Surviving in the wild can be an insurmountable task on a sunny day. Just consult any of the great survival movies or adventure books that don’t take place in the snow, if you want proof. And that means, when it gets a little bit colder, trying to make it out of a bad situation gets exponentially harder to do.
That’s why we are firm believers that everyone should have at least the beginnings of a winter survival kit. And yes, that’s true even if you don’t live somewhere it snows – you can die from the cold even in sunny California on the right day (or wrong day, depending on how you look at it). But not any old survival kit will do; you have to cater this one specifically to the harsh conditions of the colder months. Which is why we’ve put together this collection of the 20 best pieces of survival gear for winter.
UCO Stormproof Match Kit
In the dead of winter, your biggest enemy is the cold. To combat that out in the wilderness, you’ll need to build a fire. And to make things easier and give you a better chance of survival, you’ll want to stash away one of UCO’s Stormproof Match Kits. Filled with 25 wind and waterproof matches and three strikers, this waterproof case is your best bet to get a campfire started out in the cold.
Orion Safety Road Flares
Never underestimate the value of a good road flare. These combustible sticks, which run for up to 15 minutes, can act as beacons for emergency crews to find you. They can also double as self defense tools – if you happen upon a bear, for instance – and, in a pinch, they can even be used to start a campfire. Just be cautious when using them, as they are extremely dangerous in the hands of a careless or untrained person.
S.O.S. Food Labs Emergency Rations
If you’re stuck out in the freezing cold, there are a few things you’ll need to stay alive – namely shelter, warmth, and food. That latter part can be a little bit tricky, because you don’t just need any old food in the cold; you need high caloric value. Being in the cold means burning more calories, and if you’re going to combat that, you could do worse than these emergency rations. They’re quick, have 3600 calories per bar, and they don’t require any excess preparation.
The idea that you lose half of your body heat through your head is an old wives tale – but that doesn’t mean it’s not important to keep your dome warm in the frozen wastes of winter. Just as you’d want warm pants and a warm jacket, so too should you keep on hand a warm beanie. This one from legendary American brand Carhartt should do the trick. It’s made of acrylic, incredibly warm, stretchy, and will last through a hell of a lot of use.
Field Notes Expedition Pocket Notebook
Depending upon how long you’re going to be trapped in the dead of winter, it’s a pretty good idea to start keeping notes on things like days passed, food and water rations, and other important notes about your situation or surroundings. And the best way to keep those notes is in this weather-resistant pocket notebook from Field Notes. It was literally sent to Antarctica on an expedition to see how tough it is. Oh yeah, and it was made right here in the USA.
Soto Pocket Torch
Take a cheap disposable lighter, stuff it into the Soto Pocket Torch, and you’ve got yourself one of the most useful survival tools you could hope to have: a windproof torch. Not only will this little device emit a flame of up to 2,300 degrees Fahrenheit, but it will extend the life of your lighter by up to 60%, can run for up to 20 minutes uninterrupted, and weighs just a couple of ounces.
HotHands Hand Warmers
You won’t be able to do much if you can’t use your digits – so keep them comfy and cozy with these disposable hand warmers from HotHands. They’re made in the USA, will keep your fingers warm for up to 10 hours, are odor free, and don’t rely on traditional combustion (so you don’t have to worry about anything catching fire). They also have a 3-4 year shelf life, so if you don’t use them all, you can stash the rest for later.
Hydro Flask Vacuum Insulated Water Bottle
No matter the weather outside, access to water is always going to be necessary for survival. But the cold has a way of turning that life-giving liquid into an undrinkable solid. Well, no worries if you have a Hydro Flask vacuum insulated water bottle, because the double-wall design will ensure that the liquid inside stays liquid for hours and hours. And, if you can manage to heat up a beverage, it can keep it warm for up to 6 hours, as well.
Smartwool PhD Outdoor Mountaineer Socks
Frostbite is always a risk when traversing a frozen wasteland. And that’s true even if you have a great pair of insulated hiking boots. Give yourself an extra level of protection with these mountaineering socks from Smartwool. Designed specifically for cold weather and difficult hikes, these socks are supremely durable, shockingly warm, and fit like a glove… or sock, in this case.
Nordic Pocket Saw
While you should certainly have a hatchet in your winter survival kit, keeping a saw is also an extremely good idea. For starters, cutting wood with a saw expels less energy. It’s also less messy and a lot more effective when it comes to cutting up larger branches that can’t be chopped in a single swing. The Nordic Pocket Saw has another bonus, as well – it isn’t rigid, so you can pack it away in your bag or stash it in your pocket.
Under Armour Base 3.0 Leggings
Keeping warm enough to survive in winter conditions is all about layering. That starts with a solid base layer. And Under Armour’s Base 3.0 Leggings is as good as it gets. Not only will these leggings keep you super warm, but their elastane polyester flatlock stitched construction is built for excellent durability and comfort. They also feature the brand’s Armour Block anti-odor technology, so you won’t stink up the joint – whether you’re trapped in a tiny tent or just hitting the gym.
Mountain Standard MTN Utility Gloves
Getting out of harm’s way should definitely be on your to-do list in any survival situation, and that likely means you’ll have to use your hands a lot. That’s going to be made a whole lot easier if you’ve got a solid pair of gloves to keep your hands warm and uninjured. And you’d be hard-pressed to find a better pair than these ones from Mountain Standard. They’re made from waterproof leather, feature plenty of insulation, and were designed specifically to survive through hard work in any weather.
For building a shelter, chopping up firewood, and random cutting tasks – an axe is an indispensable tool. And, honestly, you should already own at least one if you like hiking and camping. This one from Civilware, which is as handsome as they come, features a sturdy American hickory handle paired with a drop-forged 1060 high carbon steel head. And it comes with a superb leather sheath for safe keeping when you’re not using it.
My Medic MyFAK First Aid Kit
Even if you’re not in a winter survival situation, you should have a great first aid kit on hand – just in case. And few, if any, are quite as good as those offered by My Medic. This kit comes in a super durable nylon bag, features an instant-access velcro panel, is waterproof, and is loaded to the brim with helpful healing gear. Whether you have a burn, laceration, or need to perform CPR, this first aid kid has you covered.
DMOS Stealth Shovel
Great for clearing snow, digging a shelter, or rescuing someone from an avalanche, the DMOS Stealth Shovel is a must-pack for those wandering away from civilization in snowy conditions. It has a sturdy construction of aerospace grade aluminum, can withstand up to 3,886 pounds of force, weighs just 3.3 pounds, and can easily be attached to your hiking pack.
Spy Doom Snow Goggle
Winter survival doesn’t always mean there’s going to be snow falling from the sky – but that doesn’t mean there won’t be snow on the ground. And if there is, you’ll want to make sure you have a pair of goggles ready, like the Doom Snow Goggles from Spy. Not only will these keep your eyes protected from the elements, they also have a incredibly wide field of view, and have a super simple and quick lens swap system, so you can change between the two included fog- and scratch-resistant lenses – one for bright days and the other for overcast.
Danner Crater Rim Winter Boot
Few things are as important when it comes to winter survival as a good pair of boots. After all, unless you have access to a vehicle, your feet are your only means of transportation. Best to keep them safe, warm, and protected with Danner’s Crater Rim cold weather hiking boots. Designed for backpacking, they feature a fully waterproof yet breathable GORE-TEX liner, a Vibram outsole, and a waterproof nubuck leather upper.
BlackYak Emergency Jacket
If you find yourself in an unforeseen emergency, you’ll be all the better off if you’ve got BlackYak’s Emergency Jacket stashed away in your survival kit. Packable down to a little bit bigger than a baseball, this waterproof, windproof, and breathable jacket is excellent for combatting the elements. In fact, it was specifically designed to be as lightweight and packable as possible without sacrificing any weather resistance – and that makes it great for winter survival kits.
Patagonia 850 Down Sleeping Bag
God forbid you have to spend the night away from shelter or in an uninsulated building during the bitter dead of winter. But if you did, you’re going to be so much more comfortable if you have a super warm sleeping bag along with you – like this one from Patagonia. Designed for use in temperatures as low as 19-degrees Fahrenheit, this mummy bag will keep you warm and safe all through the harsh night.
Mountain Hardwear EV 3 Tent
There are a few things to look for in a mountaineering/emergency shelter: simplicity in its construction, lightness in weight, and packability. This one from Mountain Hardware has all of it in spades. Sure, it’s not a 5-star resort, but this weatherproof camping tent can spell the difference between death and survival if the occasion arises.
Survival Skills Every Man Should Know
Having the right gear is only half the battle. The other part is knowing how to actually make it out there – which you can learn by reading our guide of survival skills every man should know.