My love affair with gear started with basic camping. One particular camping trip with friends comes to mind. It got dark and I had recently purchased a brand new headlamp... something the rest of my friends did not have as they weren't that common at the time. They made fun of me for having a lamp on my head... but after a while they realized the advantage of my little piece of equipment: I had a light source that would look everywhere I looked, without even having to aim it... completely hands free. Their mockery quickly turned to amazement and jealousy. Or when it was chow time, I would bust out my MRS Pocket Rocket and quickly bring water to a boil with my tiny jet engine. Meanwhile my friends would hang a giant pot from an iron tripod and painstakingly wait for their water to come to a boil over an open fire. You get the idea. When it rained I put on my breathable Gore-tex and stayed dry and cool, and they would put on there packable poncho and discover it’s secondary use as a pocket sauna. You get the idea.
Being properly equipped can make all the difference between barely getting by and being amazingly comfortable in a survival scenario. If you are wet, cold, hot, uncomfortable, dehydrated, hungry, or fatigued, you are going to be more prone to making poor decisions or even injuring yourself. You are also going to have a much tougher time staying optimistic and hopeful. Planning ahead and having a couple of lighters, a flashlight, some cordage, a knife, and other items on hand can not only increase your odds of staying alive, but it can increase your odds of staying comfortable and positive while you are doing it.
The key to assembling your gear is balance. Gear doesn’t have to be heavy. It doesn’t have to bulky. Determine your needs and fill in the blanks with a light and compact version of the tool you need to get the job done. But light and compact can come with its own drawbacks. Frequently, “light and compact” will either cost you an arm and a leg (like with titanium), or you will sacrifice durability or performance. Not always, but frequently. You will simply need to figure out the best combination of lightweight, compact, affordable, performance, and durability. Then you will have to determine the balance between how much gear you will actually need and how much you will realistically want to carry.
So how much gear is too much gear? Well, assemble what you think you will need and put it in a pack and carry it. Hike with it on a trail with some hills and obstacles, not just a sidewalk or paved road. Keep in mind you may need to do this for several days or even weeks. Be honest with yourself... would the amount of weight in your pack be practical?
Your pack choice is also going to be a factor. Some packs are really well designed to distribute the load of your gear really well. Quality backpacking packs are
Approaching your gear selection is also completely personal. There is no right or wrong answer for everyone. There is no formula or Excel spreadsheet to help you figure this out. As I mentioned before, some survivalists prefer a minimalist approach and tend to strip down to the bare essentials so they can be light on their feet. Other survivalists choose to endure the extra weight so they have the tools they need to accomplish the tasks they anticipate facing. Preference has a lot to do with gear choice.
When choosing your survival gear, it is wise to do your homework. Read gear reviews and watch gear review videos on sites like YouTube. You can find such reviews all over the internet on everything from flashlights to hammocks to firearms to fire pistons.
The best way to determine which gear is right for you is to try it for yourself. For smaller items, by several different options and figure out which solution works best for you. You can always use the other options as backups or trade them to buddies for other items. For more expensive items, borrow from a friend or acquaintance. If you don’t have a friend or acquaintance who has the item you can borrow to try it for yourself, then you are going to have to rely heavily on testimony from fellow survivalists on survival forums. It is hard to beat trying the product for yourself, but in a pinch you can cover a lot of ground doing your due diligence in survival forums, product reviews, YouTube videos and other valuable resources on the internet.
Also, choose your gear based upon your skill sets, knowledge and abilities. For example, I am not a terrific hunter. I am a pretty decent fisherman. I would not put a lot of confidence in my ability to catch game, but I know a decent amount about fish and how to catch them. I would be foolish to put all my eggs in one basket and neglect to include snares an traps in my game plan, but my emphasis should definitely be on a properly equipped fishing kit.