on at least two deer and an elk. But I use my Mora most often for small game and cleaning fish. If you can only have one knife – I’ll get some arguments here – a Mora-style may be the best choice.

Compass: Knowing how to use a map and compass is absolutely critical to backcountry safety. I prefer a clear base compass with a declination adjustment, designed for use with a topo map. I’ve used a Suunto M-3DL for years.

I also carry a small Silva as a backup.

Fishing rod and reel: Get a combo that works for your area. When I canoed the length of the Mississippi River in 1980, I pared down my fishing gear after the first week. For the next 1,500 miles I used an open-faced Mitchell 300 reel, a seven-foot medium action graphite rod with a fast tip and six-pound line. With that setup I fed myself quite well and caught about a dozen different species of fish.

Boots: Best choices depend on where you are. In the frozen north, your footwear better be insulated. In the warmer climates, you need

The boots I wear the most, year-round, are these uninsulated Danner Cougars. They're light enough to hike in all day, but sturdy enough to provide foot protection and ankle support. (Pantenburg photos)

The boots I wear the most, year-round, are these uninsulated Danner Cougars.

something that breathes and is cool. My all-around favorites in Central Oregon are Danner Cougars, an ankle high, uninsulated hiker. In cold weather, I wear Sorels. Whatever boots you choose, make sure they fit and that you’ll be able to walk comfortably in them.

Firestarting kit: The ability to start a fire can save your life. My go-to method is cotton balls and petroleum jelly lighted with sparks from a ferrocerium rod.

Cast iron dutch oven: This tool is probably the best campfire cooking implement ever invented, IMO. You can bake, fry, saute, boil and simmer in this oven, and use it anywhere you can produce heat. Get a quality oven, take care of it, and your grandchildren will be able to use and enjoy it

Duct tape and paracord: Duct tape is indispensable. Paracord, the milspec type, has a breaking strength of 550 pounds. It is useful for anything that requires tying.

Tarp: One of the quickest, most efficient shelters is the simple A-frame strung between two trees. In addition to shelter, the tarp can serve as a ground cloth on wet ground, as a rain collector, as a sun shade…actually, the uses are limited only by the user’s imagination. I always carry a small tarp.

Saw or axe: Some way to cut firewood is critical for long term survival. I carry one or the other, depending on the circumstances. In camp, an axe for splitting firewood and felling trees might be a good choice. For backpack hunting, or in situations where you have to move around, the saw gets the nod. It’s quiet, allows you to process big game animals, and is much safer for the newcomer to use. Given a choice, I’ll take both.

So here’s a start. Take this list, tweak and change it to fit your needs and circumstances, and see what you come up with.

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  • Jenn

    Excellent list. Agree with Ben that the cast iron pots are just too heavy and inconvenient. They are great in a kitchen or campsite, but who wants to carry around something so awkward. Drop it on your foot and you are in trouble. Titanium pots weigh nearly nothing. My set of three pots nests together and takes up minimal space.

  • ben

    Agree with all except for cast iron pot. Cast iron is brittle and breaks easily if you drop it. I’d use a stainless steel pot instead.

  • Larry Olson

    This is an excellent start and I know it is not intended to be a complete list. I would add a first aid kit as an absolute must. Since I am in bear country a lot, I do carry a .44 mag revolver. Thanks for all your good information, advice and recommendations. I appreciate your research on subjects such as knives, fire starters, etc.

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