There are a lot of ideas about how to put together a pocket survival kit for survival in the wilderness. Most assume you’re going to build a shelter, live off the land and spend weeks if not months lost in the woods. That’s not a good idea. You want to get through the night and either get out or get found. What many of us forget is that we have a new tool that can vastly simplify most outdoor survival situations: our smartphones.
Smartphone as Survival tool
To make the point, I’ve used the iPhone as an example in this article. You can find similar features and apps for the Android and other smartphones. What’s critical is that you take the time to download the apps, get familiar with them, and keep one other thing in mind: battery power.
Keep the batteries going
The common sense solution to limited battery power is to shut the thing off except when you’re using it. Ultimately, your ability to call someone and tell them your lost or stranded is your best bet to getting found. You’ll have to tell them where you are and there are apps to help you do that, but if your battery’s dead your smartphone is just going to be dead-weight in your pocket.
There are two solutions to dwindling battery power far from home.
1. A portable solar-charger.
2. A portable hand-crank charger.
Both will allow you to recharge your battery enough for intermittent use. I prefer the hand cranker because it will work when the sun doesn’t shine on dark, overcast days and at night. Maybe you’ll want to have both. They’re not expensive and easy enough to carry with you if you’re going into a place that has some risk.
Download these Apps
Here’s a list of tools defined by iPhone apps that will make obvious sense to you . Each one is linked to either the iPhone app-store or a resource where you can find the App, and most of them are free.
- Guide to edible wild plants
- Emergency and first aid apps
- General emergency apps
- Flashlight app
- Mirror app
- Google maps
- Download an eBook on wilderness survival
In case you’re wondering why you would need a “mirror” app, it actually turns your iPhone into a mirror surface that you can use to signal from a distance. If you see a plane or helicopter overhead it’s unlikely that you’ll know their phone number, but if they see 3 flashes from a mirror on the ground they’ll know you need help. By the way, 3 flashes from a flashlight, a mirror or 3 sounds in succession are the standard signals for someone in distress.
Know how to use the Apps
Take the time to not only download the apps, but familiarize yourself with them. Waiting until a stressful survival occasion is not the best time to browse a bunch of apps for the first time, especially if you’re trying to conserve battery power. You’ll also want to learn how to use the latitude and longitude feature on your GPS. There are no street signs in the wilderness and it’s not going to do you a lot of good if all you can tell someone is that you’re standing next to a big tree in a forest. If you can give them your exact latitude and longitude (it’s really easy if you know how to request it on the app) any expert search and rescue personnel will zero-in on you very quickly.
Boost the signal
There’s also one other peripheral you might consider. A signal booster for your iPhone. A lot of this depends on your service provider. Some providers have very good reach across countries and continents while others can be a bit spotty. You don’t want to find this out when you’re in a bad situation. You might want to check the reach in the area you’re going to before you depart, or bring along the signal booster. Be forewarned, a signal booster won’t guarantee a connection, but it will improve your odds in a remote area.
There are other things that are nice to have if you’re lost or stranded in the wilderness. Matches come to mind. But if you take the time to equip your iPhone or other smartphone in this way, you may find you have the most valuable survival tool ever created. You just have to know how to use it that way.