Two is One, One is None – The Importance of Redundancy in Outdoor Survival Equipment

Two is One, One is None – The Importance of Redundancy in Outdoor Survival Equipment

Having a plan for outdoor survival is important. But it’s also important to have more than one tool available in the event that your equipment fails or is lost.

How many times have you had an excursion into the field where you have had a critical piece of equipment fail? Or maybe you lost or misplaced a tool? In a best case scenario, you might have been able to improvise. In the worst case, you had to head home early. But what would happen if you were actually in a survival situation? Having a back up for common items could enable you to continue your excursion and possibly even save your life.

I prefer to have a backup plan for four key areas: Shelter, Water, Fire, and Cutting

1. Shelter – Obviously, if you are actually camping, you are going to probably have a tent or tarp that you are using for your primary shelter. But if you are only on a day hike, fishing trip, or short term excursion, you probably will not have a formal piece of shelter equipment. I like to keep things simple and light. A poncho is great for this role. Nylon ponchos are my preference due to their strength and durability, but a PVC poncho will do in a pinch.

For a backup, you could consider a heavy duty trash can liner, preferably a 55 gallon one. The poncho or trash can liner can be quickly deployed to protect you from a sudden shower, or rigged as a shelter to protect from sun or wind. If you have the available resources, a shelter can be created from local material, but by having your own material, this will free you up for other tasks.

2. Water – We all know that you can’t go around drinking untreated water in the backcountry. We have more options now than ever before for water treatment. I prefer to carry a water purifier as my primary option, but it’s important to have a backup.

A great lightweight option is a personal water purifier straw. This can be carried on any excursion and will not take up too much room. An additional option would be water purification tablets. If you have a container that is fire resistant, you can also boil the water, preferably for at least 15 minutes.

3. Fire – There are tons of options for fire sources. Waterproof matches are preferred if you are using matches as your primary source. You can buy them or make your own with paraffin, but be sure to use strike anywhere matches if you do. Torch lighters are also a great primary fire source, although disposable and zippo style lighters also work.

For a backup, you should consider items that won’t be affected by water. Magnesium fire starters will not be harmed by water. Shave a small pile of magnesium shavings off the block and then use the striker to cast sparks onto the shavings. This is enough to light your tinder. Some people prefer to carry their own tinder, but be prepared to store it in a waterproof case. There are other options such as BlastMatch, Spark-Light, and the Swedish Fire Steel. I highly recommend practicing your fire building skills with both your primary and backup method before you ever head out. It can be difficult enough to build a fire with a new method under ideal conditions. The learning curve for a new method could be overwhelming if you wait until you are in a stressful situation.

4. Cutting – I hope you always carry some type of bladed tool when you venture out. My personal preference is a quality multi-tool, preferably lightweight, but functional. Having one with a pliers function has been extremely helpful at times in my experience.

Some people prefer a fixed blade knife. This is a personal preference. I have carried both folding lock back knives and fixed blades. A strong fixed blade knife can be used for chopping as well, but that can add weight and bulk.

For my back up, I prefer a simple light weight single blade folding knife. If I break or lose my primary blade, I’ve still got a way to cut. A small folding knife won’t take up much room in your kit or pocket and will keep you going.

This is by no way a comprehensive list. I created this list as a simple reminder of the basic items that anyone can carry with minimal bulk. These items can all fit in a small pouch in your backpack or on your belt.