The type of kit needed to be prepared for a survival situation depends largely on the terrain. Here are a few bare necessities to get you through no matter your location.
Many people like to enter a situation prepared for the worst case scenario. It's why people store bottled water, cigarette lighters, and emergency blankets in their car. These folks tend to follow the old saying, "it's better to have it and not need it, than it is to need it and not have it." Being prepared for a survival situation requires the same mentality.
The important thing to remember about survival situations is that we don't mean to end up in them. A true survival situation is typically an accident. Whether you've been snowed in on an early season elk hunt, wandered off the path on a desert hike, or buried your car in a snowdrift miles from the nearest road, you didn't hope for it to occur. Being prepared for a survival situation means understanding the situation you are going to enter, and understanding the worst possible scenario that can occur.
In reality, you can't go into every situation with absolutely every tool for every bad scenario. Your survival kit must be pruned down to the essentials you are willing to take with you. Although the necessities will depend on the environment you are going to, these are a few essentials wherever you go.
The most important item you can pack to be prepared for a survival situation is knowledge. Knowledge of the world is what allows people around the world to live without fear in their natural world. Native Americans, mountain men, and longhunters didn't worry about being prepared for a survival situation. A survival situation for them would have been a grizzly attack or some other attack, rather than a snowstorm. Why? These people lived on the land everyday. Everything they needed was around them, and their knowledge of the land would get them through any situation.
Renowned bushcraft expert Ray Mears has a saying something to the effect of "by arming ourselves with knowledge we can make the woods a place we can live, not just visit from time to time." Armed with an arsenal of knowledge you can also turn your favorite stomping ground into a place you don't just visit from time to time.
Humans around the world have long understood the importance of fire. It is our oldest and most important accomplishment. Fire offers so many benefits in a survival situation, it is hard to overstate. Not only can it keep you warm and cook your food, but fire can boost your morale and give you the belief you can make it. The psychological benefits can oftentimes be more important than the physical.
Fire has been made easy with recent advances in technology. Many people make a big deal about fire building skills. I'll admit firsthand I'm amazed each time I start a friction fire. There is something that touches the soul of a man within it. That being said, I'm not going to risk my life to test my fire making skills.
Whenever I head into the backcountry I always, always, take a U.S. military trioxane fuel bar. They are virtually weightless and will start a fire in any conditions. This fuel bar combined with an Bic lighter can get you fire every time. However, waterproof matches might be part of your survival kit if you are entering an extremely wet environment.
A Steel Edge
Anyone who has ever done work with stone and bone can fully appreciate the advantages of steel. A good full tang knife and trusty hatchet should be part of every survival kit. If you have to go with either a knife or hatchet, and good knife can replace light hatchet work if need be.
Stay away from folding knives as they will simply crumble if you ask it to do any hard work. Also the danger of a folding knife is worth staying away from. There have been more than a few folks whose fingers weren't ready when the blade accidentally closed.
A good steel edge can help you in so many ways, it is essential to be prepared for a survival situation. With it you can make shelter and any tools your might need for your stay. Knives were so instrumental to the lives of the mountain men they would backtrack sometimes for days in order to find a lost knife. A knife will help you in any environment, and should be a basic in every kit.
The final item that should enter a serious survival kit in every environment is iodine. People often discuss finding food or hunting strategies. In reality, you can go up to a month without food, but won't last one week without water. Additionally, drinking bad water will accelerate your rate of dehydration and make surviving that much more difficult.
The tricky thing about water is its weight. Weighing in at over eight pounds a gallon, water is much too heavy to pack in large quantities. Fortunately there are several modern inventions that can make your water safe to drink. Iodine is a great option for most situations. It is small, virtually weightless, and kills everything. For the money and space it is hard to beat.
The one downside of iodine is the fact you need a bottle of somekind to use it. While most people take a waterbottle of some kind with them, you would be in trouble without one. A LifeStraw is another option if you don't take a water bottle into the field. You can drink straight from the source with this filtration system. The downside of a system like this is the bulk of it. Depending on your needs though it might be worth taking a look at.
Again, every survival situation has different needs depending on your environment. Make sure and understand the geography of the location you are going. Always be sure to take a brainfull of knowledge, a reliable fire system, a good steel edge, and a way to get water, and you should be prepared for a survival situation if you happen to find yourself in one.