Gear

32 Important Pieces of Survival Gear You Should Have

surivval items

The items you carry in your EDC, your GHB, or your BOB can vary significantly from one individual to the next. Part of this is due to differences in knowledge, skill level, budget, and geographic conditions. Crisis situations, both minor and major, happen to people all around the world on a daily basis and I would venture to say that very few of these are exactly the same for everyone.

But when you find yourself in a true survival situation, a common goal, regardless of the crisis, is to stay alive until you can find your way to help or until help arrives.

With that in mind, we’re going to start our list of survival gear with those items that will contribute to that goal. We’ll add some additional essential survival gear to the end of our list that you can also consider carrying. Adjust your list to best fit your individual needs.

Caught up unexpectedly in a survival situation, it can be difficult for most people to determine which tasks are the most important. Trauma, confusion, chaos, and fear can throw our thinking off balance. Even the most experienced preppers can become somewhat disoriented in a survival situation.

It’s not the time to be learning to use gear for the first time or trying to read instructions for gear you’ve only used twice a year. This is why it’s so important to know in advance what your priorities should be and to master the use of essential survival gear to help you accomplish those tasks.

In a survival situation, having “muscle memory” with important pieces of survival gear could save your life or the lives of your family.

Most experts agree that in most survival situations it’s critical to focus on shelter, fire, and water first and foremost. This is especially critical when you believe you will be stranded for several hours or even days. In addition to a good quality backpack, we’ve provided our suggestions for essential survival gear below:

Shelter/Fire

The more knowledge and skills you have, the less survival gear you will need to carry to ensure you have shelter and fire. Until you have mastered the ability to build various shelters from found materials, you need to carry minimally some cordage, a space blanket or bivvy, and a tarp or military poncho.

With these minimal items you should know how to construct a temporary shelter to protect you from the elements. Once you have erected your shelter, focus on making sure you can start and maintain a fire. This is important not only to keep you warm and dry but also for boiling water, cooking food, and keeping wild animals at bay overnight.

Weather-appropriate clothing is critical survival gear, especially in any area where you could be exposed to extreme weather conditions. Even mild weather conditions can be dangerous if you get wet or can’t get out of direct sun. Hypothermia and heat stroke can seriously impact your ability to perform survival tasks such as building a shelter, navigating accurately, or finding water.

A Knife strong enough to use for cutting branches for shelter, carving a bow drill for fire starting, dressing wild game, self defense, chopping firewood. Your choice of knife is a personal preference but many preppers recommend a Mora knife or a Swedish FireKnife.

A Multi-tool is definitely a good piece of survival gear to have with you in a crisis. It’s difficult to know what you might need in a given situation. A multi-tool gives you flexibility to accomplish more tasks than if you only have a knife.

Fire starting gear such as stormproof matches, lighters, and a ferro rod and striker should always be on your list of must have survival gear. Ideally include some tinder and a bow saw or hatchet in your BOB to use if conditions are too wet or snowy to easily forage tinder and branches from the ground.

Navigation & Lighting Gear

Being able to identify where you are and where you need to go to get help or get to safety is critical. Part of navigating safely means having access to light in the dark and access to gear that you can use to signal for help if you are stranded.

A good working compass and the knowledge to use it accurately will be critical to your survival if you are stranded in the wilderness or in an unfamiliar area.

A standard map of the area you are in as well as a topographical map are definitely important pieces of survival gear you should have with you in any survival situation.

A signal mirror and whistle, such as the Fox40 survival whistle, is good to have on hand to signal for help if you are trapped in one area and need to alert rescuers to your location. Whistles that are pea-free will be more reliable in wet or cold conditions.

A tactical flashlight such as a Maglite provides light when you need it and can also serve as a backup self defense item. Headlamps are great for hands-free lighting so you can more easily get tasks done if it’s getting dark.
Medical

A first aid kit is definitely a critical piece of survival gear. Essential items to pack include:

  • 24 hours to 3 days of any personal medications
  • Pain Relievers
  • Medical tape
  • Duct Tape
  • Gauze roll
  • Kerlix gauze roll
  • Nylon thread
  • Sewing needle
  • Scalpel blade
  • Scissors

Food & Water

When it comes to a survival situation, water should be a priority over food. The average human can survive three weeks or longer without food but only about 3 hours without water to drink.

Carry some bottled water with you when possible but always carry a lifestraw, a bandana, and purification tablets so you’re able to drink the water you find. Don’t forget a metal canteen or cup that you can use for boiling water over a fire. Add some protein bars, trail mix, or survival rations, along with a mini fishing kit and stainless steel wire for snares.

Weapons

The ability to defend yourself and your family in a survival situation is absolutely critical. Make sure you’re ready to defend yourself not only against wild animals but also against another person who may try to do you harm.

A firearm you know how to use is ideal depending on carry laws in your area. But also consider alternative weapons such as knives, slingshots, pepper spray and other personal defense items, etc.

Additional Items to Consider

  • Cash
  • Cell phone
  • Handheld radio
  • Collapsible stove
  • Binoculars or monocular (because it’s smaller)
  • Safety pins
  • Aluminum foil
  • Waterproof paper
  • Pencil or marker

Did we miss one of the most important pieces of survival gear you think should be included? Is your list vastly different from what we’ve suggested?

Share your critical survival gear items in the comments below and tell us why those items make your list, and do take a look at our recommended gear, where you can find survival items in each category.

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Megan Stewart

About Megan Stewart

A mother of four and grandmother of six, Megan is living the lifestyle any prepper would want. Gardening, homesteading and constantly planning for emergencies big and small, she's a beacon of knowledge in the prepping community.
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4 thoughts on “32 Important Pieces of Survival Gear You Should Have

  1. I would add a pump garden sprayer. Useful in the garden, also as a makeshift fire fighting device or a shower in a pinch as well.

  2. Caught up unexpectedly in a survival situation, it can be difficult for most people to determine which tasks are the most important. Trauma, confusion, chaos, and fear can throw our thinking off balance. Even the most experienced preppers can become somewhat disoriented in a survival situation.

    It’s not the time to be learning to use gear for the first time or trying to read instructions for gear you’ve only used twice a year. This is why it’s so important to know in advance what your priorities should be and to master the use of essential survival gear to help you accomplish those tasks.

    With the exception of trauma, all of these things may be mitigated with practice. Keep in mind however, that just going through the motions is not ”real” practice since the oft repeated maxim: “Practice makes perfect” misses the one key point, as only “Perfect Practice makes perfect” as you are training your muscle memory or in neurological terms, your OODA (Observe, Orient, Decide, Act) loop by building neural networks in the brain that may simply be accessed and played back.
    In a stressful situation, we all do the “Freeze” followed by fight or flight.”; but, the time deciding which to do and how to do it occurs while we are running the OODA loop. The more scenarios we have practiced and the more often we have practice them is what gives us the edge, over others who stand like a deer in the headlights, unsure what action to take.
    So basically, practice all your skills properly and often, so you can do them without much real thought next.

    In a survival situation, having “muscle memory” with important pieces of survival gear could save your life or the lives of your family.

    With the proper skills and mindset, the proper kit can be rather small; but, the contents should be well thought out for your area and environment.

    Most experts agree that in most survival situations it’s critical to focus on shelter, fire, and water first and foremost. This is especially critical when you believe you will be stranded for several hours or even days. In addition to a good quality backpack, we’ve provided our suggestions for essential survival gear below:

    Actually fire might depend on your environment; but, then again I’m typing this on a day that has hit 94° and a fire doesn’t even sound at all pleasant. A shelter offering shade along with good hydration would be my goal were I stuck outside today.

    Shelter/Fire

    The more knowledge and skills you have, the less survival gear you will need to carry to ensure you have shelter and fire. Until you have mastered the ability to build various shelters from found materials, you need to carry minimally some cordage, a space blanket or bivvy, and a tarp or military poncho.

    I always carry a few space blankets,, several fire starting methods and a loaded Paracord Spool Tool for storing and working paracord. This little device holds up to 100 feet of paracord and has everything you need to measure, cut, and heat-seal the ends with a place to clip on a mini BIC lighter. A combination of a few Mylar space blankets, the cordage and several means of making flame is a great start for any EDC.

    With these minimal items you should know how to construct a temporary shelter to protect you from the elements. Once you have erected your shelter, focus on making sure you can start and maintain a fire. This is important not only to keep you warm and dry but also for boiling water, cooking food, and keeping wild animals at bay overnight.

    Unless you live out west where there may be mountain lions, keeping nocturnal animals at bay is probably not as important as the other reasons; but, one potentially vital reason is as a signal to the SAR (Search & Rescue) teams that may be trying to locate you. Smoke in the day and light at night is a sure way to be found; but, if you are actually trying to hide, then you must consider these items and their potential negative effects as well.

    Weather-appropriate clothing is critical survival gear, especially in any area where you could be exposed to extreme weather conditions. Even mild weather conditions can be dangerous if you get wet or can’t get out of direct sun. Hypothermia and heat stroke can seriously impact your ability to perform survival tasks such as building a shelter, navigating accurately, or finding water.

    This is where multiple use items such as Frog Toggs Gore-Tex raingear or the Grabber Mylar space blanket with grommets and a hood can be a lifesaver. I spent an entire weekend in my rain suit camping, obviously changing the underlying clothing for clean and dry and have weathered near blizzard conditions when hunting, using that blanket & hood as an outside layer against the wind. In a hot situation, the blanket would also provide good shade, since it not only shades from the heat; but, reflects much of it away from your shelter.

    A Knife strong enough to use for cutting branches for shelter, carving a bow drill for fire starting, dressing wild game, self defense, chopping firewood. Your choice of knife is a personal preference but many preppers recommend a Mora knife or a Swedish FireKnife.

    I normally carry a heavy Hoffman Richter folder for EDC and have several of the Mora; but, for the best overall functional tools I would choose either my Habilis Bush Tool, my Off Grid Tools Survival Axe, or the SOG tomahawk and often carry all in the pack.

    A Multi-tool is definitely a good piece of survival gear to have with you in a crisis. It’s difficult to know what you might need in a given situation. A multi-tool gives you flexibility to accomplish more tasks than if you only have a knife.

    A multitool can be of different varieties and I personally like and carry the Gerber, since it seems to me to be stronger; but, mostly, since it may be deployed with one hand. Open the Velcro flap on the sheath, grabs the tool, and flick your wrist, and you have a pair of pliers / cutters ready to work.
    Technically the Bush tool and the OGT axe above are also a Multitool with a variety of uses depending on your situation.

    Fire starting gear such as stormproof matches, lighters, and a ferro rod and striker should always be on your list of must have survival gear. Ideally include some tinder and a bow saw or hatchet in your BOB to use if conditions are too wet or snowy to easily forage tinder and branches from the ground.

    My OGT Axe has both an axe & saw and for tinder I’ve found nothing as good as the shredded kiln dried poplar stuffing you get from craft shops for stuffing little pillows or animals. I bought a large bag from Joann Fabrics years ago and carry some in all of my kits as well as some fatwood and charcloth.

    Navigation & Lighting Gear

    Being able to identify where you are and where you need to go to get help or get to safety is critical. Part of navigating safely means having access to light in the dark and access to gear that you can use to signal for help if you are stranded.

    A simple compass with some training and a map of the area in your head can easily work without carrying a ton of equipment, and works for most with practice. Another multiple use tool, Emergency Zone 5 in 1 listed below can also fill a lot of needs with a lightweight inexpensive piece of kit.
    When I started this journey flashlights were dim with short lived batteries and some of my best lighting were carbide lanterns with a reflector like those used in caves & mines. I still have a pair of those; but, the LED lanterns and flashlights now available inexpensively are a preppers dream come true. Most take rechargeable batteries, have multiple settings and include a strobe mode for attracting attention if you need help.

    A signal mirror and whistle, such as the Fox40 survival whistle, is good to have on hand to signal for help if you are trapped in one area and need to alert rescuers to your location. Whistles that are pea-free will be more reliable in wet or cold conditions.

    Once again see the Emergency Zone 5 in 1 listed below.

    A tactical flashlight such as a Maglite provides light when you need it and can also serve as a backup self defense item. Headlamps are great for hands-free lighting so you can more easily get tasks done if it’s getting dark.

    A Maglite is not really all that tactical and while heavy enough to use as a weapon, is in my opinion not the best kit for carry. In your vehicle with an LED replacement bulb they are great; but, other better, lighter to carry lights are available.

    Medical

    Your list is a good start; but, you should add:
    A bleed stop agent such as Quick Clot
    Individual / single use tubes of Cyanoacrylate (super glue) fir quickly sealing wounds.

    Food & Water

    When it comes to a survival situation, water should be a priority over food. The average human can survive three weeks or longer without food but only about 3 hours without water to drink.

    3 hours without water?
    I think you have your 3’s mixed up; but, here are the ones we teach in our seminars:
    You can survive –
    1. 3 seconds without a plan
    2. 3 minutes without air
    3. 3 hours without shelter
    4. 3 days without water
    5. 3 weeks without food
    6. 3 months without hope

    The time for water would of course be somewhat dependent on your environment, since a hot dry desert can dehydrate you just by breathing and would change that dynamic.

    Carry some bottled water with you when possible but always carry a lifestraw, a bandana, and purification tablets so you’re able to drink the water you find. Don’t forget a metal canteen or cup that you can use for boiling water over a fire. Add some protein bars, trail mix, or survival rations, along with a mini fishing kit and stainless steel wire for snares.

    I usually carry an Alexapure Survival Spring water straw, a Seyschelle water filter bottle, a 40 oz stainless bottle with cap and the ”Potable Aqua” brand of purification tablets. These tablets are available in Iodine or Chlorine and will take a bit of time to make water potable (safely drinkable) so make sure you read the instructions and practice ”before” you need them.

    Weapons

    The ability to defend yourself and your family in a survival situation is absolutely critical. Make sure you’re ready to defend yourself not only against wild animals but also against another person who may try to do you harm.

    I nearly always carry a handgun; but, most of my tools like the OGT Axe and the SOG Tomahawk could also be deployed for defense. Good situational awareness to avoid trouble is perhaps your best starting point.

    A firearm you know how to use is ideal depending on carry laws in your area. But also consider alternative weapons such as knives, slingshots, pepper spray and other personal defense items, etc.

    I also carry pepper gel; but, carrying a concealed knife may be a problem in some jurisdictions. Carrying a knife as a tool that could be used for defense is unfortunately perceived very differently than carrying one primarily as a weapon.

    Additional Items to Consider
    1. Cash
    Make sure it’s small bills and some coins to make change and be less of a theft / robbery target
    2. Cell phone
    This is a good idea; but, be aware that service may not be available. Where I live Verizon has rather good coverage with AT&T being marginal and the other carriers not working at all.
    3. Handheld radio
    You need to make sure you know how to use it and what frequencies to use it on. Unless there is someone on the other end listening, it will be of little value. An amateur radio (ham radio) license is really easy to get and radios are very inexpensive, so this venue could get you training and people on the other end who do listen and can render assistance.
    4. Collapsible stove
    I have several versions of these; but, knowing how to build a good fire and using rocks / logs for a surface can also work with practice. Remember to avoid rocks from around a stream o river, since these may have water trapped in them and explode when heated.
    5. Binoculars or monocular (because it’s smaller)
    I have a very small pair of binoculars I carry for hunting. When in their case they are not much larger than a few packs of cigarettes.
    6. Safety pins
    Always a good thing to have.
    7. Aluminum foil
    This is a very versatile material and I concur.
    8. Waterproof paper
    I admit ignorance here, since I had not heard of this; but, will look into it.
    9. Pencil or marker
    Sharpen the pencil on both ends or carry a cheap pencil sharpener. If you carry the pencil sharpener, you can use it on a twig to make tinder in the field.

    You might want to add:
    Emergency Zone 5 in 1 Survival Whistle. Compass, Whistle, Water-Resistant matches Container, Signal Mirror, Ferro Rod. This item runs under $10.00 and has a lot of functionality but, the way the Ferro Rod is mounted makes that part rather useless.

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