Fundamental safety supplies

Published 7:04 pm Monday, September 10, 2018

The other day I was introduced by an acquaintance to a stranger and that acquaintance said I was Craig Caudill a “survivalist”.  I am not a fan of the title, never have been, and never will be. 

As I see it, a survivalist seems a bit out of step with normal society.  I have always referred to much of what I do as safety and survival.  It may just be the semantics of it all, but I strongly feel that way.  I rather enjoy helping people to enjoy life.

One way that I do that is I teach them (through classes, my books, and social media) how to be safe when they travel in the wilderness. 

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Learning safety and survival from my perspective is teaching people how to be proactive with their approach, rather than reactive.  One way of doing this is to make sure you have some simple supplies each time you go into a wilderness setting. 

If you monitor local news that relates to the Red River Gorge, during the busy “tourist” season there are a regular number of times in which search and rescue teams have to go in and locate someone that is temporarily lost.  I recently wrote a column on the specifics of mindset, and lost-proofing skills that you should have. 

In this one I want to cover the fundamental supplies we all should take with us as whether we are hiking, paddling, hunting or other recreational opportunities in not just the gorge but and wilderness setting.

We should always have the mindset and gear to take care of our needs and they fall in this order.  Personal Safety, Shelter, Water and lastly food.  Since most trips are short we need to focus on personal safety, Shelter and Water. 

Food is a morale boost from a safety and survival perspective for the first 2-3 weeks.  For personal safety, we should take with us anything that helps us to navigate into and out of an area safely.  If you know an area well, you may very well navigate off-trail using a map and compass or GPS unit, or a GPS app on your phone. 

Don’t ever find yourself completely dependent upon items that run on batteries.  That is why I am a fan of map and compass skills.  If you don’t know an area well, you should simply stay on a known trail.  Either way, you should have good footwear when going. 

The number one injury in the backcountry is a sprained or broken ankle.  Goof footwear and paying attention to where you place your steps is a must.

For shelter, I always recommend wearing proper clothing first and have plans for unexpected contingencies such as rain, or an unexpected night in the woods.  You should also take something that will provide you from wind and moisture. 

Taking a military sized poncho is a great idea because they take up little space and can provide adequate cover for one and possibly two people if used properly.  At the very least you should take a 55-gallon drum garbage bag with you. 

It can be improvised and used as a rain covering your wear by cutting a hole for your head to pop out and putting it on.  It can also be put down to provide a moisture barrier from the ground, and can also be stuffed with leaves to serve as an impromptu mattress should you need to stay an unexpected night in the outdoors.

Water is vital so each trip outside should begin with you being hydrated.  After that, you should also carry a water bottle or a water bladder and a water filtration device (I recommend a Sawyer mini).   This will help you keep from cramping up and avoid the need for search and rescue to come to assist you out of the wilderness.

Let me summarize these fundamental items for you.  Navigation aids (map, compass), Shelter aids (weather appropriate clothes, a tarp or garbage bag), Water aids (water bottle and filter).  These items will help you avoid and unexpected night out in the wilderness and also assist you if circumstances keep you out there anyway. 

I hope to see you on, or off, the trail!

Craig Caudill is a lifelong resident of Winchester and serves as Director of Nature Reliance School. He is the author of Extreme Wilderness Survival and Ultimate Wilderness Gear.  Please feel free to contact Craig at or through any of the various social media platforms available.