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:
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.
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
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.
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
- 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.