The following is a list of survival item suggestions. Everybody’s needs are different so some of these will work for you and some will not. For instance, some of these items are essential for wilderness survival yet nearly useless for urban survival.
Each category could be a book. So look at this more as brainstorming. If there is anything in this list that you have not considered or thought about, use the topic as a starting point for research.
If you are looking for a list of Bug Out Bag items please check out out Bug Out Bag Checklist.
No matter what you decide to include in your survival and prepping chances are you will run out of something and have extras of others. The key is to make sure those extras have enough value to trade for things you end up running out of.
- Emergency Credit Card: This of course assumes you can still use Credit Cards.
- Money: US currency, silver coins, precious metals whatever you feel will be of use.
- Barter Items: There are plenty of discussions on what items will be of value when SHTF. Make your choice based on your resources, storage area, etc, and stock pile extra.
There is plenty to consider here. What climate are you in?
- Backpack: Not necessarily a bug out bag, just something to conveniently carry anything you might want to carry when leaving the house or car. Often hiking backpack are the most comfortable, but may lack compartments. Military bags often have more compartments yet can be on the heavy side.
- Good Hiking Boots: If you plan on doing a lot of walking, especially in the wilderness.
- Spare Outfit: Perhaps a set in your bug out bag, your vehicle, or a designated outfit in your closet. Some things to consider, comfortable, your climate, lots of pockets, etc.
- Gloves: Find durable and light gloves. Consider Venom brand or Kevlar based gloves.
- Rain Suit or Poncho: Usually the disposable ones are more than sufficient and they are light weight and very compact.
- Wide Brim Hat: Offering protection from the sun or rain. Living in Florida this is high on my list.
- Bandannas: A personal preference for sure however they have several uses. Protect from the sun, soak with water to help keep cool, protect from the sun, keep word around neck or head.
- Sunglasses: Protection from the sun, but eye protection in general as well.
Lets face it this area can create a lot of debate. For one thing, this category is very much personal preference. It comes down to your skills, beliefs, likes, and dislikes. So let me just list some of the more common categories of defense to make sure people consider defense in their plans.
- Gun: If your more concerned about hunting maybe you go with a rifle. If you want self-defense more likely a pistol. You could pick one of each however keep them the same caliber for simplifying ammo.
- Pistol: Most likely self-defense.
- Ammo: Obviously you pack whatever caliber your gun takes, however what if you haven’t chosen yet? Of the most common calibers the 22 Long Rifle and the 9mm are probably the most versatile, lightest, and cheapest. This also means they will likely be the easiest to find in most any situation.
- Pepper or Bear Spray: Non-lethal, someone once suggested wasp spray because it sprays far, but that stuff comes in some pretty large cans in my opinion.
- Taser / Phazzer: Non-lethal shock based weapon.
- Knife: Really whatever your preference is.
- Training: There is a whole range of fighting techniques out there.
Electronic devices should be part of any emergency plan however no plan should rely on them. They have plenty of weaknesses. They can get damaged by EMP, lighting, and water. They require batteries and often times require a network (cell phone towers, GPS satellite, Internet, etc).
- Cell Phone: Even if the phone system goes down there are hundreds of useful apps including GPS, compass, maps, survival, informational, and entertainment apps.
- Personal locator beacon (PLB): Designed for remote rescue. They operate at 406 Mhz and send a location and id to a satellite. Emergency personal use the id to lookup a phone number to notify family. These cost around $300.
- Communication: Ham Radio, C.B. Radio, Shortwave Radio
- AM / Weather Radio: Useful in the event of a natural disaster or if you are stuck in the elements.
- GPS Device: Detail in the Navigation section below.
- Solar Charger: These don’t deliver the power a gasoline generator can however they do provide power as long as the sun rises giving you power day after day. Assuming you stick with small electronics to laptops and not air conditioning your tent, they are more than adequate.
- Survival Laptop: A small laptop (or tablet, smart phone) can be loaded with survival information, maps, entertainment, and use the Internet. Small laptops like the Chromebook can cost less than $200 and weigh around 2 lbs.
- eReader: the advantage here is the battery typically lasts for days or even weeks depending on usage, where a cell phone is only 6-10 hours.
- Faraday Cage: This is used to protect your electronics from the threat of EMP. The most basic form is a solid box of metal. The thicker the better.
Fire is a simple and very useful thing to have. Without the right equipment though it can be difficult to create, especially in bad weather conditions when you will likely need it most.
- Lighter: A near foolproof way of starting a fire. Consider any of the wind and storm resistant lighters. However, even a pack of cheap Bic lighters will be very useful. Just make sure they are protected. You may also consider high-tech versions like electronic lighters and plasma lighters. They do cost more, require charging, but can often light fires in bad weather.
- Butane Torch: Like everything these are getting more compact and cheaper. They are a tool that go beyond starting fires. Like a “torch lighter” they stay lit in bad weather.
- Firesteel: A variety of designs (high carbon, alloyed steel, Ferrocerium, magnesium) used like flint to start a fire. Reasonably priced, often between $10 and $20, and can create thousands of fires, even in harsh environments.
- Waterproof Matches: You could wrap normal matches in a condom but this seems more dependable.
- Tinder (for fire starting): Depends on whether you feel you could find tinder in your surroundings.
- Fire Extinguisher: Stop a mistake from becoming a disaster. Some good places include under your kitchen sink, in your car, in your garage. Even a small one is probably to heavy for a bug out bag though.
So you can go 3 weeks without food. Not sure I want to go even 3 days though. Its easy to purchase emergency food supplies and well within possibility to create food storage reserve. Consider how many times you can eat the same thing though.
- Meal, Ready-to-Eat (MRE): Military MREs are sold by individuals often on eBay. Its hard to know age, how they were stored, or what war they came from. Consider civilian MREs or Emergency Food Supplies.
- Emergency Food Supply Kit: Several companies create emergency food kits ranging from 3 day to 30 day supplies. NorthWest Fork claims 10+ year shelf life, Augason Farms up to a 20 year shelf life, and Mountain House a 30 year shelf life.
- Salt: A lack of salt can cause cramps, nausea, fatigue, and dizziness. Salt keeps indefinitely as long as it stays dry, however, the additives do degrade. Iodine salt lasts for about 5 years. Either have it as part of your food storage or consider Thermotabs Salt.
- Hard Candy: For a boost of energy and perhaps a boost of morale.
- Energy Bars: There are emergency specific bars that have shelf lives up to 5 years. These can be tough to eat because of flavor and how tough they are to chew. Test out and find a handful that are edible and rotate them through their expiration date.
- No Expiration Date Foods: When stored correctly these foods have no expiration date. Honey, Dried Beans, Rice (white, wild, arborio, jasmine, basamti) when stored in airtight container, White Vinegar (for dressings or marinades), Real Vanilla Extract, Salt (table, kosher, sea), Cornstarch (keep it dry and airtight), Sugar (keep it dry and airtight), Hard liquor (store in cool dark place), Instant Coffee (keep frozen). Maple Syrup (keep frozen).
Hunting and Fishing
Back up, or main, source of food. If you are a hunter or fisher you will likely want that to be part of your prepping and/or but out supplies.
- Hunting Supplies: Create an emergency kit with your preferred hunting supplies for your bug out supplies.
- Fishing Supplies: Create an emergency kit with your preferred hunting supplies for your bug out supplies.
For about half the day light is pretty essential for productivity and security.
- LED Flashlight: You can get tiny USB chargeable flashlights up to hand size high powered spotlights. Pick a small one for your bug out bag and larger ones for the campsite, car, and home.
- LED Head Lamps: Convenient version of a flashlight.
- Solar LED Lantern: Lanterns (or landscape lights) are pretty cheap, in both cost and construction, however take several and place around the perimeter of your home or campsite. They charge during day and discharge at night without much maintenance.
- Glow Sticks: Great back up. You get about 12 hours per dollar and about 15 hours per ounce of weight. There is not turning them off or blow them out though.
- Emergency Candles: Decent backup, better for campers and homes because of weight. Both the the 50+ hour wax candles and the 100+ hour oil candles weigh about a pound. The oil ones are also glass. In the end you get about 17 hours of light per dollar and about 3 hours per ounce of wax or 6 hours per ounce for oil.
Emergency First Aid Kit
There are a lot of cool things in prepping, the med bag is probably not one of them. Truth is though, this will probably get more use then many other parts of your survival kit. The stuff below are generic suggestions. Think about your own needs (high blood pressure, heart, diabetic, severe allergies, etc) when packing your med kit. Your kit should include:
- Wound Closing: duct tape, butterfly sutures
- Prevent Infection: antibiotic creams, gauze, antiseptics, disinfectant wipes and cream, oral antibiotics
- Pain Management: aspirin, Tylenol, ibuprofen, pain killer, chemical ice bags, lidocaine
- Allergies: antihistamine cream
- Burns: creams and ointments
- Bug Bites: anti-itch, ointments, or perhaps antidote depending on location.
- Vitamins: A good multi-vitamin should work well.
- Sunscreen: waterproof, high spf
- Tools: tweezers, scissors, thermometer
- Bandages: various sizes, gauze, medical tape
- Gloves: several pair of nitrile gloves (Venom Gloves)
- Over The Counter Meds: Think of the items your family uses regularly.
- Information: Medical manuals, first aid basics, etc.
This is going to be completely different for each person. Consider things that could boost your morale. Below are just some ideas to get you thinking.
- Personal Identification Papers
- Morale Boosting: family photos, personal beliefs
- Entertainment: playing cards, Sudoku
- Hygiene: dental, deodorant, soap, nail clippers
Shelter and Camping
Based on your plan and situation shelter can take on a lot of forms. The main idea is to get you out of the elements when bugging out or provide security in your home or shelter.
- Tarp: Mainly to keep rain off you. Probably a good shelter option for a bug out bag. A plastic painters tarp can be a compact, light-weight option to provide a temporary waterproof shelter. A 2-mil 9 x 12 sheet weighs about 1 lb and costs around $5. It won’t last long though. An 8 x 7 camping tarp also weighs about 1 lb, is much more durable and typically cost under $20.
- Mylar Blanket: A thin, light-weight reflective material. It can reflect body heat back to you or place shiny side out to reflect the sun and heat. Typically under $5.
- Bivy Sack: Specially designed emergency sleeping bag to keep you warm and dry. Its very compact, light-weight, waterproof, and reflects about 90% of your body heat. Typically cost around $20.
- Sleeping Bag: If you can afford the weight regular sleeping bags will outlast most emergency type.
- Tent: At least 1 small tent on hand. If can afford the weight or your plan involves longer term camping consider something bigger, heavier and more durable.
- Mylar Tent: Similar concept as the blanket but usually a simple triangle tent. Shiny side in to stay warm, shiny side out to stay cool. Typically under $30.
- Lightweight Hammock: Something to get you off the ground. A hiking or backpacking hammock can weigh as little as 1 lb.
These are general supply suggestions. Base what you prep and quantity on your specific situation.
- Batteries: Keep plenty on hand. Rotate them as they due expire.
- Fishing Pole: Pretty much fishing assuming your in the correct geography.
- Fishing Line: For fishing yes, however fishing line is compact and strong. Hold up tarps, mend holes, setup trip wires, or alarms.
- Plastic Trash Bags: Garbage, rain coat, keep stuff dry.
- Cable Ties: I use these things for everything when I am not in an emergency.
- Duct Tape: Just a generally versatile, very strong and sticky tape. Fold to create rope, cut tiny pieces to close a wound.
- Plastic Tubing:
- Plastic Freezer Bag:
- Signal Mirror: Often part of emergency medical kits and other emergency supplies.
- Whistle: Very loud to catch peoples attention. Often part of emergency kits and supplies like Bivy Bags.
- Chlorine Bleach: Sterilize items, purify water (takes like an hour), clean fruit and vegetables.
- 550 Paracord: Strong, light-weight cordage. Use for setting up a tarp tent. Can be unwound if you need smaller cordage.
- Dental Floss: Certainly for hygiene. Typically comes in 50-100 yard packaging. Floss is strong, light-weight, and compact string that can be used when paracord is just too much, like a tripwire, mending, or fishing for instance,
- Survival Kit: There are thousands of kits on the market. You may want to look into kits as a starting point for your own kit.
- Survival Books: There is a lot to know about survival. Likely want to put these in an ebook reader or your survival device to make them easier to carry. Maybe have your top couple in hard copy.
If your doing any traveling in an emergency make sure to have the proper equipment and plan.
- Compass: Survival products often come with a compass so you will likely have a couple. I would add a compass app to your phone as well as make sure at least one of your compasses is of decent quality.
- Maps: Consider waterproof maps or protecting papers maps. You should write down the location of items (caches, family homes, bug out locations) however use some kind of code so only you and family understand it.
- GPS: Standalone devices or smartphone apps. In either case consider using ones where the maps are downloaded and not streamed so they can function without the internet.
The idea is to determine the least amount of tools you will need to survive. This will come down to your preference, skill level, and situation. Many of the tools below come in a multi or survival model where any given tool has several functions. If possible you should try to take advantage of this type of design. Be careful though, some designs become gimmicky in an attempt to create a tool with the most functions. Or some may come with a cheap secondary tools like a cheap knife you wont use anyways.
- MultiTool: Typically a pair of pliers with somewhere between 12 to 21 other tools folded into the handle. Usually weigh under a pound, under 6 inches long (folded) and can cost from $15 to over $100.
- Knife: You may end up with a few different types. Consider a pocket knife to keep with you. Consider something that can work for hunting and self defense.
- Sewing Kit: Repair clothing, ripped tents or tarp, backpacks, sleeping bags, basically anything that can get a hole in it.
- Crowbar: Even a small can be decent weight. Likely something for a camper or car, not a bug out bag.
- Survival Hatchet: Basically a camping hatchet or axe with multiple functions. Common functions include a hammer opposite the axes side and smaller tools in the handle like a knife, saw, fire starter, and/or compass.
- Shovel: For digging for water, bathroom hole, fire pit, drainage, etc. Likely a folding shovel, camping/survival models also come with smaller tools in the handle.
- Folding Saw: The hand saw (resembles a switch blade) and the bow saw are two common types of folding saws. The hand saw good for branches and bow saw can take down a decent tree.
- Dust Mask: Not to be used as a gas mask.
- Gas Mask: These have all kinds of rating and purposes. Be sure to sure one that fits the survival situation your prepping for.
- Chemical hand warmer packets
- Other Tools: machete, scissors, binoculars.
- Can Opener: You can get the small P38 military can opener in packs of 10 for less than a coffee. Or a slab of concrete so you can “sand” the lid edging of a can to pop it off.
- Stove: Something for cooking. Pan over a fire, portable camping stove, rocket stove, thermos cooking, etc.
- Propane: If you need it for your stove.
- Eating and Cooking Utensils: Just be reasonable, small pot, a couple utensils.
Bug Out Vehicle
Most of these items should be in your car even when not in an emergency and even if the car is not your bug out vehicle.
- Tire Repair Kit: The simplest is a plug kit for about $5. Throw in some fix-a-flat for $10 and you can fix one of the most common car problems.
- Battery Charge / Jumper: Something to charge or jump a dead battery like a solar charger or battery jumper.
- Oil: A decent car engine will go months with losing much oil, however when oil gets to low it’s catastrophic.
- Emergency Gas: A small 2 gallon can in your car for when you run out.
- Extra Gas: Enough gas, stored in your garage, to get to wherever you need to go in an emergency in case gas becomes scarce.
- Jumper Cables: Ever and any ask for a jump, and then ask if you have jumper cables? I have used my jumper cables more for other than myself.
Water is critical. In times of normalcy we take it for granted. Both because how plentiful it is and how unlikely it is your drinking the recommended amount of water. Make sure water is part of your plan.
- Emergency Water: Properly prepared and sealed water should not spoil however can take on a flavor from the packaging. This is why emergency water has a shelf life of 5 years, bottled water about 2 years. Consider just rotating bottled water. We rotate about 100-200 bottles depending on whether its hurricane season or not.
- Water Storage: Water bottle, canteens, anything that you can fill with water.
- Water Filter / Purification: Assuming you can get any water, a system is much lighter than water itself. Something small for bugging out and something larger for your home, vehicle, or camp site. The LifeStraw is cheap and lasts indefinitely when stored correctly. Tablets are even lighter and cheaper but have a shelf life of 5 years, unopened. The LifeStraw Mission is more expensive but eliminates bacteria and viruses like tablets. However, you can buy a lot of tablets for the cost of the LifeStraw Mission, as long as you remember to switch them out.