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Survival Kits for Hunters

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Bush emergencies usually come unexpectedly and for the unprepared outdoorsman can have serious and possibly even fatal consequences. Every hunter should have a basic survival kit which could make all the difference between life and death in a worst case scenario. Now you get survival kits and survival kits. Some are so exhaustive that you would need a large backpack to accommodate all its components. Whereas more is generally better it is not always practical to have to lug a lot of survival gear around with you when hunting on foot. So we are looking at a "bare bones" basic kit which could fit into a small sized hip pouch.

When thinking basic one has to narrow down the emergencies which could be life threatening in the short term. In the modern context hunters will seldom be exposed to medium to long term survival situations meaning 5 days or more. In most instances if a hunter does not report back to the outfitter, or landowner by nightfall or return home to family or friends when expected, a search and rescue operation is sure to be launched. Knowing more or less the area in which the hunter was hunting also makes it easier for searchers to know where to begin looking. Survival challenges will in most cases therefore be of short duration and it is important for us to identify some of the most likely case scenarios when we decide on the contents of a basic bush survival kit.


A useful survival tool should have more than one function.

When we think of survival we should be thinking in terms of meeting physiological and mental requirements to sustain the essential processes for life. What are the basic essentials for life? We need air to breath, water to drink, food to eat, to be in an environment where we can sustain body temperature at 370 C (give or take about 4 degrees), and to avoid serious injury or sickness.

Air (or rather the oxygen in it) is vital for life. Four minutes without air will result in unconsciousness as the brain becomes starved of oxygen and damage to brain cells commences. A person can still be resuscitated at this stage but if the brain receives no oxygen for a period of six minutes the brain itself dies and, under normal circumstances, the person cannot be revived and is said to be brain dead or biologically dead. Water is another essential element for life and in a hot environment where there is an increased demand for water to replace that lost in sweat, urine and bodily excretions a person can die from dehydration and the physiological consequences resulting from it within the space of three days. Food, although essential for maintaining body metabolism and providing energy for physiological processes, is not a short term necessity.

A person will not die of hunger within the space of a week or, for that matter, a month or more. In fact it takes between 60-70 days for a person to die of hunger and it is extremely unlikely that a hunter will be lost for that period of time.


The contents of a basic survival kit.

Maintaining body temperature within normal limits is necessary for survival. Become too cold (hypothermic) or too hot (hyperthermic) and you can die within minutes or hours. Both case scenarios are possible in a hunting environment where bushveld temperatures can soar into the low fourties (0C) and fall to well below freezing. Injury leading to severe blood loss can lead to death within minutes.

Other life threatening medical emergencies which a hunter could be confronted with are heart attacks, strokes, snakebite, and severe allergic (anaphylactic) shock resulting from bee sting, foods or medication to which the person is allergic to.

How do we go about now prioritizing what we will include in our basic kit?

In the event of a hunting buddy having a heart attack or an emergency involving cessation of breathing it would be wise to include a CPR mouthpiece which would be used when administering rescue breathing. You should also be trained in how to give rescue breathing and how to do cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

Water is a priority so carry a minimum of 1-2 litres in durable containers with you when you go out into the bush. A camelback is a convenient option. Hyperthermia (heatstroke or heat exhaustion) and dehydration are soon precipitated by inadequate intake of water so the means for procuring and purifying water are absolutely essential.

Take enough water purification tablets to purify 3 litres of water per day for 5 days. Also include a small aluminium pot for cooking purposes and in which you can boil water to purify it if you run out of purification tablets. Remember that drinking unpurified water can be fatal. Diseases such as cholera and amoebic dysentery are contracted from drinking contaminated water and lead to severe vomiting and diarrhoea which further compounds problems of dehydration.


All the items mentioned fit into this small hip pouch.

The ability to make fire is absolutely essential as fire provides light, warmth, protection from wild animals, the ability to cook, the means for sterilizing instruments and working with metal and dries wet clothing and equipment. Carry at least two fire making implements such as a flint and steel (recommended), butane lighter, waterproof matches (or ordinary matches in a waterproof container), or magnifying glass. Also learn fire making techniques using naturally available materials. Always dress warmly when leaving on a hunt. Warm clothing can be shed if it is too hot but can be available if the weather turns cold or wet. A waterproof jacket is advisable but if you consider it too bulky to carry with you include a sheet of durable plastic (or a couple of garbage bags) in your first aid kit with which you can build a shelter or cover yourself with to help keep you dry if it rains or if there is heavy dewfall. If you become wet you will lose body heat very quickly and will be far more prone to hyperthermia so at all costs try and remain as dry as possible.

Although food is not a priority in short term survival it does provide energy and is a morale booster. Carry a few teabags (or coffee), some sugar, a few packets of soup, Smash (add water to make mashed potatoes), a little salt, and a couple of energy bars. If you are out hunting you will be armed and can shoot something for the pot to provide yourself with fresh meat.

A multi-tool pocket knife is an essential item for any survival kit as it has literally hundreds of useful applications. A small knife sharpener would be useful but not essential.

An ordinary compass (not a GPS that relies on batteries which could go flat) would be a valuable aid in finding direction a small torch (fitted onto a headband) would be very useful in the dark.

As far as medical supplies are concerned the following are recommended to be carried with you:

  • Two first aid dressing to cover wounds and help control bleeding.

  • A haemostat to help control severe bleeding.

  • A few assorted plasters.

  • Three sachets of Rehydration powder to replenish essential electrolytes lost during excessive sweating, vomiting and / or diarrhoea.

  • Six tablets for diarrhoea (e.g. )

  • Six tablets for nausea and vomiting (e.g. Valoid or Stemetil)

  • Ten tablets for mild pain and fever (e.g. Disprin)

  • Your own personal medications:

  • If you are a diabetic - enough insulin and extra sugar or glucose sweets.

  • If you have a heart ailment (high blood pressure, low blood pressure, angina etc.) carry enough medication with you for your specific ailment.

  • If you are allergic to bee sting or other have other allergies of which you are aware include injectable adrenaline available in pre-measured doses in your survival kit.

Cleve Cheney is a wilderness trail leader, rated field guide instructor and the author of many leading articles on the subjects of tracking, guiding, bowhunting and survival. Cleve has unrivalled experience in wildlife management, game capture and hunting, both with bow and rifle.
Click here to visit his site

When selecting survival tools look for those which can serve more than one purpose. An example is shown in Figure 1. This tool has a small button compass, whistle to attract attention, a signaling mirror, a flint for striking a spark and a waterproof compartment for keeping small items such as matches, fish hooks, water purification tablets or some other useful item.

All the items mentioned in this article (Figure2) can be fitted into a hip pouch (apart from the water containers), are lightweight and can be life saving.. Every responsible hunter should ensure that he has just such a kit riding on his hip before he departs into the field. He will then be in a position to deal with an emergency should it arise.


• Survival Kits for Hunters •
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• The Fire Piston •
• The fire bow: primitive fire •
• Bush Food •
• How far will you go •
• Knots and hitches 1 •
• Knots and hitches 2 •
• Alternative uses for your flashlight •
• Pump a tubeless tyre •
• The handy Condom •
• Jump start a vehicle without cables •
• Out of brake fluid •
• Alternative cooking methods •
• Make a winch from a pole •
• The useful plastic bag •
• Your battery is flat ... •
• No Light? •
• The many uses of Condy's Crystals •
• The multifunctional Binoculars •
• Soldering or welding in emergencies •
• Making primitive fire •
• Lifting a vehicle without a jack •
• Pull, lift or move •
• Cold drinks in the bush •
• Make a small stove from aluminum cans •
• Toilet paper rope •
• Fire from a beer can and chocolate •
• LandShark in Gonarhezhou •
• Fire without matches •
• Sharpening your knife in the bush •
• Making an ash bag •
• Making fire with a tonteldoos •


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