The Future Is Here
We may earn a commission from links on this page

Wilderness Survival Kit: Gadgets and Ideas That Could Save Your Life

We may earn a commission from links on this page.

As we mourn the death of C|Net journalist James Kim, we want to do whatever we can to prevent such tragedies. There are lots of ways to improve your odds when you get lost in the wilderness, stranded in your car, or are somehow thrust out of this comfy cocoon in which most of us are living. So we put together a list of gadgets and ideas that might help you survive in the wild. If this can save just one person, it will have been worth it.

First, be prepared, giving yourself a fighting chance before any mishap occurs:

GPS In Your Car: Any time you're traveling through unfamiliar areas, a GPS navigation system will tell you where you are and where you're going. This is a great way to avoid disaster before it happens. You can get a really good one for as little as $275.


Map and Compass: It's easy to keep a map in your glove box, and it's a great backup in case your GPS system lets you down. Have a map for everywhere you're planning to go.


Clothing: Dress as if you're going to be required to walk dozens of miles in whatever climate is along your route. In winter, have a good pair of hiking boots in the car. In summer, never drive barefoot, because you never know how far you'll be required to walk.

Food and Water: If you're going on a long car trip, always have a cooler with plenty of drinks packed inside, including bottled water, and take yourself a shopping bag full of food, too. It's always nice to have plenty of food and drinks around, anyway.

Notify: Tell friends and family where you're going and when you plan to return. If you won't be back at that time, call them and tell them. Communicate.

Gas: Refuel before your gauge registers a quarter full.

Extra Car Key: Something as innocuous as getting out of your car to pee and then dropping your keys in the snow where you can't find them could be fatal.


If you get lost or stuck, stay with the vehicle. Studies show that you're more likely to survive if you don't venture out looking for help. Wait for the help to find you. Plus, put together a survival kit with the following items:

Candle Can: This might seem quaint, but we seasoned mountain travelers always carry an empty soup can and a supply of at least a dozen long-burning votive candles. Put the candle into the can, light it, and it will supply just enough heat to keep you from freezing to death in a closed vehicle after you've run out of gas.


Lighter: You'll certainly need a lighter to ignite that candle.

Reusable flare: Check out this CommuteMate Reusable Roadside Emergency Flare, visible from 1000 feet.


Whistle: While you're waiting to be rescued, make lots of noise. That's easy with this Coleman 5-in-1 Survival Whistle which also functions as a waterproof matchbox, a liquid-filled luminous dial compass, firestarter flint and a signal mirror.


Florescent spray paint: Keep a can of this in your survival kit, and then you can paint a huge message on the road or in the snow: Help!


Extra cellphone batteries: Your cellphone is continually checking to see if any calls have come in even if it's out of range of cellphone towers, and it can function as a beacon that will help rescuers find you. Keep it on at all times, especially if you're lost. We always travel with three cell phone batteries, all fully charged. On most cellphones, that will hold you for at least a week.

First Aid Kit: Your choices of medically-related items to include vary according to where you live and what you're doing, but a small, rudimentary first aid kit won't take up too much space.


LED flashlight: Take along this $12 LED flashlight that doesn't need batteries at all, it's hand-cranked.


Personal Locator Beacon: If you really want to go all-out, equip yourself with a $650 PLB. Just be careful not to set off a false alarm.

Commenters, please add your ideas!