I was reading a fascinating article by Ashleigh Seow in this months Malaysia Nature Society magazine about people getting lost in the jungle – it’s easily done – and he cited the case of a group who went up Gunung Yong Yap in 2009. On their way back they realised that one of their group had strayed from the trail and was missing. The search for this missing 19 y.o. was called off after 20 days – he was never found although Orang Asli discovered signs of where he’d spent the night in two places before they lost his trail.

Chances are that by the time you realise you’re lost and aren’t getting out of the jungle that day, you’ll a) be feeling a degree of anxiety and b) will be running out of time before sunset. If you have a survival kit with you – if you can easily and quickly make fire/shelter/purify water etc – then you will feel far less concerned about being forced to spend an unplanned night in the jungle and, the next morning, you will wake with a clearer mind (and more daylight) to plan what to do next.

I like to have a personal survival kit (PSK) that fits in a belt pouch – if it’s more cumbersome than this (or too heavy) it’ll annoy me/get in the way and I’ll end up leaving it at home.  I prefer a belt pouch to a bum-bag (fanny pack) as it is less easily taken off and hung from a tree (and then forgotten!).  The most important point about a PSK is it must be something you carry everywhere, everytime – as much a part of what you wear as the belt holding your trousers up.

The other thing to realise about a PSK is it can’t include every possible item for every possible situation – it would be simply become too big and heavy – a PSK is an emergency kit that you would have with you should you become separated from your rucksack (which will contain all/most of those items).

In the video I show two levels of survival kit that I use.  The bare-minimum kit (parang/compass/lighter/inner tube/mobile/watch/glove) is what I take with me into the jungle every-single-time, even if it’s on a trail I know like the back of my hand.

The extended-kit is what I take with me if I’m going somewhere unfamiliar and contains items that will make it very easy (and quick)  for me to 1) get clean water, 2) build a 100% waterproof shelter, 3) make a hammock, 4) make a fire and 5) protect myself from mozzis… and, hopefully, get a good nights sleep.  And here’s the thing – I know how to do all of those things with nothing more than a parang, but I can’t do it as well or as quickly as I can if I have the items in the extended survival kit.

So in the photo on the left you can see the (very)  bare-minimum kit that you should carry with you at all times:


Lighter: (with inner tube strip tied around it)

Mobile phone (secured in belt pouch with plastic bag in case of rain)


Watch compass: this is an emergency compass (you should bring a better one with you in your rucksack).  There is no danger of forgetting it as it’s attached to your watch.

Detachable sleeves (if wearing a T-shirt)

I also take in a left handed glove (with a paracord bracelet attached to it) – not essential, but something I have got into the habit of carrying.

If I am going somewhere at all unfamiliar then I take the extended survival kit.

This includes:

Parang with survival sheath (this is covered in an earlier post).   Note: the paracord and cable ties included in this sheath enable me to quickly and easily make a hammock.

Watch and watch compass

Mobile phone, belt pouch and plastic bag

Pair of gloves and longer/stronger sleeves (to protect from mozzis)

Green belt pouch

In the green belt pouch is my extended survival kit, it includes:

Iodine (to purify water)

Torch – buy a good LED one (and not one that requires special batteries that are difficult to find in tropical countries) I like the E01 from Fenix which costs around 10 pounds and uses a single AAA battery.  It’s a good idea to hang this round your neck when you take it out as it is so small that it’s easy to lose!

Head net and collapsible hat

Two packets or rehydration powders

Spare compass

Pepper spray – a last ditch defence against predators – (I have no idea whether or not it would work!)

Small tin (not essential, but useful for making charcloth)

Plastic sheeting : two rectangular strips, each measuring 3ft by 10ft.  This plastic sheeting is very thin (so can be packed small) – it is the stuff used in plant nurseries to stop the roots of plants growing out of their pots and into the earth.

With this kit I can quickly and easily: get clean water, make a fire, make a hammock, make a 100% waterproof roof and cover up any exposed skin – I can look forward to a reasonable night’s sleep (although I may go to bed hungry!)

If I’ve also got a (good) GPS with me I can also find my way out easily the next day – but the truth is I often find myself stowing the GPS in my rucksack (it’s a bit heavy/bulky) so it doesn’t really meet the criteria of an every-time-carry item for me.

I wish the guy who went missing on Gunung Yong Yap had had a survival kit with him – if he had he might well have stopped (when he realised he’d become separated from the group) and set up camp.  I imagine that in his haste to get-the-hell-out-of-the-jungle he kept walking till dark and simply made his situation worse; going deeper into the jungle and getting more tired and desperate in the process.