A survival kit is an essential part of any prepper’s inventory. In a nutshell, this is a portable pack that you can take with you in the event of an emergency. It’s stocked with the basic necessities you’ll require to stay alive and keep your family safe while you await or prepare a more permanent living situation. While each person’s idea of “necessities” might vary, these tools are universal in nature and can prove immeasurably useful in an extreme situation where your survival depends on your preparedness and resourcefulness.
Before we get into what should go inside your pack, let’s review the pack itself first. This isn’t the place for a super heavy container that you have to lug around everywhere you go. If an emergency strikes, you’ll need to be able to move quickly and get out fast. To that end, pack a bag that’s easy to carry, preferably a backpack. Fill it with what you need, but keep in mind that you may be walking a while over various terrain, so make sure it’s light enough that you can wear it for a few hours without needing to take a break.
Here are a few items that will fit in your pack, and won’t weigh it down:
1. A fire starter kit. This one tops our list because of its practicality. If you find yourself stranded in the wilderness, you don’t want to rely on the old Boy Scout trick of rubbing two sticks together to get a fire started for your family. While that’s certainly a viable technique, it takes a while, and depending on your location and climate, you might not have the luxury of time on your hands. A fire starter kit gets the job done quickly and efficiently. Pack at least three means of starting a fire so you’re not dependent on only one. Solid choices include a lighter, matches, and a striker, as well as some additional tinder to stroke a small flame. Store them in water-tight containers and keep them in a special place in your pack. A fire isn’t just a means to stay warm. It can also be a beacon to call for help, as well as a way to cook your meals. So get that fire started soon, and you’ll be glad you were prepared.
2. A sturdy, sharp knife. From warding off predators to aiding in hunting, a sharp and solid knife is an essential part of your survival kit. Your best bet is to choose a survival knife that’s designed specifically to be used in wilderness situations, though a multi-purpose tool with a top-notch one fine in a pinch. From skinning wildlife to cutting strings and sharpening wood, your knife should be able to do a variety of tasks. Make sure it’s as sharp as possible and pack an equally reliable backup just in case you need it.
3. An emergency radio. If you’re in the wilderness, but still need to communicate with the outside world or to stay abreast on what’s going on, you’ll need an emergency radio. Designed to work and remain functional even in the absence of power, it’s a critical communication tool that some preppers tend to overlook when packing their survival kits. To maintain power as long as possible without going out, many are designed to include a hand-cranked generator in addition to a rechargeable battery. The generator will pump power to the battery to keep the radio working and finding a signal. Expect to receive the general AM and FM bands, and some will even pick up weather radio data. News sources could deliver important messages via this medium in the event of a national or local emergency, and you won’t want to be cut off from receiving those critical updates.
4. A map and compass. Even if you’re looking to get as far away as possible, you likely don’t want to be stranded with no means to determine where you are. That’s where a map and compass come in. While your GPS is certainly a helpful tool, it could go out at any moment and you’ll be happy you packed a backup. These tools are lightweight and fit easily into a backpack, adding to their convenience. In addition to a traditional road map, a topographic map can prove incredibly useful in wilderness and off-road environments. If you’re unfamiliar with how to read a map and compass, consider brushing up on a little training so you’re ready to move when and if the time comes.
5. A first-aid kit. This is a no-brainer, and an absolutely critical component of your survival kit. While you likely don’t have the space to pack an extensive one, your first-aid kid should be equipped with enough tools to help tend to a variety of minor wounds, from cuts and scrapes to bruises and sprains. Core components include antiseptic, gauze, bandages, pain reliever, tweezers, and scissors. Here’s a handy list of other can’t-miss items to ensure you’re covered. Especially in the wilderness, falls, tumbles and other accidents can happen at a moment’s notice, and you’ll need to be prepared to treat such issues when they arise so you can keep moving.
6. A water filtration system. If you’re traveling in the wilderness for an extensive period of time, you don’t want to load down your pack with heavy bottled water. Instead, pack a simple water filtration system to help turn stream and creek water into drinkable fluid for your family. You can’t survive longer than about 72 hours without drinking water, and if you foresee being away for longer than that, this system is absolutely essential. One easy tool to pack that takes up virtually no space is a LifeStraw. This system lets you turn 4,000 liters of contaminated water into drinkable water with ease. You’ll simply put it into the water source and drink, making it easy to keep everyone in your group hydrated throughout the journey.
7. A light source. This one doesn’t say “flashlight” because unless you’re packing an arsenal of backup batteries, you shouldn’t rely on a flashlight alone to light your way. Plan to pack one, of course, but also keep a survival torch on hand as a backup in case of a power outage or other emergency. These are lightweight and will fit inside your pack, and will provide you with the ease of mind that no matter how dark it gets, you’re stocked with a way to light the path.
8. A heliograph. When the threat of danger has passed and you need to be found by emergency personnel, you may be sought after by helicopters circling above. In this situation, you need to be able to quickly signal to them where you are. A heliograph or signal mirror will be your ticket to safety in this case. Designed to reflect light from the sun, it reflects the light in flashes and alerts first responders to your location. As it’s fragile and breakable, store it somewhere padded and safe in your pack.
9. Thick cord. From climbing over mountains to dragging freshly killed game, strong cordage is a necessity when you’re in a survival situation. Don’t scrimp in this category, but invest in sturdy rope that will do the trick no matter the task. High-quality cords can also be used to fish with, to bundle firewood, to dry clothes, and a variety of other helpful functions. Don’t weigh your pack down with tons of mediocre rope, but purchase enough top-notch material to handle all the tasks you foresee requiring.
10. Layers. Pack enough clothes for everyone in your family to ensure that even if temperatures dip below freezing, you’ve got layers to put on. Be sure to keep the weather in mind when gathering these items, and pack plenty of rainproof gear as well. To keep these clothes from taking up too much space in your pack, roll them as tightly as possible, and pack them toward the bottom. Worried you’ve packed too many warm clothes? Don’t be. Research reveals that cold kills 20 times more people than heat, and you can never be too prepared or too protected against the threat of hypothermia.
This list is far from exhaustive, but it serves as a solid baseline for packing your essential survival kit. When it comes to prepping, being prepared is everything, and having this stocked kit ready to take with you at any moment can do wonders for your peace of mind. Thankfully, a majority of these items are available in stores and online for minimal costs, so start shopping and start packing and rest easy tonight.
About the Author
Courtney Myers is a North Carolina-based freelance writer and work-from-home mother of two. In her 10 years as a professional writer, she’s worked in proposal management, grant writing, and content creation. Personally, she’s passionate about teaching her family how to stay safe, secure and action-ready in the event of a disaster or emergency.