If You Only Had Four Pieces of Gear…

1018131827aHere’s one of my favorite “What if…” games to play with other outdoorsmen.

The scenario:

You’re canoeing down a river on a solo camping trip and you get caught in some rapids you didn’t know were there.  Boom!  Your canoe tips over and most of your gear and your canoe is gone.  Swept away and destroyed.

You’re 25 miles from civilization and you neglected to tell anybody you were going on a canoe trip and now it looks like you’ve got to walk out.  Luckily you were able to salvage four pieces of gear before it all got lost.

Here’s the fun part.  You get to choose what four pieces of gear that would be.   Let’s say it’s spring in your area.  Here in Maine it’s early April as I write this and the temps outside at night can get down to the low 20’s and during the day it can into the 50’s.  That’s in Fahrenheit by the way.

Armed with this information what would you salvage?

Personally I’d get a Kleen Kanteen, my Becker survival knife, a poncho, and a fire steel.

What are your choices?  How about it outdoorsmen?

Questions?  Comments?

Sound off below!

-Jarhead Survivor

68 comments… add one
  • j.r. guerra in s. tx. April 18, 2014, 8:40 am

    I think you nailed it – fire, water, tool and shelter. I don’t have enough practice with a fire steel to depend on it – a BIC would be my choice.

  • MtWoman April 18, 2014, 9:28 am

    Question: which Becker knife do you have? I’m actually shopping for one, and came across this, which would be good in the situation you describe: http://www.amazon.com/Rothco-Deluxe-Adventurer-Survival-Knife/dp/B002PEZH3O/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1397826952&sr=8-1&keywords=survival+knife

    I’m a low-budget prep shopper, so have to stay on the low-end/multi-use area of preps. If you have any suggestions for a better quality multi-use knife, plz let me know.

    As for the other 3 items…considering it’s gonna take me several days to hike out 25 miles because of physical limitations (depending on the terrain, perhaps even longer; considering you’re canoeing, that could be a canyon, meaning hills, or mountains) …I’d want some water treatment, as well as the water bottle. If I have the multi-use knife, I’d have water treatment pills in there, so this doesn’t add to the count. And there’d be a compass there as well. And matches, so I’d forego the steel….for my side-arm.

    LOL…have I cheated in some way? :)

    • Jarhead Survivor April 18, 2014, 9:49 am

      Hi MtWoman – to be honest I’d avoid the hollow tang survival knives and go with a good solid knife. My Becker BK5 is about $65 or so and it’s worth it. The kind of knife you point to can break pretty easy. I’ve broken them before and it’s no fun being in the bush without a knife!

      • KP89DC April 18, 2014, 3:35 pm

        Totally agree with Jarhead, get a quality knife as it will be worth it in the long run and you’ll be far better off and happy as well as confident with your purchase.

    • sput April 18, 2014, 4:51 pm

      Mt Woman, the hollow handled knife is held together by just a roll pin, and the connection can easily break. Amazon has some Schrade knives for about 20 bux that will serve you well. The Clean Canteen can be used to boil water for purification. A poncho for shelter, and a way to make fire will be the way to avoid the biggest killer, expoxure.

      • Chuck Findlay April 18, 2014, 11:21 pm

        The only hollow handled knife I would use is a Cold Steel Bushman. To say it’s tough is about the biggest understatement you can make. Watch the Cold Steel U-Tube videos on this knife. They beat the tar out of it. It sells for $20.00 to $30.00 depending on what sheath you get with it. I have the 1013 sheath ($30.00 one) with the firesteel built into it. The only problem with it is you need to re-glue the firesteel rod into the handle, the glue they use doesn’t hold it in. I used household craft glue and it worked well.


        • Chuck Findlay April 18, 2014, 11:27 pm

          2013 sheath model not 1013 sheath. Either way it’s the same knife, but the sheath is the only change.

    • Pineslayer April 19, 2014, 12:35 am

      Mt.Woman, cheap doesn’t have to mean inferior. Like CF I think the Bushman is hard to beat for function and price. Next up would be Mora’s. Not as strong, but pretty strong for most duties. I just got the Mora Light My Fire unit, built in Fire Steel, very nice and affordable. Does that count as one item?

      The best hollow handle unit that I used was a Replica of an Air Force Survival knife. The Wilderness Explorer, made in Japan, 440 SS, 1980’s. It is a good knife. I still beat it up in the summers. The handle is starting to jiggle, but it is still hanging in there. That being said it is the least desirable in a survival situation. Ragnar has some of the best prices on Mora’s. It is a dangerous site.

    • irishdutchuncle April 19, 2014, 4:40 am

      personally, I’d be kinda’ suspicious about anything “Rothco”.
      to me, it looks like “paintball” grade stuff at best. it isn’t an adequate substitute for genuine MILSURP gear. I’d be tempted to break off the knife handle, (discard the blade) and re- pack it with higher quality supplies.

  • Leon Pantenburg April 18, 2014, 10:27 am

    Thumbs down on the hollow handle knife. That particular model is junk.
    The canoe scenario happened to me and my wife: http://www.survivalcommonsense.com/wardrobe-survival-kitfeed/
    The four tools I’d want to have: The best survival/bushcraft knife I could afford. For me, that’s a Bark River Aurora. A ferrocerium rod with cotton balls and pertoleum jelly (I carry those in one package, so that’s number two!) A tarp (8×10, preferably) good hiking boots.
    When I dumped the canoe, I lost the Mora knife out of the sheath on my belt and the BIC lighter in my pocket. Make sure you secure everything!

  • ThatGuyinCA April 18, 2014, 10:30 am

    You nailed it. Exposure protection, fire, water and a useful tool/protection.

    • Rob April 18, 2014, 12:36 pm

      I guess for starters I would have my satellite phone, (in case I want to call someone for a ride), then I would have my firestarter kit (altoids tin with pet jel cot balls, waterproof matches, and a bic), my wool blanket to keep warm while my clothes dry by the fire, and my sawyer water filter with water pouch.

      • Jarhead Survivor April 19, 2014, 9:07 am

        Good choices. How much is a sat phone? Sounds expensive.

        • irishdutchuncle April 19, 2014, 2:47 pm

          I would rent one for a serious trip…
          (or a PLB) the deposit is pretty steep I imagine.

          • Chuck Findlay April 19, 2014, 8:43 pm

            How much is a sat phone? Sounds expensive.

            A 2 MTr ham radio could work.

            As far as expensive, I’m sure they are. But death is kinda forever, so maybe it’s not so expensive.

            Who knows maybe a regular cell phone would work, you may have to hike to the top of a ridge or hill, but it’s getting harder to fine a non cell connected place every day.

      • ThatGuyinCA April 21, 2014, 10:27 am

        Hope that Sat phone is waterproof and pretty rugged.

  • Steve suffering in NJ April 18, 2014, 11:01 am

    I can hike 25 miles in 2 days. I can go with out food for 2 days. Water, not so much. Shelter at 20F is a must. Knife is handy, but to cover 25 miles I don’t think I would trade it for a dry night in a tent. Fire steel is great, but again for 25 miles, don’t think I’d trade it for a good sleeping bag.

    I’d take a compass (fingers crossed I had the common sense to research the trip and know the heading of civilization) water bottle, 1 man tent and a sleeping bag. Hike as far as I can day 1. Spend the night dry and warm in the tent with the sleeping bag. Day 2 keep hiking out. Could do another night in the tent if I had to. Sure to be very hungry, but at least I’d have some water and be dry and warm. My 2 cents.

    • Jarhead Survivor April 19, 2014, 9:11 am

      Hey Steve – as long as you make it out alive you’re doing it right. Just because our choices differ doesn’t mean either one of us is wrong – as long as we know how to properly use the gear or figure out how to use nature in place of something we don’t have. Like breaking a rock for a sharp edge instead of having a knife in your set of choices.

      • Steve suffering in NJ April 20, 2014, 8:36 am


        I’m just a puss and don’t like sleeping cold.

        • Jarhead Survivor April 20, 2014, 9:40 am

          Haha! That cracked me right up.

        • NoSox April 21, 2014, 10:12 am

          Don’t feel bad as i chose my Modular Sleep System as well. Anybody who spends alot of time outdoors can imagine how your body would feel after a cold hard night on the ground then attempting to hike 25 miles. A decent night’s rest can do wonders for your moral and your back & shoulders.

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    • AuricTech April 21, 2014, 1:13 pm

      For a water bottle, I’d look at the CamelBak All Clear, as it combines the utility of a water bottle with UV-based water purification capability.

  • SEBAGO DAD April 18, 2014, 11:36 am

    No. 1: Compass
    No. 2: Fire Starter
    No. 3: Insect Repellant
    No. 4: Map

    • Novice April 18, 2014, 11:51 am

      In the absence of a map and compass do you think it would very difficult to just follow the river back?

      • SEBAGO DAD April 18, 2014, 1:20 pm

        Without a map you may not be able to fix your current position. A fire will dry you out and improve your outlook. Black flies in Maine during the spring are murderous and have been known to drive men mad. The compass would help you pick the best bearing to a road or trail on the map.

        Walking back the river would get you back to your starting point, but it may not be the most direct path. Also, while river banks may be clear routes to follow, they can also be obstructed by falls, log jams etc. A map would help you locate paths, trails, roads that would be easier and faster to cover.

        I would build a fire, dry myself off, orient my position on the map, make a plan, apply the fly dope and get started.

        • Jarhead Survivor April 19, 2014, 9:12 am

          Good point about the black flies. I hate those little suckers.

        • AuricTech April 21, 2014, 1:31 pm

          Depending on what insect repellent you use, it can also help you start your fire (IIRC, the main inactive ingredient in DEET-based aerosol insect repellents is alcohol).

  • Novice April 18, 2014, 11:48 am

    I’m assuming that you’re asking what four pieces of gear I’d take BESIDES my cell phone that I kept in a water tight plastic bag, on my person in case this very thing happened…again. Yes, I was white water rafting several years ago and we tipped. It had been snowing much more than normal that year and when the spring thaw came the river went from it’s normal category 2 rapids to a category 4 in one spot. Most people didn’t have cell phones yet but God was looking out for us and a canoe right behind us saw what happened and was able to call out for an ambulance to take our injured back. With that in mind I would definitely add rope to my “top 4” in case we had to set some broken bones on our own or improvise a stretcher. I think a knife, fire starter, and water bottle would round out my list.

  • Pineslayer April 18, 2014, 12:03 pm

    SRK Carbon V
    Poncho with tie-offs
    Gobspark Armageddon
    Kleen Kanteen or similar SS canteen

    I am assuming that my feet are covered in boots already with extra long laces for extra cordage.

    • Jarhead Survivor April 19, 2014, 9:16 am

      Whatever you would normally wear in the bush on your person. For me that means I’d also have a Skeletool as well. That’s an blade I’d have on there as well! I didn’t include it in the description above because it’s kind of cheating in the scenario, but I carry a Skeletool and small pocket flashlight everywhere I go.

  • Don April 18, 2014, 12:18 pm

    BIC lighter, K-BAR knife, canteen w/cup, first aid kit

  • Ron April 18, 2014, 12:37 pm

    25 miles…depending on terrain, is a two day hike normally. So food is not major. I would go with a lifestraw GO water bottle, as this would give me safe fluids, a large hooded poncho, which would also be my “tent,” my fire tube, which contains cotton balls with vaseline, fireproof matches and two mini bics, the lid of which is a compass, and since I like a good sleep, a sleeping bag. For that short a walk out, I could make do without the knife, although in your scenario I would stll have one (a folding, razor-sharp Buck) as it is always on my belt

  • R.C. April 18, 2014, 2:56 pm

    I can’t think of much other than fire, shelter, water, tool. I have built debris huts and lean-to’s so the poncho wouldn’t be as important to me as snares, especially if I am staying put. If I am going to be on the move, then a poncho would be handy.

  • Chuck Findlay April 18, 2014, 10:42 pm

    You’re 25 miles from civilization and you neglected to tell anybody you were going on a canoe trip and now it looks like you’ve got to walk out.

    Can you say Sat Phone?

    Besides wanting a phone the things would be my Katadyn Pocket Filter, A firesteel, My Cold Steel Trail Hawk, my Swiss Champ Swiss Army Knife, a cook set, real 550-cord or bank-line (I have lots of both) and my military poncho.

    If I’m not hurt 25-miles is not that far to walk. No need for a compass, you can look at nature to find direction within a few degrees.

    I’ve been canoeing in Michigan’s UP and the upper part of the lower part of the state and a better part of Ohio, And I always had several items in a backpack on me if the canoe ever decided to abandon me.

    • SEBAGO DAD April 19, 2014, 10:56 am

      “No need for a compass..” Respectfully, that’s not advice I would give…

      • Chuck Findlay April 19, 2014, 8:27 pm

        I wasn’t giving anti compass advice, I said I would not take one if I had the choice of only a few items. I read a very good book that teaches you how to look around and figure out what way is north. It’s the best path-finding book there is. “Finding your way without Map or Compass by Harold Gatty” He really knew his stuff, he trained Jimmy Dolittle, Lindbergh, he was the director of air transport for the Allied operations for MacArthur in Australia during WWII.

        • Anonymous April 19, 2014, 9:25 pm

          I’ll have to put that one on my bookshelf Chuck! I’ve been turned around in the big woods before in foggy conditions and I was very glad to have a compass.

  • Chuck Findlay April 18, 2014, 11:30 pm

    Another thing worth having is a pencil sharpener. With it you can make a lot of thin wood shavings fairly quickly and even when the wood is wet, the inside will be dry. And it fits in your pocket, so small you will forget you have one with you.

    • Jarhead Survivor April 19, 2014, 9:19 am

      I’ve never thought about a pencil sharpener. I’ve always just split the wood and shaved out the middle, but that would work too I’ll wager.

    • Steve suffering in NJ April 20, 2014, 8:42 am

      That’s a good idea.

    • NoSox April 21, 2014, 10:30 am

      Wow! That is freakin’ awesome! Never thought about that. Thanks!

    • ThatGuyinCA April 21, 2014, 10:31 am


      • Chuck Findlay April 22, 2014, 10:05 am

        One day a few years ago I was making a woodworking project in the garage and I needed to sharpen a pencil. Looking at all those shavings it popped into my mind that it looked like good fire tinder. Ever since I have been using a pencil sharpener to generate fire-ready shavings from small sticks found on the ground.


  • irishdutchuncle April 19, 2014, 5:32 am

    1) magnesium block, with attached saw blade striker.
    2)Victornox “scout” knife. (lost my official boy scout knife)
    3)wool blanket.
    4)high calorie lifeboat ration bar.
    Leon mentioned the magnesium block on his blog, I like that better than a plain ferocerium rod. I’ll copy Rob’s idea, regarding the blanket. (miraculously kept dry when the canoe was lost)
    the lifeboat ration bar is for the immediate calories. I don’t have time to prepare soup or hot cocoa. I will be shivering in my blanket, until I can get a fire going.
    I give an “honorable mention” to Novice, regarding the rope, and also to Chuck, for the pencil sharpener. (I never would have thought of it) I would be making “fuzz sticks” instead, and lighting them with magnesium shavings. if I had brought enough rope along, I would have tied myself to all my gear and supplies, in the extra large “dry bag” that I lost with the canoe.

    • Jarhead Survivor April 19, 2014, 9:21 am

      I like the wool blanket idea too. Even if it’s wet it’ll keep you warm and you can wear it as a cloak when you’re moving. An excellent choice.

      • riverrider April 19, 2014, 10:24 am

        yeah, same here. knife, canteen,fire rod, wool blanket. in a pinch you can cut it up for clothing. or just fold it up and wrap your torso under a shirt or jacket. most everything else can be made/found in the woods.

        • irishdutchuncle April 19, 2014, 2:23 pm

          four pieces may be even a tougher challenge than two or three…
          I would really have liked to have the compass and a bottle of clean water/Gatorade, with me too. with a canteen cup along also, you could stay out for days.

      • Chuck Findlay April 19, 2014, 8:52 pm

        Lifeboat ration bar or a Mayday Bar is a good idea. I have 2-weeks of Mayday bars in my truck. I never give them much thought because they are always there. I know they are supposed to not cause thirst, but for me they do make a drink of water a nice thing. They taste like a dry cookie.

  • Roseman April 20, 2014, 7:28 am

    Knife, lighter, lined poncho and canteen. Would swap the lighter for insect repellent if the time frame was mid spring or summer.

  • ArmyVet April 20, 2014, 9:56 am

    Pineslayer, I don’t know what Air Force survival knife to which you are referring. The Air Force issues, or at least the one they used to issue, was a solid tang wrapped in leather. Great knife by the way.

    Jarhead, you nailed it square. Not much more a person could need in the given scenario.

    • Pineslayer April 20, 2014, 10:55 am

      ArmyVet, It was supposedly issued during the Vietnam era. When I bought it I had no idea, it just seemed like a fun knife, I was in my 20’s, what did I know. It sat in a box for years, then I started using it at work for peeling bark and whacking at things. They seem to have become collectible and I see them on Ebay once in a while. I could be wrong, but some old fart on a knife forum said that they were replicas of a knife he saw during his time abroad. I would certainly rather carry the Ontario that was standard.

  • Jason April 20, 2014, 11:20 am

    Great story, love the scenarios you paint.

    My choices:

    1. A hot looking girl
    2. Sleeping bag for two
    3. A sat phone to call in help when we’d had enough of the great outdoors.
    4. A Snickers bar because I’d be laughing if this really happened to me.

    • riverrider April 20, 2014, 11:35 am

      okay clearly you’ve done this before,lol! you win.

  • Pineslayer April 20, 2014, 12:16 pm

    Well if are playing with the rules, take Scarlett Johannson and Dave Canterbury with you and you have all the bases covered.

  • Chuck Findlay April 20, 2014, 7:04 pm

    Scarlett Johannson Yea, Dave Canterbury Not so much…

  • NoSox April 21, 2014, 10:00 am

    I’m so mad that I was late to this thread but since you said what i’d normally have on is NOT part of my 4 items then i’d choose:
    Modular Sleep System
    Estwing 16″ Campers Axe
    Standard Hiking Meal

    Whenever i’m leisurely outdoors i always have on my lightweight Camelback water bladder. It has a Sawyer Mini attached to it and has very small zipper pouch for keys that i fit a Bic lighter, medicine vial of dryer lint, and micro multi-tool.

    As far as my salvaged gear:
    Modular Sleep System: weighs 12 pounds [if I bring all 3 bags] and i strap it on my shoulders over my Camelbak. Done this a few times to see if i could do it and it’s not a bad way to carry it. Keeps you warm and dry down to -10 degrees. Shelter covered.

    Estwing 16″ Camping Axe: It attaches to my belt loop and gives me all the blade I need. I use it as my exclusive knife when i’m outdoors and have gotten really good at using it for chores that a knife is normally used for. It also excels [as all axes should] in wood procurement for fire fuel.

    Headlamp: Gotta be able to see at night so i don’t kill myself falling over a fallen tree.

    Standard Hiking Meal: Consists of a Turkey & Cheese Sandwich, 2 Granola Bars, and a $1-4 pack of Slim Jims.

    25 miles away you could do this hike in a day. At 3 miles/hour a person who hikes regularly could be home/safe in 8-9 hours.

  • ThatGuyinCA April 21, 2014, 10:35 am

    I’m with NoSox. You aren’t carrying any heavy packs/items. Unless you are in steep mountainous terrain, the hike could be done in one day (unless of course you are injured).

  • MIKE April 24, 2014, 8:35 pm

    SOG Seal Team Elite, Klean Kanteen 40 oz., Kantadyne Vario, Wool Poncho.


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