Building a Field Emergency Kit

When I was a younger, single man, I didn’t take care of myself well. Deep cuts meant whatever tape or super glue I had laying around. Sickness meant too much cold medicine and Gatorade. Once I married a nurse, a lot of things came to an abrupt end. Things like climbing up in tree stands without a safety harness, not checking in from time to time on a hunt, and yes, the too much cold medicine thing stopped too.

Now, I’m much more cognizant of things I do that are unsafe, especially in the field. There’s too much to lose. So recently, as I was going through inventory of my gear and realized I had no resources set aside for an emergency, big or small, set aside in my pack, I knew that I had to make it a priority.


Let me start with a disclaimer. This is not a first aid kit. It’s not designed to treat or heal major injuries. This is a collection of items that is intended to help with minor physical issues, get me through an unordinary situation such as an unexpected overnight stay in the woods, or simply repair a damaged piece of gear. If I’m on a more remote expedition or expecting the potential for more major issues, I also pack a more in depth first aid kit.

Starting the Kit

One good rule of thumb with any kit like this is to have a backup for a backup. Especially with things that could play a role in survival. So, prioritizing items is critical. Next to minor medical care, fire is your most valuable commodity. We will unpack these items a bit later.

The Carrying Case

I’m no mountaineer, and I’m sure there are folks who feel more comfortable with less than I do, but when it comes to this type of gear, it’s not an afterthought. So, I’m more than happy to give a little extra space in my pack. I simply use a small waist pack with the hip belt removed. This leaves plenty of room for items large and small, but still doesn’t take up a ton of space in my backpack.

Food, Water, Shelter

In the event that you find yourself in a more remote location than you expected on a short trip, remembering your basic needs is the most valuable thing you can do. I like to pack a small high energy snack, a few water purification tabs, and an emergency blanket in this particular kit, in case I’m not carrying a higher quality version of these items in my main bag. Along with these things, I also carry enough small rope to create a tent like structure, a small amount of fishing line and hook should I need to find a stream or other body of water for food, and a small knife that I use only for this kit should I need to open it.

Building a field emergency kit might seem like a small issue. But small issues can become big issues in emergency situations.

Building a field emergency kit might seem like a small issue. But small issues can become big issues in emergency situations.


Even if you don’t necessarily need it for cooking or drying clothes, fire can be a real comfort to you. The light alone can keep away pesky critters and help you keep your wits about you. In this kit I carry three different ways to start a fire. First, I carry a small cigarette lighter. Keep in mind that this may not work in extremely cold conditions. That’s why I also carry wind/waterproof matches and a flint and steel. For fire starter, in a waterproof container I carry dryer lint or cotton balls soaked in petroleum jelly. I also pack a small wire hand saw to cut small limbs once I have the base of my fire built.


Like I said, this is not a sufficient kit for attending to major medical issues. In fact, I would call this the back up to the back up of that sort of kit. For this, I pack a couple of adhesive bandages, some Ibuprofen and Benadryl, antiseptic wipes, chapstick, and a small amount of medical wrap or tape. This is intended for those headaches or sprains and minor to moderate cuts that just come with the territory of being in the outdoors. I highly recommend a more thorough med kit for adventures beyond a few minutes walking distance from your vehicle.

A couple of other things I will be adding to this kit is a small container of corn starch or Gold Bond powder for chaffing and a small tube of sunscreen.

Other Items

A few more things to note in this kit is a knife sharpener, electrical tape or duct tape for any gear that might need it, flagging tape for marking trails, a rescue whistle, an adhesive body warmer, a couple small dry bags, a carabiner, and a taxidermy needle wrapped with 65lb braided fishing line in the event that I need to repair webbing, clothing, or God forbid, skin.

It seems like a lot but…

There’s no more helpless feeling than being lost. Having equipment with you that will help you get through the span of time it takes to find your way back could mean life or death. Even if it isn’t that drastic, knowing you have a spare knife, or a spare body warmer at the right time is a very, very good feeling. I hope this has been helpful to you. Leave a comment and let me know what you would add to my list!

See the full video series here!