Those who go into the outdoors prepared rarely need rescuing, but when they do it is usually not a disaster story. Most that are lost or stranded in the backcountry of the lower 48 states in the U.S. are found within the first 72 hours, provided they do a few things correctly.

Several years ago I was on a search for a lost hunter who had been missing two days. We found him the third day. It was pouring rain when the smoke from his fire was spotted. Arriving at his survival camp we found him to be very comfortable and, while totally lost, we found him in good spirits and in good condition. He used his survival kit to build a comfortable camp and wait for rescue.

Go on outdoor adventures prepared to spend three extra, unexpected, days in the backcountry. To do this, you need to take with you items that will give you quick protection from inclement weather, retain body heat, enable you to start a fire, provide you with safe drinking water, keep you safe from biting insects and give you at least two methods of signaling for help beyond a cell phone or two-way radio. These items make up your personal survival kit. When combined with your belt knife they give you the edge you need to survive.

The survival kit is important not only for its life-saving merits, but for comfort on those outings when a night must be spent in the woods or streamside, unexpectedly. I have been forced on many occasions to spend an unexpected night or two in the woods, I didn’t plan on, because an outfitter was late picking me up, climbing down a mountain in the dark was too dangerous, a motor conked on my boat, a rain swollen creek blocked my return, etc. Each time, my two-pound survival kit provided me with a comfortable camp. Without it the wait would have been cold and dangerous.

The first item necessary for a survival camp is shelter. You can read all you want about a lean-to, brush shelters, etc., but nothing is quicker to erect and give as much protection as a plastic tube tent. You simply tie a strong cord between two trees, and stretch the tube to its full 8-foot length, and crawl in out of the weather. I use the Coghlan’s Tube Tent. It is compact, weighs 18-ounces, and is bright orange, serving as a signal as it can be easily seen from the air. Not only have I used a tube tent in a survival situation, I have used one on several occasions for protection from a sudden rain or hail storm when I didn’t have a rain suit or other protection.

To stay warm in your tube tent, you will want one of the Space Emergency bags. This bag, which folds up to 11/2 X 3-inches and weighs only 4-ounces, will reflect and retain 90 percent of radiated body heat. You will need to be careful using one of these bags as boots with aggressive soles can cause them to tear. But, with a little caution when getting into the bag it will keep you warm all night.

To build a fire you will need fresh strike-anywhere kitchen matches in a waterproof match box (safe). I use the full-size wooden matches because they are easy to ignite and burn longer than small matches. I keep them in a weather tight blaze orange plastic match safe. For backup a Bic butane lighter works well in most situations.

Since starting a fire can be difficult, especially in windy or damp conditions, a package of fire starters, sometimes called firelighters, is a must. Coghlan’s has a 4-ounce package of 20 Fire Lighters, each burn seven minutes. I make my own by rubbing petroleum jelly into 100% cotton balls and storing them in medicine bottles.

Two methods of signaling should be carried. I suggest a signal mirror, such as Star Flash or Vector, and a high quality whistle, such as a Fox 40 or WindStorm whistle. The signal mirror is easy to use and can be seen up to 60 miles or more. The whistle requires very little energy to use, can be heard much further than the human voice and last much longer.

For protection against mosquitoes I carry small packets of insect repellent. During warm weather it is worth its weight in gold.

I include a small flashlight in my kit. I like the ones that use LED bulbs and lithium batteries due to their 10-year shelf life. The flashlight can be used for signaling and is a must for doing camp chores in the dark.

One of the most versatile items I carry in my survival kit is a 24” X 24” piece of heavy duty aluminum foil folded up to about 3” X 3”. It can be used to make a vessel for boiling water, cooking food, making a reflector for a fire, and as a signal mirror.

While food need not be a concern for the 72-hour ordeal, water will be necessary. Since safe drinking water had become scarce even in the most remote wilderness areas, it is a good idea to take along a small bottle of Potable Aqua tablets to treat drinking water. Pack your survival kit in a 1-gallon Ziploc bag and it can be used to hold water while treating.

This survival kit will fit into a coat pocket, vest or daypack and cost from $40 to $100, depending upon the cost of the flashlight.

It is not sufficient to purchase all these items and put them in your day pack, tackle box or hunting coat pocket to be there when you need them. Like any other specialized outdoor gear, you need to give them a field test, actually use them overnight, so you are familiar with them when you need them.

Recently I shopped at all the sporting/outdoor stores in the area where I live and could not find most of these survival kit items. I went online to and found all of the items available at a total cost of $81.89. Shipping was free. It saves a lot of driving and shopping time.

Here is a list of what I found:

WindStorm whistle $5.65
Coghlan’s Tube Tent $5.99
Potable Aqua Tablets $5.99
Vector Survival Mirror $7.99
Space Emergency Bag $11.07
Coghlan’s Match Box $3.48
Coghlan’s Firelighters $5.73
Streamlight Polytac Light $35.99
Total $81.89 + tax

For those interested, Amazon also sells my 72-hour survival book, The Pocket Outdoor Survival Guide, for $8.96 –